Vintage French Craft - Agnus Dei Religious Sacramental or Devotional by Bouasse Lebel, Paris
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ITEM: Found in a shadow box that had seen better days, here's an absolutely pristine Agnus Dei - a religious icon or devotional made in France and distributed (or sold) to a good Catholic. The backing of the piece is a very lightweight type of canvas - the devotional itself feels like wool. The center piece is a lithographed bit of thin canvas - Sacred Heart of Jesus along with the wording seen in the pics. Small jump ring at the top so that the piece can be placed on a wall. Definitely a manufactured piece but with touches of pink hand stitching.
CONDITION: Very nice front with just a touch of "Brown" at the very bottom. The back shows discoloration from having been tacked to a shadow box for so many years. The spots are possibly colored brown due to the light glue used in the tacking process.
HALLMARKS: Bouasse - Lebel, Paris - a major leader in the manufacture of religious items for Catholics.
SIZE: 2-3/4" x 3-1/4"
FINAL COMMENTS: Although its origin is shrouded in the mist of antiquity, the sacramental Agnus Dei is first mentioned in historical Church accounts as early as the sixth century, and referred to frequently by the early to middle ninth century. Thus, for over ten centuries the Agnus Dei has been a popular and treasured sacramental to Catholics, especially to those living in Europe where it was most easily obtained. Yet, regrettably, few Catholics living today have ever even heard of the Agnus Dei.
The name "Agnus Dei" was given to special discs of wax impressed with the figure of a lamb, the "Lamb of God" which were blessed by the reigning Pope in a ceremony so solemn that the Pope was said to consecrate the sacramentals. Popes traditionally consecrated Agnus Deis only during the first year of their pontificate and again every seven years.
In earlier times, on Holy Saturday, the Pope, with the assistance of the Archdeacon of Rome, prepared the wax from the previous year's paschal candles, adding both chrism and balsam to the wax. The Agnus Deis were subsequently consecrated on the Wednesday of Easter week and distributed on Saturday of the same week. In more recent times, the wax was prepared by monks and then consecrated by the Pope and distributed. When visiting Cardinals would visit the Holy Father, an Agnus Dei wax disc (or several of the discs) would be placed into his miter. The Cardinals then distributed the Agnus Deis as they saw fit.
In order to make the wax "go further" the discs were shaved into the thinnest pieces possible. Thus, when holding an Agnus Dei, it does not feel as if anything is truly "on the inside."
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