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Behind the visit of Pope Benedict XVI, the bicentennial of four American Diocese.

Created in 1789, the Diocese of Baltimore had jurisdiction for the recently independent United States. It was in 1808, that the Baltimore was raised to an Archdiocese, and the Diocese of Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and the first inland diocese located at Bardstown (KY) were formed. (Bardstown never took off as a financial center like the others and that area is now part of the Louisville Diocese).

This is one of the reasons that this papal visit is happening now. April was the time that the new dioceses were created, and celebrations are taking place in those locations throughout the last year. A visit to Boston was avoided due to the major clergy scandals of the last two decades, and so a large group of Bostonians and Philadelphians have been both invited to the Yankee Stadium or Washington D.C. events.

Medals played a part in three of the four centennials. 1908 saw Boston Centennial medal with a large portrait of the recently appointed Archbishop William O'Connell. The reverse featrues a commemorative legend and the Archbishop's coat-of-arms. The sculptor was by Bela Lyon Pratt, the designer of the then recently released Indian head $2-1/2 and $5 Gold coins (minted between 1908-1929).

New York's centennial medal obverse featrues Archbishop Farlery in the center of portraits of the previous Archbishops. It was designed by J. E. Roine. The reverse features St. Patrick's Cathedral, with additional renderings of original cathedral, and first church in NYC.Philadelphia's entry was a rather plan and less imaginative medallic commemorative - a large bishop's mitre within a wreath, with a reverse of a scroll with the names of the previous bishops. Bardstown is only commemorated much later on a small key chain fob.

In looking over the selection of Papal Visit trinkets available, there are plenty of holy cards, rosaries, postcards and bumper stickers, in addition to hats, t-shirts, and magnets, but only one die struck “medal” type item is available, and that is of a plain design - as it was translated from a great graphic made as a logo for the visit, but as with many good graphics, it does not translate well into sculpture.

Such is the case of modern medallic commemoratives in America.