Object 23

Sea Beggars medal
The Netherlands, 1580
L. Geelhand collection
(Gilt silver - 64mm - 19,69g)
Royal Library of Belgium (KBR), Coins and Medals Department
Inv. 2K40/10

These three emblems date back to the second half of the 16th century, a period marked in our Low Countries by the rise of the Protestant faith and rebellion against Spanish Catholic rulers. Many of those belonging to the so-called 'hagenpreken' (field sermons) preached beyond the walls of Antwerp in 1566, wore this kind of silver crescent attached to a hat or sleeve. During these sermons held in the open air, the Protestant faith was preached, being something that was strictly forbidden throughout the Spanish Netherlands at that time. When the rebels returned home afterwards, they allegedly sang a beggars' song with the refrain “halve manen op de mouw. Liever Turksch dan Papauw” [Half moons on your sleeves, rather Turk than Pope]. This slogan can also be found on the emblems: the front reads LIVER TVRCKX DAN PAVS (“liever Turks dan paus” [Rather Turkish than Pope]), while the other side says EN DESPIT DE LA MES (“in weerwil van de mis” [In Spite of mass]). The crescent itself is a sign of sympathy with the Turkish Ottomans, who commonly used the symbol of the waxing Moon. Such tokens sent a really clear and courageous message. In this way, the rebels showed their preference for the Turks with their relative religious freedom, and their strong opposition to the pope and the Catholic faith. Production of these crescents continued in later years and they were still worn in large numbers. They then became the ultimate symbol of the Sea Beggars, who lived as buccaneers as well as terrorising coastal villages. The large, gilt medallion is one such later example. This item also features the text GHISTATENVEST DEN PRINS TROV (“Gij Staten wees de prins trouw” [You, states, be faithful to the prince]). This slogan demonstrates that the rebels recognised the Prince of Orange rather than the Spanish king as their ruler. The symbolism of such medallions was held in honour by Zeelandic sailors, who continued to wear crescents in their ears for many years.

Mélusine : Contes de la pleine lune
Melisande : Verhalen bij volle maan
Sc : F.Gilson
Dupuis, 2002



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