Amulet

Breverl. [Bavaria or Austria: s.n., after 1726].

Known as a Breverl, this devotional amulet belongs to a genre that enjoyed widespread popularity among Catholics in eighteenth-century Bavaria and Austria. Traditionally the Breverl was produced in convents for sale to visitors. It was believed to offer talismanic protection to its owner, and usually consisted of a printed declaration of protection issued by the Catholic Church, an engraved sheet bearing images of several patron saints, a central amulet comprised of numerous miniature talismanic objects related to a particular pilgrimage site, and a Pestkreuz (plague cross) for protection against diseases. The object was not intended to be read or looked at; instead, the contents were folded permanently into a decorated paper case and worn on the person, usually suspended from a necklace. Opening the Breverl was believed to forfeit its protective properties.

In Bridwell Library’s Breverl, the printed text begins “Breve super se portandum ad gloriam dei, suorumque sanctorum contra daemones.” First published by Pope Urban VIII in 1635, it is a declaration that carriers of such amulets will enjoy saintly protection. The saints depicted in the engravings are the Virgin Mary, Anthony of Padua, Johannes Nepomuc, Francis of Assisi, Ignatius of Loyola, the decapitated Anastasius, James de Marchia, and Francis Solanus. The last two saints were canonized in 1726, and thereby provide the earliest possible date for the engraving. The contents of the central amulet include an aluminum Pestkreuz, a wax Jesuit seal, fragments of cloth, clippings with letterpress names of saints, various seeds, and the bud of a pussy willow.

View a video of the amulet.

Breverl. [Bavaria or Austria: s.n., after 1726].

In case.

Breverl. [Bavaria or Austria: s.n., after 1726].

Removing from the case.

Breverl. [Bavaria or Austria: s.n., after 1726].

Unfolding.

Breverl. [Bavaria or Austria: s.n., after 1726].

Woodcuts.

Breverl. [Bavaria or Austria: s.n., after 1726].

Verso.