Signboards throughout England when it was
the Dowry of Mary
Taverns, ale houses, public houses, hotels, shops and street signs - so many named after Our Lady or emblems of Our Lady such as 'The Salutation' or the 'Bleeding Heart', were a large feature of Catholic England when it was the Dowry of Mary.
A signboard in former times was not just confined to taverns. Each shop had its sign; and the choice of the sign might be an act of piety, just as the choice of a motto may indicate the bent of a man's mind at the present day.
The Blessed Virgin was unquestionably a very common sign before the Protestant Reformation in England. Our Lady of Pity was the sign of Johan Redman, a bookseller in Paternoster Row, in 1542 London. John Byddell, also a bookseller, had introduced this sign in the beginning of that century.
Few signs have undergone so many changes as the well known 'Salutation'.
Originally it represented the Archangel Gabriel saluting Our Lady, in which shape it was occasionally seen in the 17th and 18th centuries, as appears from the tavern-token of Daniel Grey of Holborn.
In the times of the Commonwealth however, the Puritans changed it to 'The Soldier and Citizen', and in such garb it continued long after , with this modification, that it was represented by two citizens politely bowing to each other.
The Salutation Tavern in Billingsgate shows it thus on its trade's token and so it was represented by the Salutation Tavern in Newgate Street (an engraving of which may still be seen in the parlour).
At present it is mostly rendered by two hands conjoined, as at the Salutation Hotel, Perth, where a label is added with the words, 'You are welcome to the city'.
The 'Angel' was derived from the Salutation, for that it originally represented the angel appearing to the Holy Virgin at the Salutation, or Annunciation, is evident from the fact that even as late as the 17th century, on nearly all the trades-tokens of houses with this sign, the angel is represented with a scroll in his hands; and this scroll, we know, from the evidence in paintings and prints to contain the words addressed by the angel to the Blessed Virgin Mary, 'Hail Mary, full of grace'.
Probably at the Reformation it was considered too Catholic a sign; and so the Holy Virgin was left out or removed and only the angel left.
From that period in England also dates the sign of the 'Bleeding Heart', the emblematical representation of the five sorrowful mysteries of the Holy Rosary, the heart of the Holy Virgin pierced with five swords. There is still an ale house of this name in Charles Street, Hatton garden, and Bleeding Heart Yard, adjoining the public house is immortalized in the novel Little Dorrit by Protestant English author Charles Dickens.
The 'Wounded Heart', one of the signs in Norwich in 1750, had the same meaning. The heart was a constant emblem of the Holy Virgin in the Middle Ages. Thus, on the clog almanacs all the feasts if St Mary were indicated by a heart, It was not an uncommon sign in former times.
At the Protestant Reformation, one of the main intentions was the obliteration of Our Lady from England, Her Dowry, yet many traces of the piety and devotion that made this little country known as the Island of Saints can still be seen.
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