I wish the photos of this antique Catholic rosary (circa 1900) could convey its wonderful, go get ‘em energy. Acquired directly from a private German collector, it features mixed metal and gilded components and large composite beads that glide effortlessly through your fingers and are just plain fun to hold.
Although it’s clear they are some form of early plastic, I haven’t seen anything else like them before. I know they’re not Bakelite, gutta percha, bois durci or celluloid, but I don’t know exactly what they are other than uniquely beautiful. They show appropriate signs of age and use including scuffing and minor chips, and some have mysterious pinholes. That said, they are all sound and sturdy and fully capable of supporting another century of prayer.
As for the metals used to construct this rosary, the beads are mounted on copper, the center medal is brass with wonderful verdigris, the perfect tri-lobe chain appears to gilded brass and I believe the hand-cut inlaid crucifix is gilded aluminum. Grinding lines are visible along the sides and on the back, and the gilding is pristine and fully intact. The black wood inlay is also in exquisite condition, as are the molded corpus, scrolled INRI banner and ornate nimbus behind Christ’s head.
The inverted center medal indicates that this rosary was likely acquired at the Basilica and Shrine of Mariazell, which are depicted on one side of the medal. Mariazell is the most important pilgrimage destination in Austria and the most visited shrine in Central Europe. In addition to being known as “Great Mother of Austria,” Our Lady of Mariazell, also pictured on the center medal, is known as the “Great Lady of Hungary” and “Great Mother of the Slavic People” acknowledging the popularity of pilgrimages from other Central European countries.
Mariazell (also Maria Zell) is 80 miles west of Vienna in the Austrian Alps. The land was donated to the Monastery of St. Lambrecht around 1103 and legends of a miraculous statue of the Virgin date to 1157, after which a small chapel was built. As the site attracted more pilgrims, the buildings continued to expand most notably in 1200, 1335, 1363, 1377, 1643 and 1699. In 1907, the church was designated a Minor Basilica and the statue of Our Lady of Mariazell was crowned. The shrine celebrated its 800th anniversary in 1957 and major renovations were initiated in 1992.
Large and weighing a substantial but comfortable 45 grams, this outstanding antique has a masculine look and feel. That said, it is well suited for anyone who appreciates its religious history and unique aesthetic. It is in excellent antique condition and comes boxed and ready for gift-giving.
Weight – 45 grams
Length – 21-3/4 inches total; 7-1/4 inch drop
Beads – 8 mm; paters 11 mm
Crucifix – 2-1/4 x 1-1/4 inches
Medal – 1/2 x 3/8 inches
Suitable for wearing
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