Front Page Detectives

Hidden History: Metal Detectorist in Poland Unearths Rare Medieval Badge Depicting Winged Dragon-Like Creature

Medieval Pilgrim's Badge Unveils Winged Basilisk in Poland
Source: Unsplash

These rare finds serve as valuable clues for archaeologists seeking to map the ancient routes taken by Christian pilgrims.

Mar. 19 2024, Published 1:02 p.m. ET

Link to FacebookShare to XShare to Email

A remarkable discovery has emerged from southeast Poland: a medieval artifact known as a "pilgrim badge" featuring the depiction of a basilisk, a formidable mythical creature akin to a dragon.

These rare finds serve as valuable clues for archaeologists seeking to map the ancient routes taken by Christian pilgrims.

Article continues below advertisement

Tomasz Murzyński, an independent archaeologist based in Wrocław, Poland, shared with Live Science that the badge was unearthed by a metal detectorist in January in the village of Wólka Nieliska, located approximately 130 miles southeast of Warsaw.

The detectorist then handed the discovery over to Murzyński. Under Polish law, such historical treasures belong to the state.

Consequently, Murzyński promptly delivered the artifact to the provincial curator of historical monuments in Lublin, a nearby city. The curator subsequently shared a detailed description and images of the badge on Facebook.

According to the translated post on Facebook, the badge is crafted from lead alloyed with tin. It boasts a circular shape, measuring less than 0.04 inches in thickness and slightly over 1 inch in diameter.

Article continues below advertisement

The basilisk motif, resembling a winged dragon, is intricately carved out from the surrounding circle and adorned with elaborate details.

During the Middle Ages, Christian pilgrims often adorned themselves with badges like this one to signify visits to sacred sites or ongoing pilgrimages.

Breaking News

These badges were believed to offer protection against illnesses, accidents and crimes during their journeys. Additionally, they served as identifiers, with some pilgrims proudly displaying multiple badges on their attire.

The post highlights the discovery of similar medieval pilgrim badges elsewhere in Poland, such as six badges found in Stargard, a city in the northwest. Museums across Western Europe house extensive collections of such badges.

While pilgrim badges typically featured various shapes, including spirals, crosses and shields, some showcased depictions of saints, knights and animals.

Article continues below advertisement

Never miss a story — sign up for the Front Page Detectives newsletter. Be on the scene the moment news breaks.

Notably, one of the oldest badges, dating back to the 11th century, took the shape of a clamshell, symbolizing pilgrimages to Santiago de Compostela in Spain.

However, the basilisk symbol on this badge marks a unique find. Although its significance remains uncertain, the Polish website Historia do Rzeczy ("History to the Point") suggests a resemblance to the Zilant, a mythical creature serving as the official emblem of Kazan, Russia, over 1,100 miles (1,770 kilometers) northeast of the discovery site.

Historically, Kazan was governed by the Kazan Khanate, an Islamic Tartar state that prohibited depictions of living beings. The Zilant, believed to have originated from a Tartar mythological creature named Yilan, meaning "snake," became associated with the city following its conquest by Christian Russian forces in the 1550s.


Become a Front Page Detective

Sign up to receive breaking
Front Page Detectives
news and exclusive investigations.

More Stories

Opt-out of personalized ads

© Copyright 2024 FRONT PAGE DETECTIVES™️. A DIVISION OF MYSTIFY ENTERTAINMENT NETWORK INC. FRONT PAGE DETECTIVES is a registered trademark. All rights reserved. Registration on or use of this site constitutes acceptance of our Terms of Service, Privacy Policy and Cookies Policy. People may receive compensation for some links to products and services. Offers may be subject to change without notice.