St Hubert Key, Belgium


Transferred from the Wellcome Institute in 1985; 1985.52.615 and 1985.52.2305
Hubert was the first bishop of Liège in Belgium. According to legend he was visited by Saint Peter, one of the twelve apostles of Jesus, on his consecration. Saint Peter gave Hubert a golden key and told him that God had given him a special power against evil spirits. Angels from heaven also appeared and presented him with a stole. Soon afterwards, Hubert is said to have miraculously cured a man who had been bitten by a rabid dog, and he became known as a protector against the deadly disease.
After his death people began to make pilgrimages to Saint Hubert’s shrine in the hope that he would protect them from rabies. Those who were unable to make the pilgrimage turned to the monks at Saint Hubert’s abbey, who issued pieces of iron known as the keys of Saint Hubert. These ‘keys’, which were more often shaped like a nail, cross, or cone, were often hung on the walls of houses for protection against the disease. They were also heated until they were red hot and then placed directly on the body where the bite had occurred.
This treatment was often applied by priests, who also performed an operation known as ‘cutting’. Making a tiny incision on the person’s forehead, they would insert a thread said to have been taken from Saint Hubert’s stole. The forehead was then bound with a black bandage for nine days. Saint Hubert’s keys and the threads from his stole were used throughout Europe to treat bites from rabid animals until the beginning of the 20th century. 
Connected Objects: St Hubert Bugle

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