1529: Silver rings help pilgrims deal with erectile problems

In the late 1520s, Sir Thomas More penned a defence of the Catholic church that also included a condemnation of obscure and superstitious rituals being practised in some areas.

One of the sillier examples described by Sir Thomas occurred at an abbey in Picardy, near the mouth of the Somme. The abbey, dedicated to St Valery, had become a shrine for men suffering from kidney stones, impotence and erectile problems. It attracted visitors from across western Europe, including some from England.

Seeking the blessings of St Valery, these pilgrims sometimes left offerings peculiar to their impairment:

“..Just as you see wax legs or arms or other parts hanging up at other pilgrimage shrines, in that chapel all the pilgrims’ offerings hung about the walls, and they were all men’s and women’s private gear [genitalia] made out of wax.”

More also describes a particular ritual carried out at the abbey, apparently intended to help pilgrims with their impotence and erectile problems:

“At the end of the altar there were two round rings of silver, one much larger than the other, through which every man puts his privy member, not every man through both… for they were not of the same size but one larger than the other.”

Source: Sir Thomas More, Dialogue concerning Heresies, 1529. Content on this page is © Alpha History 2019-23. Content may not be republished without our express permission. For more information please refer to our Terms of Use or contact Alpha History.