A Satirical Medal Minted During the 16th Century Wars of Religion

The Papal Satirical Medal

This unusual bronze medal, minted during the papacy of Pope Paul III, is known as a Satirical Medal. The obverse shows the pope wearing the papal tiara. When turned 180 degrees, however he is revealed as the devil. On the reverse is a cardinal with a wide-brimmed hat. When similarly rotated, he becomes a buffoon with a fool’s cap and bells.

The pope and cardinal are ridiculed by association with the devil and a buffoon, respectively. The inscriptions, in Latin, further underscore the satirical nature of the medal. They read: “The perverse Church has the face of the devil” and “Fools are sometimes wise“.

Satirical medals, especially those featuring double heads, were used as tools of propaganda and were widely circulated in the context of the 16th-century wars of religion. Indeed, several variations on this theme are known, many of which have survived to the present.

This is, truly, one of the most unusual additions to the Papal Artifacts’ Collection, and it adds another dimension to the papacy, a living history.