Sunday, November 4, 2012

11/4/12 More Revealed on the Pelican in Piety Story from Laura Strolia

Written by the Treasureguide for the exclusive use of photo.  2010
If you've been reading this blog very long you've read about the gold bird artifact that was salvaged from the ocean near Frederick Douglas beach.   You also probably read about the Marigalera of the 1715 Fleet, the subject of a book written by Laura Strolia.  You may have also seen a copy of her book at the Benefit Cookout yesterday.

Laura has done a lot of research on the gold bird artifact.  I've been able to publish some of that research in this blog.  Not too long ago, Laura added to that research and sent me a copy.  I'm glad to be able to publish here.

For the TCPalm story on the find, here is the link.

And here is Laura's research.


The Gold Pelican in Piety of the 1715 Fleet – Part II

by Laura Strolia

(See 10/07/12 Report for Part I)


This second report is meant to reveal meaning and insight into the misconceptions concerning the pelican piety artifact.  First of all, there is speculation that the pelican in piety was meant to hold holy oil, similar to the 300-year-old ampulla that was for sale in the Daniel Frank Sedwick Auction.  It would have been improper to use the pelican image with this kind of holy substance because a pelican in piety stood for the Eucharist and the Crucifixion, being part of the Passion of Christ.  Holy oil was administered for anointing the sick or for the use during the sacrament of Baptism, where rebirth is achieved.  The phoenix was the mythological bird which signified the resurrection, as legend said it was consumed in flame and then rose from its ashes.  Thus, the phoenix, along with the dove and eagle, were the bird symbols of the Church known to hold holy oil.


People have also questioned if the artifact from the 1715 Fleet was truly a pelican in piety since the creature possessed unusual features more typical to that of a phoenix bird.  It was known that Colonial artists produced many renditions of the pelican where the imagination contributed to its mythological appearance.  But when studying the up-close details on the artifact, it was one specific clue that indeed proved it was a pelican, the mark on its breast.  The pelican in piety was known to rupture its own heart in order to revive its young with blood.  This act of love can be found on a Passion page of an old missal belonging to St. Peter’s in Hereford, England, where a pelican is eating its heart (Miri Rubin 1991, Corpus Christi: The Eucharist in Late Medieval Culture, Cambridge Press, 311).  The indentation on the gold object represented the Sacred Heart which was associated to St. Gertrude and her link to the pelican in piety.  Was the story of the Lord appearing to St. Gertrude under the form of a pelican with blood flowing from his Sacred Heart well-known in the early 1700s?  Yes, as a matter of fact, St. Gertrude was a favorite saint of the Spaniards and a universal feast day was declared for her by Pope Clement XII in 1677.  Missions in the New World were named after this devout nun, paintings and sculptures were made of her image, and ships were even called Santa Gertrudis.


The last subject to address is whether the pelican in piety artifact was created to be a reliquary.  A reliquary of the Church was meant to hold the remains of a saint or articles directly associated to a holy person.  During the Council of Trent in 1563, regulations were brought forth concerning Sacred Objects, one being that the relic must be enclosed for preservation and prevention of forgery.  Some argue that glass would have been added to the open body of the pelican at a later time, but this would not make a difference in the case. 


If a relic was to be held within the body of the pelican in piety, it would have had to pertain to the Passion, because remember, the pelican in piety was a symbol of Christ himself.  Relics of the Passion, like a fragment of wood from the True Cross or a Holy Thorn of our Savior’s Crown, were highly sought, and for monarchy, were sometimes attainable.  It was King Louis IX of France who received and enshrined the relics of Christ’s Passion in the 1200s, and he then forwarded pieces to many around Europe as gifts.  In 1700, the King and Queen of Spain already possessed many relics of the Passion that were housed in the Escorial.  These were part of a collection started by King Philip II who was the custodian of nearly 7,500 relics.


Many rules continued to exist concerning the care and custody of the Passion relics, these being outlined by the ICHR (International Crusade for Holy Relics), but only two need to be mentioned here to quickly dismiss the idea that the pelican in piety artifact was a reliquary.  First it was forbidden for a relic of the Passion to be exposed in elevation, and the pelican in piety object was clearly designed to hang with attached chains.  Second the size, shape, and ornamentation were of crucial importance.  The artifact from the ocean stood only a mere 5.5 inches in height, being quite small in comparison to the other reliquaries which secured these sacred relics.


The treasury of a Church contained a wide assortment of items besides the liturgical objects.  One author described these as “precious stones, stone vessels, natural curiosities, archaeological and paleontological finds, unusual goldsmiths’ works, curtains with non-religious themes, objects gained as war booty, pilgrim tokens, free coins, cut gems as well as scrap metal, souvenirs and memorable items from libraries and archives” (Kateřina Horníčková 2009, “In Heaven and on Earth: Church Treasure in Late Medieval Bohemia,” Ph.D. diss., Central European University, Hungary, 14).  The pelican in piety artifact from the 1715 Fleet definitely falls within the category of precious metal works, and its purpose was to simply be a beautiful suspended ornament for gazing eyes in a Catholic Church.  In a 16th century book by William Bonde, called Pilgrimage of Perfection, worshippers were taught to meditate at mass for “conjuring up the image of the pelican after the consecration and before the pax, with special reference to the Eucharistic physical and spiritual feeding” (Rubin 1991, 312).  Using visual art of a pelican in piety, whether it was a painting or a sculpture, greatly aided the devout when contemplating the image of Christ on the Cross and his presence in the Eucharist.

Thanks for allowing me to share your research Laura.

I always say that the find is only the beginning.   After the find comes the cleaning, research, preservation, and display.

An item is a lot more valuable (not just in an economic sense) when you do the research, find out what the item is, where it came from and what it tells you.   You touch a piece of the past.  That is fun.

For me, I'd rather find an ceramic or lead artifact that tells a story than a silent piece of gold.  But there is aways a story.  To unravel the story, it can take some real time and effort.  But it is worth it.  

When you are hunting, remember that there is always a story.

If there is a post from this blog that sticks out in your mind that you would say is one of your favorites, please let me know which one it is.  I'd like to know what your favorite posts are, especially those from some years ago.  I can revisit and possibly expand upon some of the favorite topics from the past.  

I put a new poll on.  The last one wasn't working properly.   I'll be watching to see if Google fixed the problem yet.  I hope so.  You'd think a big company like that could make something that works.  ONe share of their stock is over $600. 

We have beautiful weather for being out, and the seas are calm.  It will stay that way for at least a few days.  I'd be checking places that probably weren't worked to hard immediately after the storm.  There wil be a few good places to hunt.  Think outside the box.

Overall, Treasure Coast beach detecting conditions are poor now.

Nothing much going on in the Atlantic.

Tomorrow I'll have some photos from the cookout for you. 

Happy hunting,