Saturday, October 6, 2012

10/7/12 Report - The Gold Pelican in Piety of the 1715 Fleet & Ceramic Olive Jar Stopper

Written by the TreasureGuide for the exclusive use of

Ceramic Olive Jar Stopper from El Nuevo Constante
I have something very special for you today.  I have some brand new hot-off-the-press information emailed directly to me from the researcher just yesterday. You won’t want to miss that, but first another piece of information that I’ve been hunting for probably over a year.

What I would guess was a year or more ago, one reader said he thought he found ceramic olive jar stoppers. Although it seemed reasonable that there were such things, I had never seen an evidence or read about ceramic olive jar stoppers - only cork. Well, after all of that time I finally found not only mention of ceramic stoppers but also a photo of one.

The photo was found in a report on the El Nuevo Constante by the State of Lousiana.

Here is the link to the source document.

Beside the stopper, this link will take you to photos and information on other artifacts found on the Constante.

Thanks to the State of Louisiana for providing the research to the public.

Now to something really special.

Two or three days ago, I showed a photo of a gold ampulla from the 1715 Fleet. I thought it might have come from the same wreck site as the Pelican in Piety even though I hadn’t seen any documentation or provenance to that effect. It seems that I have support in that opinion from someone who has done probably as much research as anyone on the matter, and they suggest that the ampulla and pelican are likely not only from the same wreck but also possibly created by the same craftsman. I won’t go into that in any more detail now, but will turn attention back to the Pelican in Piety.

The gold Pelican in Piety was found off of Frederick Douglas Beach near the Nieves wreck site, what was it, about two years ago? I’m not sure how long ago it was, but it wasn’t very long ago.

I am pleased to be able to present in this blog Laura Strolia’s conclusions about the Pelican of Piety based upon her own extensive research.

You may recall that Laura authored the book, The Marigalera of the 1715 Fleet, which I’ve mentioned in this blog. I believe Laura’s more recent research on the pelican is as complete and authoritative as any you will find anywhere.

Here is what Laura had to say concerning the pelican.

The following conclusion is based on my research and knowledge as a historian, and also includes a contribution of opinions from other scholars around the world whom I contacted.

The bird is a pelican which ruptured its own breast to revive its young with its own blood, and thus was given the name, “Pelican in Piety.” This bird became a symbol of Jesus Christ who died shedding his blood for all men. Just as Christ’s sacrifice was the ultimate offering, so too, was the pelican’s virtue to lay down its life for the sake of others.

The story of Saint Gertrude the Great of Helfta was well-known through the ages. This Benedictine nun, who lived in the 13th century, was the first to be presented to the Holy Trinity by a vision of a pelican. After her Communion, the Lord appeared to her under the form of this bird with his Precious blood flowing from his Sacred Heart for the nourishment of mankind. From that time on, when the faithful saw a pelican in piety, they were also seeing the image of Jesus Christ.

Catholics believe Jesus continually feeds his people with his body and blood, that which is the Holy Eucharist. The pelican, therefore, became closely associated with the Eucharist and was found frequently depicted on ornaments and vessels identified with Holy Communion. My original theory was that the artifact held the Blessed Eucharist and was used as a monstrance, but continued studies into the history of the Catholic faith during the 18th century proved this to be wrong. The Blessed Sacrament has always been under strict supervision of the Church because Catholics truly believe the consecrated Host is Jesus. Long ago, private exposition was not allowed except by the rare approval of the priest, where many times the closed ciborium was only visible. When the Eucharist was displayed for public adoration, a monstrance was always used to enthrone Christ. Except when being used in a Benediction service, the monstrance resided upon the altar for adoration and was not hung.

When the Blessed Host was contained in a monstrance, the Eucharist had to be seen in full view by the eyes of the faithful, exposed for all people to adore. The pelican in piety artifact, therefore, could not have been a monstrance due to its small size and visual restriction caused from its pieces of assemblage. The dimensions of the artifact further reveal that it was not functional, as fingers belonging to a priest would not be able to work within the body of the pelican. Since the object was small enough to rest in the palm of a hand, it could not have been a sanctuary lamp or incense burner. A pyx or ciborium was out of the question, since in the 18th century, those secure receptacles were always kept within the closed and locked Church tabernacle when not being carried. Since the bird was meant to be hung, any contents stored within its body would not have been seen from standing below it. This indicates the importance of its outer shell and the unlikelihood of it carrying any material item. This fact, along with the lack of rock crystal, dismissed the idea of it being a reliquary. Because the pelican was a symbol of Jesus Christ, it could not have been used to hold non-religious items as a bezoar stone, piece of jewelry, or perfume.

The artifact was simply made to suspend with magnificence and splendor in order for the faithful to see Christ by gazing at it. With this amazing sight, one’s soul would spiritually awaken in the presence of the Lord. The purpose of adding the pelican and other beautiful art expressions to a church was to create environment that looked like heaven. The body of the pelican was intentionally designed with an open space in order for its manufacture or creation by the artist. With access to the inside of the cast pieces, the goldsmith was able to emboss the metal and use a technique called “chasing” to add extra detail. Three rubies, signifying the shed blood, most likely occupied the holes on its support pieces. This pelican, symbolizing Jesus Christ and the Holy Eucharist, needed to dwell in the proper revered setting. It would have resided in a church being hung near the Blessed Sacrament, in the vicinity of the sagrario(sanctuary).

The image on the base of the pelican had no association with royalty or a heraldic device of a family, but instead was made up of significant symbols used in Church art for centuries. Remember, the pelican in piety represented Jesus Christ who suffered on the cross. The representations on the object’s bottom were further added to reveal His great sacrifice and love for all people. The flower situated on the base was a rose containing five petals, each representing the five wounds of Christ. The rose, a classical symbol of Jesus Christ, had three pointed leaves attached to it that were shaped as the Holy Lance. Within the fleur-de-lis, being the Holy Trinity, the three leaves stood for the three nails used in the crucifixion.

To end, I would like to share that the bird was likely being donated to a church in Spain by a wealthy patron, and the chance that it originated in Mexico City is great. With the presence of this beautiful object, I know there is something greater than gold that attracts people to it, that being Christ himself.” --- Laura Strolia

I’m proud to be able to provide you with one of the most authoritative opinions on such an important 1715 Fleet artifact.   Watch for Laura's future book, which will present many other religious artifacts.

There is very little time remaining to respond to the poll.  It is shaping up very nicely.  Thanks to all.

Treasure Coast Beach Detecting Conditions and Forecast.

There is a low pressure area down by Cuba that has a 10% chance of becoming a cyclone in the next 48 hours.

The seas on the Treasure Coast will be only 1 - 2 feet today if the surf web sites are correct.  It will be a good time to check the low tide zone for any recent changes.

Low tide will be around 8 PM.

Detecting conditions remain poor.

Happy hunting,