World Coins

Medal of Saint Benedict

A 54-millimeter medal struck on what is believed to be a silver planchet bears a crude rendering of the inscribed cross reverse of Saint Benedict medals still being produced today for members of the Catholic faith.

Images courtesy of Edward Joseph.

I have this old medal that I believe to be a Saint Benedict medal. It has a diameter of 54 millimeters and I believe it is silver, as it has not changed to any different colors and has always stayed silver.

If you know, I would like to know when it was made and where, as there may be a certain style to the medal or the date may become apparent by the metalwork.

Any help and advice that you can give me would be amazing.

Edward Joseph

United Kingdom

What you have is indeed a rendition of a Saint Benedict medal.

The side with the cross, according to medal specialist David T. Alexander, is a crude rendering of the reverse of standard medals still made today representing Saint Benedict, sometimes called St. Benedict of Norcia (Nursia).

The vertical letters CSSML represent “Crux Sacra sit mihi Lux” in Latin, which translates into English as “The Holy Cross be to me a Light.” The NDSMD, for “Non Draco sit mihi Dux,” translates to “Let not the Serpent (Satan) be my Leader.”

The four letters in the quadrated angles, C, S, P and B, for “Crux Sacra Patris Benedicti,” or “The Holy Cross of Father Benedict.”

Alexander said he couldn’t fully make out the outer legend from the images but believe it refers to the millennium of the saint or his Benedictine Order, possibly at Monte Cassino in Italy.

Online research suggests the crude design, which replicates the design on other Saint Benedict medals, carries the inscription referred to as the “Vade retro satana” (Step back Satan) formula. The formula has been used by Catholics to ward off evil since at least the 15th century.

Inscribed around the border are the letters V R S N S M V — S M Q L I V B, referencing the Vade retro satana: “Vade retro Satana! Nunquam suade mihi vana! Sunt mala quae libas. Ipse venena bibas!” (“Begone Satan! Never tempt me with your vanities! What you offer me is evil. Drink the poison yourself!”).

Missing from the top of the design is the word “PAX,” Latin for “Peace,” that appears on most other Saint Benedict medals.

The other side of the Saint Benedict medal illustrated appears from the images provided to have been hand-stamped with some sort of repeating leaf pattern.

It is difficult to determine from the images whether the item is made of silver, and who struck the medal. What could be a manufacturer’s hallmark appears along the bottom border, but the inscription is not discernible based on the provided images.

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