The St. Benedict Medal – An Exorcism Struck on a Medal

Beginning in Germany where it was first minted, devotion to the St. Benedict medal spread rapidly throughout Catholic Europe, and the faithful considered it a sure defence against infernal attacks.

“We could do nothing against that place!” confessed some sorceresses imprisoned by the public authorities in Nattremberg, Bavaria, in 1647 on charges of having cast evil spells on the inhabitants of the region. In the trial that followed their arrest, they stated that their wicked machinations were unsuccessful in places where the Holy Cross of Christ was suspended or even hidden in the ground.

This was certainly the case with the impregnable Abbey of Metten.

Investigators then visited the Benedictine monastery to consult the monks about this particularity. After careful observation, the authorities noticed many representations of the Holy Cross on the walls of the abbey, always accompanied by enigmatic characters whose meaning had been lost in the mists of time, and which no one knew how to decipher any longer.

Consulting the monastic library, they found an old Evangeliary, dated 1415, in which pen-and-ink sketches by an anonymous monk depicted St. Benedict clad in his monastic cowl, carrying a staff topped by a cross in his left hand and a banner in his right, in which those mysterious characters were interpreted: “Crux sacra sit mihi lux. Non draco sit mihi dux – May the Holy Cross be my light. Let not the dragon be my guide.”

It was the first known evidence of the devotion that popular piety would spread throughout the world to this day: the St. Benedict medal.1

Origin of a tradition

In fact, after these events, Catholic fervour regarding the powerful medal grew dramatically. Starting in Germany, where it was first minted, it quickly spread throughout Catholic Europe, being considered by the faithful as a secure defence against infernal attacks.2

The Holy See soon felt impelled to support this providential movement of grace and, on March 12, 1742, Pope Benedict XIV signed the brief ratifying the use of the pious object and granting it favours and indulgences.

With many variations of the medal having spread over time, on August 31, 1877 Blessed Pius IX awarded special indulgences to a new model struck by the Abbey of Monte Cassino on the occasion of the fourteenth centenary of St. Benedict’s birth, which became known as the Jubilee medal. This version is the most widespread to this day.3

However, as was the case in Christianity in the past, the deeper meaning of this powerful sacramental is often forgotten by Christians.

May the Holy Cross be my light

The adorable instrument of our salvation is in itself a most effective aid against all kinds of diabolical attacks. If it was by means of a tree that the ancient enemy defeated the human race in Adam, it was also by means of a tree that the God-Man rescued us definitively from infernal tyranny.

For this reason, a large Greek-shaped cross covers one side of the medal. In the angles of the cross, four characters appear: C. S. P. B., which stands for “Crux Sancti Patris BenedictiCross of the Holy Father Benedict.

Also engraved on the cross itself are the letters C. S. S. M. L. on the vertical beam, and N. D. S. M. D. on the horizontal beam, which allude respectively to the aforementioned phrases:

Crux Sacra sit mihi lux. Non draco sit mihi dux – May the Holy Cross be my light. Let not the dragon be my guide.”

And to complete this exorcistic prayer, there is a longer inscription around the outside: V. R. S. N. S. M. V. S. M. Q. L. I. V. B., which meansVade retro satana; numquam suade mihi vana. Sunt mala quæ libas; ipse venena bibas Begone Satan, do not suggest to me your vanities. What you offer me is evil; drink your own poison.”

These words can be used by Christians whenever they feel disturbed and besieged by the temptations of the enemy; when he suggests his perversities, the false pomps of the world, the delights and pleasures contrary to the Law of God, bad friendships… in short, his poison, sin itself, which brings death to the soul.

It must never be accepted! We must throw this cursed “gift” back in the face of the tempter who offers it to us, since he himself has chosen it as his inheritance.

However, looking at the other side of the medal, someone might ask: why St Benedict?

The figure of the Patriarch of the West

The Holy Patriarch of the West has all the prerogatives to feature in a pious object of an exorcistic nature, and this is above all due to the great victories he achieved against evil spirits by using the sign of the Cross.

The medal joins the power of the Holy Cross to the remembrance of the victories that the great patriarch won against the infernal dragon
St. Benedict – Basilica of St. Dominic, Bologna (Italy)

We are reminded of this by the cup and the raven depicted at his feet. The cup alludes to an episode in his life when some revolted monks tried to kill him by serving him a cup of poisoned wine, which promptly shattered when it was blessed by the Saint, reducing it to fragments.

And the bird refers to the occasion when a priest who was envious of St. Benedict’s virtues decided to “gift” him with a loaf of bread that was also poisoned. The holy abbot, however, did not consume the bread, but ordered a raven to carry it far away.4

Also worthy of special attention is the inscription that encircles this side of the medal: “Eius in obitu n[ost]ro præsentia muniamur May we be strengthened by your presence at the hour of our death.”

This is a request that, together with the one made in the Hail Mary, “pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death,” fills us with confidence for our last moments on earth, in which the devil plays the “all or nothing” game for our perdition.

Infallible aid

So, although the diabolical attacks, temptations and even physical dangers that we face every day may be numerous and constant, the medal of St. Benedict is a powerful sacramental and unfailing aid for Christians, since it brings together the power of the Holy Cross and the remembrance of the victories that the great patriarch won against the infernal dragon.

Therefore, in the midst of the tribulations of this life, let us devoutly wear the medal of St. Benedict, not as if it were a mere allegorical amulet, but rather as a supernatural aid and authentic representation of the promises of our Baptism: we firmly believe in Our Lord and the Holy Church, and renounce forever Satan and sin. ◊



1 Cf. GUERÁNGER, OSB, Prosper. A medalha de São Bento. São Paulo: Artpress, 1995, p.37-38.

2 Cf. Idem, p.42.

3 Cf. Idem, p.136.

4 Cf. ST. GREGORY THE GREAT. Vida e milagres de São Bento. Rio de Janeiro: Lumen Christi, 1977, p.38-39; 51-52.



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

More from author

Related articles

Social counter