Monday, July 10, 2017

Papal Medal: Around The World From 80 Countries

The subject of today's blog comes from Vatican City, which is an independent city-state located within the boundaries of Rome, Italy. Before unification in 1861, the Italian peninsula was ruled by many separate entities. The Catholic Church reigned over lands in the middle (the Papal States), with sovereignty in other areas divided among several city-states such as Venice and Florence, or claimed by France, Spain or Austria. The church-held lands came under the rule of the Italian government in 1870, although the popes did not recognize this authority.  In 1929, the Lateran Treaty made Vatican City an independent state in return for the pope recognizing that the territories once part of the Papal States were now party of Italy. The one square kilometer city is administered by a governor appointed by the pope and has its own flag, post office and banking system.

This papal medal is just one of over 70 such medals that are part of the Horner collection of the Benton County Historical Museum. Pope Paul II Barbo began the practice of issuing commemorative medals in the mid -400s.
Thousands have been issued since then.  They show the reigning pope on one side; the other illustrates some important event, a person recently elevated to sainthood, views of the Vatican, or important figures as such Saint Peter or the Virgin Mary. The profile on the front is that of Pope John XXIII, who ruled from October 1958 until his death in June of 1963.  The other side commemorates what is thought to be his greatest accomplishment, the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council.  He called for this council, a general meeting of Catholic bishops, in 1959.  The council, which ran until 1965, called for spiritual regeneration, put more emphasis on cooperating with other religious groups and changed a number of church practices to make them easier for people to understand, such as having services in native languages, not Latin.

By Martha Fraundorf, Volunteer for Benton County Historical Society, Philomath, Oregon

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