A Beautiful Medal for an Immaculate Celebration
Updated: May 25
Sixty-seven years ago, a Marian Congress was held in Manila to commemorate the centennial year celebration of the Proclamation of the Dogma of the Immaculate Concepcion in 1854. A dogma that introduced the belief that Mary was conceived without sin (Sin Labe Concepta) that "from the first moment of her conception, the Blessed Virgin Mary was, by the singular grace and privilege of Almighty God, and because of the merits of Jesus Christ, Savior of Mankind, kept free from all stain of original sin." This dogma is one of the essential elements of my catholic faith, as it is the crux and the center of the faith of each Marian devotee and, most significantly, for all Catholics. It is important to note that December 8, the Feast of the Immaculate Concepcion, is now celebrated as an Holyday of obligation for all Filipino Catholics and a memorable non-working Holiday for all Filipinos to honor the Principal Patroness of the Philippines, our Blessed Virgin Mary. It was also proclaimed as a non-working holiday to allow the Catholic Filipino to reflect on the importance of the Blessed Virgin Mary in our lives.
To commemorate this Marian event, a medal was made and is listed as Honeycutt-459 that came in silver, gold plated, an unlisted white metal, and an 18k gold unlisted variant that will soon be listed as H-459a. The actual listing of the medal for the upcoming 4th edition of Honeycutt's "Philippine Medals and Tokens: 1780-2020," to be released in about a year, would list the medal as follows:
459 O: Pius IX*Annvs Marianvs*Pius XII/ 1854-1954/
Jugate of Popes
R: Immacvlata Conceptio Insvlarum Philippinarvm Partona/
Oro No Jesus & Angels Pro Bis
33 x 47 mm Silver with Loop 13.95g $50.00
459a Similar, but 33 x 47 mm 23g 18K Gold RARE $2,200.00
459b Similar but White Metal 4.14g $25.00
459c Similar, but Gold Plate $35.00
Four different medal variants to memorialize the event. Variants discovered and listed over the past year have existed since 1954. It shows how important the event was and how medal collectors never prioritized the medal. This medal was designed and made by the famous Italian sculptor Aurelio Mistruzzi, born in 1880, and is most remembered as one of the premier medalists for the Vatican. He produced three hundred
thirty (330) medals depicting ancient church symbols and, most of all, the Popes. His most famous work was the series of medals he created for Pope Pius XI in 1929 (www.papalartifacts.com). When I was first offered the unlisted gold variant, I was skeptical about its authenticity. I wasn't sure if there was a gold variant for the medal, as the current listing on the 3rd edition of the Honeycutt book was only for the silver variant. But I was drawn to the details of the medal, and I needed to find out more of what Mitstruzzi's design symbolized first; I needed to find out the differences between the gold and gilt variants, as this is where many collectors may make a mistake. The gold and the gilt have the exact measurements at 33x47, but the most significant and noticeable difference is the weight; where the gold variant weighs 23 grams, while the gilt weighed
18.5 grams, which included the pin attached to the loop the ribbon came with the medal. But the most revealing difference is the mark at the bottom of the obverse (unlike the listing in the book of Honeycutt, I assumed the side where the image of the Blessed Virgin Mary is located is the obverse of the medal as this is what the award is commemorating) that read "750" which is commonly known in jewelry jargon as the mark of 18 karat gold. With the numerous medals being offered and sold by dealers, I had no clue about the medal's importance and historical significance as I had no interest whatsoever. However, our Blessed Mother had other plans. She made sure I discovered the hardest and the most expensive of the four variants to impact me as to its significance and value, historically and numismatically. She ensured that I knew the medal's importance and made me understand and value it.
The obverse of the medal has the Latin words Immacvlata Conceptio Insvlarum Philippinarvm Partona translated as "the Immaculate Concepcion Patron of the Philippine Islands" and the image of Our Blessed Mother with her hands on her chest looking up into the heavens with the image of four cherubs at her feet as they all float above the clouds and the words "Ora Pro Nobis" the Latin phrase for "Pray For Us" inscribed. This image reminds me so much of the painting in most churches dedicated to the Immaculate Mary. However, my favorite is the painting in the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Concepcion, the largest Roman Catholic Church in North America and one of the 20 largest Roman Catholic churches globally.
On the reverse of the medal are the words, "PIVS IX Annvs Marianvs PIVS XII: 1854-1954," with
the jugate of two popes, who played significant roles in the perpetuation of the dogma of the Immaculate Concepcion. Pope Pius IX was the head of the Catholic Church from 1846 to 1878 and was known for convoking the First Vatican Council in 1868. His "Ubi Primum" or papal letter or encyclical to all Bishops asking for their opinion on the definition of the Immaculate Concepcion was issued in 1849. It would be five years later, in 1854, wherein he promulgated the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, articulating a long-held Catholic belief that Mary, the
Mother of God was conceived without original sin. On the other hand, Pope Pius XII consecrated the whole world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary in 1942. Thus, it would be in the 1954 Marian Congress that they commemorated the centennial of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception to promote increased devotion to Mary, the increased
understanding of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, and to encourage holiness of life achieved through following Mary's example and with Mary's help to remind the faithful to pray for the persecuted church. For Filipinos, the Marian Congress had the following objectives and purposes: (1) to fortify the faith of the Filipino people further and to protect their virtues, (2) to increase their faith with the love of the Blessed Virgin Mother, and (3) to inspire the Filipino people with the necessity of keeping close to Mary even after the congress is over. All of which, I believe, was achieved during the last 50 years. At the bottom of the busts of both popes are their respective coats of arms, intricately designed by Mistruzzi between 1854 and 1954 to reflect the 100-year celebration of the dogma. It is important to note that Mistruzzi's signature is inscribed at the bottom of the bust of Pius XII.
Many collectors have continually asked what the monetary value of the medal is, how much it should be sold for, and even how much they should pay. My answer has always been consistent -- the value of the medal is the value to oneself. However, in my case, the value of this medal goes beyond the money I paid for it; the importance of this medal is really what it symbolizes and represents -- my faith in our Blessed Mother, who has continuously blessed my whole family and has always been present in our nightly 9 pm rosary with my Rosary family, especially during this crazy pandemic.
In two weeks, we will be celebrating, once again, the Feast of the Immaculate Concepcion. I have begun to cherish and look forward to a day I set aside for our Lady. As I reflect on this blog, I realize there was a reason why I had been offered, and I had decided to purchase the gold variant, even though the cost was much too prohibitive. There was a reason why, all of a sudden, there was an influx of sale offers for the different variants of the medal, and there was a reason why I was inspired to understand what the medal represents and its importance -- it was because our Blessed Mother made it all happen, and this I truly believe.
Honeycutt, Earl D. PhD., "Philippine Medals and Tokens: 1780-2020", Mactan Press, 2020