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Recently I spied this amazing object on Agzy’s page. It’s a pocket shrine to the North and South character John Thornton, as embodied by Richard Armitage. These little shrines are the brainchild of Guylty, who is nothing if not devoted to Mr. Armitage. And why not? Guylty’s other fabulous creations include a full-blown table-top shrine celebrating the charms of the Beauteous Richard.


Saint John the Divine. Click for source.

I found this shrine fascinating as a piece of folk art, especially because I collect pocket shrines and devotional objects from various religious traditions. Most of mine are Catholic, but every tradition has its talismans, small portable objects with magical, sacramental, or other special properties. We keep them close by us to provide hope and encouragement through difficult times, and to bring good luck.


1-inch statue of the Virgin Mary from Lourdes. The vintage case is carved from vegetable ivory.

These little cases with statues were popular among Catholics during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. They usually come from famous pilgrimage sites, and are carried by the faithful in a pocket or purse. They were taken into battle by soldiers, and the cases were sometimes hand-fashioned from bullet cartridges. They have been recovered from Civil War battlefields in the US.


Metal cases holding an aluminum Jesus of the Sacred Heart, and a Virgin with child (Mariazell?), made of lead. These probably date from WWII.

Some pocket shrines come in the form of wallets or flat cases. Mexican examples, like this one, are very colorful.


A Mexican wallet shrine with sacred images and medals. Click for source: Drawpilgrim.

Another type incorporates a medal in a small leather sleeve.


“Protect everywhere.” The image is of the Virgin of Pompeii, where a miraculous painting has drawn pilgrims since the mid-nineteenth century.


The shrine of Mariazell in Austria is one of the most popular pilgrimage churches in Europe. The spot has been a shrine to the Virgin since the 12th century. This vintage wallet-style shrine has a hand-painted image of the Virgin. Click to enlarge.


Shrines of various shapes. Some contain statues of saints, and some enclose miniature rosaries.

In non-iconic traditions, like Islam, pocket shrines may take the form of the written word. Miniature Korans like this one have long been carried as talismans, and can be read with the help of a magnifying glass.


Some pocket shrines are personal in nature. Any object of adoration, be it a lover, a child, or someone we admire from afar, may serve equally well as a talisman. Each of us has a personal pantheon and mythology. “Pocket shrines” include wallet photos, lockets, portrait miniatures or other keepsakes worn or carried on one’s person. Consider this amazing male eye miniature, painted in 1905. From the looks of the eye, its owner was a man of unusual Beauty, able to inspire adoration in a female heart. As a matter of fact, he looks a bit like Richard Armitage!

Loverqus Eye1_1905

From Cathy Gordon’s photographic archive of eye miniatures and other jewelry. Click for source.

Next time: More talismanic jewelry!