About Memento Mori
Memento Mori are a traditional addition to a rosary or chaplet, intended for the living as a reminder of the brevity of life. Many saints like St Gerard Majella kept one close at all times to remind him that every day is important as which will be our last day is unknown.
The use of symbolic skulls in rosaries & chaplets dates all the way back to the late middle ages (1050 - 1500). They were particularly popular in Italy, Germany, and Mexico with priests, nuns, and monks.
Skulls on rosaries have been used for hundreds of years, and historical art and doctrine supports the use of skulls in the rosary. Today, Memento Mori are becoming popular again in rosaries, jewellery and decor items. A rosary or jewellery item including Memento Mori can be found ghoulish by some, but they have earned their place in the rich history of symbols of devotion.
Memento Mori often are skulls or death’s-heads; antique ones are sometimes double-sided with a face on one side and a skull on the other.
Often made from carved bone, wood or ivory, they are also seen formed in crystal & precious metals, especially when used in religious jewelry. Memento Mori were sometimes a sign of the owners wealth and status in society. Some memento mori are very elaborate, true works of art.
Crystal skulls were very popular in earlier centuries, & an educated European might place an actual skull on a desk or side-table.
Memento Mori are not as popular today as in previous centuries, when they were commonly seen on tombstones and in graveyards. Their purpose was to help keep the living on the straight & narrow for fear of heavenly judgment. Today, as life seems to become faster than ever, Memento Mori are a visual reminder to take time out to center ourselves in a peaceful & God-centered way, one day at a time.
A prayer was usually said when contemplating a Memento Mori reminder, in thanksgiving for life, such as these examples:
I dwell upon the goodness in my life.
I cherish in my heart Your gift to me.
I notice the blessings of life, breath, loving and sharing.
I am grateful.
For the winter, when we are held safe in Your arms through the darkness;
For the hope of spring, as we are filled with renewed hope & life;
And for autumn days, as leaves fall to seed new growth.
You are with us always.