Saint-Benedict's Cross-medal has an ancient origin, but does not go directly back to the saint. We find news of it already in the eleventh century, following the miraculous healing of a young man, a certain Brunone dei Conti di Egisheim-Dagsburg, who then became a Benedictine monk and later became Pope Saint Leo IX, who had designed the model. This medal has been engraved with a cross with the letters CSSML - NDSMD inside and the letters CSPB on the sides of the cross.
But this first medal was destined to undergo several variations.
In fact, presumably due to devotion to the SS. Name of Jesus spread by San Bernardino, the medal of the Holy Name began to circulate, of which we see below the design:
As we can see in this image, the center medal features the IHS Trigram of Christ crowned by the Cross, surrounded by the letters VRSNSMV - SMQLIVB. In an undetermined time it was decided to combine the two medals so that the new Medal had on one side that of the SS. Name of Jesus with the different letters, while on the other side the Medal of Saint Benedict with his own letters.
After a time, the two Medals were fused one within the other, placing the one of Saint Benedict in the center of that of the SS. Name instead of the Trigram, which was placed above between the two sets of letters that we have seen. On the other side of the medal, they inserted Saint Benedict. The new medal thus formed was in accordance with this design:
Below is a copy of the drawings found in a 14th century manuscript:
But her fame spread after a witchcraft trial in Bavaria (Germany) in 1647. In the locality of Natternberg, some women were tried as witches, and in the process they declared that they could not damage the Benedictine abbey of Metten, because it was protected by the sign of the Holy Cross. After a search inside the monastery, they found painted representations of the cross, with the inscription that we already know, the same that always accompanies the medal.
Thanks to this particular event, the Medal was spread more and more in different sizes and shapes.
But those mysterious initials could not be interpreted until they were found in a manuscript of the library of the monastery of Metten in 1414 (Germany) and preserved today in the State Library of Munich (Clm 8201), in which an image of St. Benedict was noticed with those words.
Another early 14th century manuscript from Austria was also found. This ancient manuscript is currently in the Wolfenbüttel library (Helmst 2 °, 35j), and this discovery appears to be the origin of the image and text.
In the seventeenth century J. B. Thiers, man of great cultural education in France, judged it superstitious due to the enigmatic characters that accompany it, but Pope Benedict XIV approved it in 1742 and the formula of his blessing was incorporated into the Roman Ritual.
In the 19th century there was a renewed fervor for the Cross-medal, developed in France thanks to the zeal of Léon-Papin Dupont (1797-1876), called the "holy man of Tours".
A very fervent man, with many relationships in ecclesiastical circles and gifted with great generosity and charity, he spread the devotion to the Holy Face, and also propagated the use of the Saint Benedict medal.
Finally, we recall two important works by Dom Gueranger (France) dated 1862 and a work created in 1849 by the abbot of San Paolo fuori le Mura Dom Francesco Leopoldo Zelli Iacobuzzi (Italy) In these works, many graces and miracles are remembered thanks to the intercession of Saint Benedict by the use of the medal.
However, this medal still had to undergo a last modification made in 1880, by order and under the supervision of the Prior of Monte Cassino Bonifacio Krug OSB. The medal was designed by the Beuronian monk Desiderio Lenz, and made for the Benedictine Jubilee of 1880.
That year the 14th centenary of the birth of San Benedetto da Norcia was celebrated, and on this occasion the abbots from all over the world gathered in Montecassino. In celebrating the 14th centenary of the birth of St. Benedict, the Benedictine abbots decided that from that moment this would be considered the "Medal of St. Benedict".
The Medal spread throughout the world, giving thanks everywhere for the intercession of St. Benedict.
On one side is the image of the Saint, holding the cross in the right hand and the Rule in the left hand;
To his right there is a cup from which a viper escapes (the poison he miraculously escaped);
On the left, a crow takes away a poisoned bread (another episode in the life of the Saint).
Under the Saint are the words: "EX S.M. CASINO MDCCCLXXX" (From the Sacro Monte Cassino 1880).
On both sides "CRUX SANCTI PATRIS BENEDICTI" (Cross of the Holy Father Benedict).
Around the image: "EIUS IN OBITU OUR PRAESENTIA MUNIAMUR" (He defends Us in our death with the presence of him).
On the other side is a cross inside a double circle, inside and around which are the initials of a prayer in Latin:
- C.S.P.B. : CRUX SANCTI PATRIS BENDICTI Cross of the Holy Father Benedict
- C.S.S.M.L. : CRUX SACRA SIT MIHI LUX The Holy Cross be my light
- N.D.S.M.D. : NON DRACO SIT MIHI DUX May the devil not be my boss
- V.R.S. : VADE RETRO SATANA Stand back, Satan!
- N.S.M.V. : NUMQUAM SUADE MIHI VANA Don't draw me into vanities
- S.M.Q.L. : SUNT MALA QUAE LIBAS Your drinks are bad
- I.V.B. : IPSE VENENA BIBAS Drink your poison yourself
The cross is surmounted by "PAX", the motto of the Order of Benedictines, between two small olive branches (the Benedictines are also called Olivetans). As we can see in this modification, the Christ IHS trigram has been removed and PAX has been inserted in its place.