Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Master's Thesis

Degree Name




Committee Chair

Beattie, Blake R.

Author's Keywords

Late medieval; Badges; Pilgrimage; Erotic; Tokens; Black Death


Plague--History--Europe; Black Death--Social aspects--Europe; Erotica--Europe--History; Idols and images--Europe--History; Superstition--Europe--History


This thesis examines a large corpus of enigmatic pilgrimage badges dating from roughly 1350-1500 CE. The badges were brought to light during archaeological excavations of water sites throughout the Schelde Estuary in the Netherlands, the riverbanks of the Seine in France, and the Thames in England. A small selection of the iconography of the corpus includes: ambulant vulvas on stilts, winged and crowned pudenda pilgrims complete with pilgrims' staffs and rosaries, couples having sex, and ambulant winged phalli. The few scholars who have attempted their study have labeled the badges as erotic, obscene, rude, naughty, and pornographic. The advanced study of the tokens provides a contrasting interpretation. Ultimately, this thesis argues that the bawdy badges functioned as apotropaic, or protective devices, meant to safeguard their owners from the threat of the evil eye, which during the worst outbreaks of the Bubonic Plague, was thought capable of transmitting the disease.