Glömda gudstecken. Från fornkyrklig dopliturgi till allmogens bomärken

by Skånberg, Tuve, PhD

Abstract (Summary)
The pioneering academic research on Merchant Marks (also known as identity marks, personal marks, ownership marks, identification marks, Hausmarken, Hofmarken, Marques de Propriété, bomärken) was done by professor Homeyer (1870). Since 1870 there has been an ongoing debate among scholars whether Merchant Marks are simply formed by chance and coincidence, as stated by Rehnberg (1938, 1951), Scheffer (1957) and Nahlén (1992) or whether they are variations of Christian symbols, especially the cross, as stated by Sisson (1929) and Stevenson (1954). Other scholars like Dallaway (1793), Ewing (1852), Rylands (1911), Hudd (1911), Davies (1935), Ruppel (1939), Kuhlicke (1952), Lindström (1964), Girling (1964a), Tønnesen (1968) and Guler (1992) are uncertain of any symbolic meaning of Merchant Marks, but suggest one or several interpretations of various examples. By collecting a reference material of 27,595 examples of Merchant Marks from Sweden, Finland, Norway, Denmark, Germany, Switzerland and Latvia this doctoral thesis has by statistic evaluation proved that these marks are by no means coincidental, but are variations of about 80 types, being identified as mediaeval Christian symbols. The most common symbol is the cross and variations of the cross, making up more than half of the reference material. Other common symbols are Alpha, Omega, monograms of the names Jesus, Christ and Mary, using Greek, Latin and even runic letters (Christogram, Chi Rho monogram, Labarum Cross). Not uncommon are Pentagram, symbols of the Trinity, and attributes of Christ and Mary. Some are attributes of saints like Peter, Olav, Hallvard, Laurentius, Brigitte, Gertrud and the archangel Michael. The origin of the use of Merchant Marks is traced back to the baptismal liturgy of the early church. Theodore, bishop of Mopsuestia, Syria, (AD 392-428) interprets the cross signed on the forehead of those being baptised as a property mark of Christ, to be compared with property marks on livestock or soldiers denoting their Lord. Lilliebjörn (1933) in his doctoral thesis shows that in Roman time slaves, prisoners of war and soldiers were marked on their forehead (and hand) by burning or tattooing with the mark of their owner or Emperor. This custom was used also in the mystery cults, to denote membership in a cult and being a servant of a certain god. Even some Christians tattooed a cross on their forehead. The earliest examples of the kind of Merchant Marks found in the reference material are from Egyptian papyri ca AD 380, with the first example in AD 378. Scribes before ca AD 380 never used to add a figure of any kind to their signatures. The new practice was established fast, and almost without exception a cross, or a variation of a cross-related device like the Labarum Cross, was added to the signature of the scribe. The new practice coincides with the inauguration of the East Roman Emperor Theodosius the Great (AD 378-395), who legislated Christianity as the only lawful religion in the empire. This new practice developed to a differentiation of marks for the practical cause of identification.
Bibliographical Information:


School:Lunds universitet

School Location:Sweden

Source Type:Doctoral Dissertation

Keywords:HUMANITIES and RELIGION; Egyptian papyri; signature; baptismal liturgy; Chi Rho monogram; Christogram; Omega; Alpha; Christian symbols; Homeyer; bomärken; Marques de Propriété; Hofmarken; Hausmarken; identification marks; ownership marks; personal marks; Merchant Marks; identity marks; History of the Christian church; Kristna kyrkans historia


Date of Publication:01/01/2003

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