Rare stamp that offered fast track to heaven to go on display in UK

A seal matrix used to authenticate medieval indulgences and offer a fast track to heaven in exchange for cash is to go on display at a Hampshire priory after sending 500 years buried in a field.

The small carved mould, dating between 1470 and 1520, was found by a metal detectorist two miles from Mottisfont, an Augustine priory and site of pilgrimage near Romsey, Hampshire, that is now owned by the National Trust.

Indulgences were written pardons for sinful behaviour granted by religious institutions in return for financial donation.

They lessened the purchaser’s time in purgatory after death by one year and 40 days.

The documents were certified with an impression created by the seal matrix pressed into hot coloured wax.

Mottisfont, founded in 1201, had been a wealthy institution but its income was depleted as a result of the Black Death plague that swept through Europe in the 1340s. The pope granted the priory permission to sell indulgences to raise funds.

The practice of selling pardons later became embroiled in accusations of corruption that helped fuel the Protestant Reformation. Mottisfont closed as a priory with the dissolution of the monasteries in 1536.

The rare seal matrix, made of cast copper-alloy, is inscribed in Latin and features a carved depiction of the Trinity and a figure of a praying cleric.

It was discovered at the site of medieval market in the nearby parish of Lockerley, possibly taken there by a canon hoping to sell indulgences.

The detectorist reported the find to their local council, and it was added to a national database and flagged to the National Trust.

George Roberts, curator at the National Trust, said: “Pilgrims travelling between the great cathedrals at Salisbury and Winchester are likely to have passed Mottisfont and may well have stayed and worshipped with the community there.

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“All this was done to help secure a place in heaven after their death. However, before they could reach heaven, they believed they would need to spend time in purgatory to be purified.

“By being able to sell indulgences, Mottisfont priory could offer people a reduction in their time in purgatory – in effect, fast-tracking them to heaven. This of course came with a price, which was then used to support the priory’s finances.”

The seal matrix will go on display at Mottisfont from Saturday.

Title: Rare stamp that offered fast track to heaven to go on display in UK
URL: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2023/jul/28/rare-stamp-that-offered-fast-track-to-heaven-to-go-on-display-in-uk
Source: World news: Religion | guardian.co.uk
Source URL: https://www.theguardian.com/world/religion
Date: July 28, 2023 at 06:04AM
Feedly Board(s): Religion