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The next time you send a package, try this neat medieval practice to get it there safely

© Africa Studio - Shutterstock

Caroline Becker - published on 10/05/19

Do you ever worry about items you send in the mail? Our ancestors did, too, and here's what they did!

You’ve meticulously cushioned the contents of your package with bubble wrap, packing peanuts, or some other appropriate protection, and you’ve taped the box shut five different ways … but you’re still worried the contents might arrive damaged, or not at all.

This concern is nothing new; it was shared by our ancestors in the Middle Ages, when shipping was much riskier than it is today. However, Christian society that it was, people came up with a great idea: entrusting their packages directly to heavenly protection.

Pious package protection

Besides protecting the contents in a sturdy, locked wooden box covered with leather and reinforced with iron bands, senders added one last element: an image. Not just any image, but the image of a patron saint or a scene from the Bible. The iconography varied according to the owner’s devotion and preference.

It was a way of putting a package under the protection of the prayers of the saints; indeed, in a way these images were a prayer in themselves. With such protection, the senders felt their package had a better chance of traversing the dangerous paths of the world and arriving safely at its destination.

An exhibit at the Cluny Museum in Paris, France, currently displays over 140 rare and perfectly preserved examples of these. However, this faith-filled idea doesn’t have to remain a thing of the past! Why not buy some holy cards, or print out holy images at home, to include in your own packages today?

A good idea in more ways than one

This is not a substitute for insuring a package, sending via certified mail, and using an abundance of bubble wrap and packing tape, of course. But including a favorite image of Our Lord, the Blessed Mother, a favorite saint, or a Bible scene can be a way for us to remember to entrust our package and all our concerns to God in prayer.

Adding a sacred image or text can also be a way for us to share our faith and our favorite devotions and holy images with the people to whom we’re sending the package. God may use that opportunity to deliver something much more important than the material contents of the box: grace, faith, a call to prayer, comfort, or even conversion.

Read more:
Medieval monks used these hand signals to communicate


Read more:
You can make your own “medieval” manuscript. Here’s a video guide.

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