[Episcopal News Service] The mystery of the missing crosier has been solved – at least its location, if not a reason for its disappearance.
The centuries-old crosier of the Diocese of Pennsylvania was crafted by the renowned blacksmith Samuel Yellin, a European immigrant who arrived in Philadelphia in 1906 and died in 1940. However, its existence has long been little more than local legend, and Pennsylvania Bishop Daniel Gutiérrez has been on the hunt for the missing crosier almost since his consecration in 2016.
Then, two weeks ago, Gutiérrez received a call from Rev. Michael Ruk, rector of St. Philip’s Episcopal Church in New Hope, alerting the bishop that a parishioner had spotted something resembling the historic one on an online auction site crosier looked like. The description of the auction made no mention of Yellin, but said the baton had been given to Bishop Philip Rhinelander of Pennsylvania in 1921.
Gutiérrez decided to bid $125 for it, believing it was an artifact worth preserving, although it wasn’t the long-lost Yellin crosier. When the auction ended on January 19, Gutiérrez had accepted the hammer for $850, which totaled approximately $1,100 including fees. The following Monday, he and his wife drove north from Philadelphia to the Lansdale auction house to pick it up. Upon seeing the Crozier in person, Gutiérrez’s hopes immediately soared.
“I said, ‘This is it.’ You get that feeling,” Gutiérrez said in an interview with the Episcopal News Service this week. He sent a picture of the crosier to Yellin’s granddaughter, Clare Yellin, who has been helping the diocese with their research. She agreed with Gutiérrez that the staff appeared to be Yellin’s missing crosier.
According to An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church, the use of crosiers dates back to the seventh century. Originally conceived as a walking stick, today it represents pastoral authority, its shape symbolizing a shepherd’s staff. According to church custom, the bishop holds the crosier in his left hand, with the crosier pointing outwards.
At consecration each bishop normally receives a new crosier for official use on pastoral visits to the diocese – Gutiérrez’s own crosier is a simple wooden one – but the value of a historic copper crosier like Yellin’s is more than ceremonial. “A historical Crozier has the life of the diocese [in it] and tells the story of the diocese and the bishops who carried it,” said Gutiérrez.
While the origins of the Yellin Crozier were well known, “we had no idea where it had been since 1961,” Gutiérrez said. This was the last year that references to the crosier could be found in the diocesan archives.
While the discovery of the crosier solves the mystery of its location, it remains unclear how it ended up in the hands of the auction house or who sold the crosier to Gutiérrez. The auction house declined to provide information about the seller, he said.
The only clue to the crosier’s more recent origins was found on a piece of paper stuck in one of the crosier’s ornamental flowers. It suggests that the Crozier was sold at an Allentown flea market way back in 2006.
Gutiérrez, who has a bachelor’s degree in history, initially purchased the crosier with money from his discretionary fund, but later chose to personally repay the fund by offering the crosier as a gift to the diocese. Pennsylvania was one of the founding dioceses of the Episcopal Church in 1785, and its first bishop, William White, became the church’s first presiding bishop in 1789. “We have to remember our past, especially here,” Gutiérrez said.
He plans to continue using his wooden crosier when visiting parishes in the diocese, but he will release the restored Yellin crosier on special occasions, possibly beginning in April when he celebrates the Easter Vigil in the diocese.
“I can’t wait to get it back to see what it looked like in its original state,” Gutiérrez said. “The only thing I’m worried about is how we can make sure it doesn’t go away again.”
– David Paulsen is an editor and reporter for the Episcopal News Service. He can be reached at [email protected].