Late medieval books served as treasure chests for all kinds of religious keepsakes, notably small metal badges. Devotees sewed these religious badges and pilgrimage souvenirs to the parchment of their treasured devotional books and manuscript illuminators depicted silver en gilt badges in the margins as if they are sewn to the pages. Medieval manuscripts are often admired for their esthetic qualities, but many of them also served a practical use as instruments for the physical and mental wellbeing of the owners and their families. Manuscripts and incunabula containing metal badges illustrate how the owners used their books, which texts they favored, but also who collected badges and why. The depicted badges that only appear in richly illuminated and expensive manuscripts expand the knowledge of these metal objects that have been passed down in small numbers only. The painted motifs that have a more decorative and structuring role in the book fulfilled different functions than the original badges. ‘Silver Saints’ discusses the religious life of lay people in the late Middle Ages and the meaning of badges in books, both the painted motifs in beautifully decorated manuscripts and many traces of original badges.
Hanneke van Asperen is affiliated with the department of Art History at Radboud University Nijmegen. Her fields of interests are metal badges, manuscripts, devotional practices and images of charity. She is co-author of the book series ‘Heilig en Profaan’ on badge finds in the Dutch-speaking regions of medieval Europe and works on Kunera, an online searchable database of medieval badges and ampullae.