To sum up, in the Early Byzantine period pilgrimage mementoes were produced at the shrine and probably distributed for free to the pilgrims. It was to this fact and the substances they contained (e.g. myron, oil or sacred soil), which also came from the holy places, that they owed their miraculous nature. Nevertheless, a series of facts allow us to suppose that already in this period the production of pilgrimage devotionalia had been passed to privately run workshops, not directly connected with the shrines, which with the latters’ connivance – or perhaps un- beknown to them – produced objects with the same function, which we might describe as “imitations” of the genuine mementoes. This can be seen above all in a series of artefacts, intended for individual use or personal devotion, which used the loca sancta iconography together with magical/apotropaic motifs, i.e. with subjects of a religious nature but not derived from the “official” traditions or teachings of the Church.
In the Middle Byzantine period this picture changes significantly. Both the material remains and the sources allow us to assert that the production of pilgrim mementoes for a whole area passed into the hands of local workshops. The koutrouvia from Thessaloniki and the crusader workshop in Acre bear witness to this view. Moreover the iconographical analysis of the koutrouvia has also allowed us to trace what might be described as a form of competition between the two loca sancta in Thessaloniki that attracted pilgrims, the basilica of St Demetrios and the monastery of St. Theodora.
There is less information available as regards distribution of the eulogiai, but in every case the indications to date allow us to posit that, just as in the early period, in the Middle Byzantine period too mementoes were available free of charge from the shrines, since the cost of producing these artefacts was negligible in comparison to the profits the church could make from the potential donations from the faithful. It was the promise of a miracle that attracted the gifts from the laity and the eulogiai were the tangible proof of that possibility.
Finally, the production and distribution of pilgrim tokens seems to change radically in the Late Byzantine period, since a sort of commercialization and “globalization” emerges in this aspect of the pilgrimage as the period progresses. The glass medallions mass produced in Venice, which Venetian merchants distributed to the biggest, most popular shines of the day in East and West, constitute crucial evidence of these changes. In my opinion it is the reappearance in the Eastern Mediterranean, after the creation of the crusader kingdoms, of Western pilgrims, who as mentioned above had very different views about going on pilgrimage but also about the use and importance of pilgrim souvenirs, that underlies these changes.
Ιn the end that is what is so striking about these simple, cheap objects; the fact that, by studying them alongside the sources, we can discover a great deal both about the economic activities and the mentalité of medieval man.
* Dr. Vicky Foskolou,
"Blessing for sale? On the production and distribution of pilgrim mementoes in Byzantium",
Vol. 105, Issue 1, pp. 53–84,
ISSN (Online) 1864-449X, ISSN (Print) 0007-7704,
DOI: 10.1515/bz-2012-0004, December/Δεκέμβριος 2012.