St. Francis of Assisi and Madonna and Child
St. Francis of Assisi/Madonna and Child Medallion

These small medallions depict St. Francis of Assisi (AD 1181/2-1226), a 13th-century Italian Catholic friar. St. Francis is one of the most venerated figures in Christianity.

Both medallions portray a kneeling figure of St. Francis reaching out receiving the stigmata. Christian tradition holds that this occurred in the year 1224 on the mountain of Verna. One medallion is unclear, but in the other St. Francis looks upward at a diagonal cross from which rays extend toward his face as he receives the stigmata. Framed on the left and the right by coniferous trees, he kneels on the grass. A rope around his waist extends to the ground.

On the better preserved of the two medallions, the opposite side depicts the Madonna and Child. Mary’s arms are crossed in prayer, and the Christ child is on her lap. She is seated with her feet on a crescent moon. A rayed mandala surrounds the figures.

Five stars, which represent Mary’s five joys, surround her head. The five joys included: The Annunciation, The Nativity of Jesus, The Adoration of the Magi, The Resurrection of Christ, and The Ascension of Christ to Heaven. The Five Joys was a popular devotion in England before the Reformation and later became the Seven Joys. The Franciscan order has a particular connection to the Seven Joys and developed the Franciscan Crown (a specific rosary blessing), which may be why the five joys and St. Francis are both represented on one of these medallions. Similar to the other medallions with Catholic iconography and meaning, the presence of these St. Francis medallions at the Protestant Jamestown settlement is intriguing. Recusants, or individuals who continued to practice Catholicism despite the many English laws against this, may have been part of the population at James Fort.

St. Francis of Assisi Medallion
St. Francis of Assisi Medallion