This small medallion depicts St. Hyacinth of Poland (AD 1185-1257), a Dominican priest and missionary. Known as the Apostle to the Slavs or the Apostle of the North, St. Hyacinth was canonized by Pope Clement VIII in 1594, just 13 years before the establishment of Jamestown. Below the figure of Hyacinth, the word ROMA indicates the medallion was produced there, perhaps in the same year as Hyacinth’s canonization.
Like the St. Nicholas medallion, religious medals like this were attached to rosary beads and handled by practitioners of Catholicism. This is clear from the reverse of the medal, which depicts the Virgin Mary holding a rosary in one hand and the Christ child in the other. Hyacinth was among the first alumni of what is now the Pontifical University of Saint Thomas Aquinas in Rome. Perhaps the Catholic medallion was brought to Anglican James Fort by a Polish potash maker who arrived at Jamestown in 1608.
To the left of the figure of St. Hyacinth is the legend “S. IACINTE” for Saint Hyacinth. A scroll in front of the figure proclaims “GAVDE FILI IAC,” meaning “praise our son Hyacinth.” This phrase appears in a 1594 altarpiece by Ludovico Carracci entitled “The Virgin and Child Appearing to St. Hyacinth,” painted on Hyacinth’s canonization. The painting initially served as the altarpiece for a chapel in Bologna, Italy, but is now in the Louvre Museum. Since this medallion displays similar imagery, perhaps the painting was referenced when it was designed.