Poland has done it again by winning – for the third time in recent years – the most prestigious award for best religious stamp: the St. Gabriel International Award. The 2015 awards ceremony was held on 29 September at Legnago’s Fioroni Museum.
In 2011 the beatification of Pope John Paul II was philatelically celebrated by a joint issue of Poland and the Vatican; needless to say, the same happened in 2014 for the canonisation of Pope Karol Wojtyła. In both cases the stamp design was secured by Poland and placed in the hands of a highly skilled stamp designer Marzanna Dabrowska who successfully completed the projects together with her husband Jacek Dabrowscy.
The four-hand design for the 2011 issue won the St. Gabriel Award and now the same feat has been repeated for the 2014 design celebrating the elevation to sainthood of the highly popular Polish Pope. In 2010 Marzanna won her first St. Gabriel Award with the Polish stamp remembering the 25th Anniversary of the death of martyr and patriot Father Jerzy Popiełuszko.As always, at this international award “competition was overwhelming as more than one hundred stamp issues from around the world were selected as nominees. I believe that the central figure of the Polish stamps and the simplicity and explicitness of the design influenced the outcome,” Marzanna said.
The jury included Vienna’s Archbishop, Cardinal Cristoph Schönborn; Trento’s Archbishop, Monsignor Luigi Bressan, British Virgin Islands Philatelic Society President Dr. Giorgio Migliavacca, and the presidents of many St. Gabriel Societies throughout Europe.
Far from being an expected ornament, the aureole of St. John Paul II is a major element of the stamp design as it is a greatly inspirational element consisting of seven rings with historic quotes from Pope John Paul II. Interestingly enough, the aureole on the Polish miniature sheet has an additional quote not appearing on the Vatican counterpart.
A sentence “How may one love God who is invisible, without loving the human standing at one’s side” [“Jak można kochać Boga który jest niewidzialny, nie kochając człowieka który jest obok nas”] is one of the most famous and most frequently mentioned quotes of St. John Paul II. It is a paraphrase of St. John’s 1 letter (1J 4.20): “Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.”. Most probably John Paul II spoke these words during his pilgrimage to North and South America.
This interesting detail was revealed during the awards ceremony by Agnieszka Kloda-Debska, head of the philatelic and marketing agencies of the Polish Posts. The Polish miniature sheet had an aureole with 35 quote from John Paul II while the Vatican one had 34 of them. It would appear that Polish is a more concise language than Italian, hence the extra space for the additional quote.
Issued to complement the postal needs of Christmas mail, the two stamps enclosed in the miniature sheet issued by Brazil in 2014 earned the Special Award of the Organising Committee of the St. Gabriel Award. Both stamps prominently feature St. Nicholas of Myra – the patron saint of sailors, merchants, archers, repentant thieves, children, brewers, pawnbrokers and students. His relics can be found at his shrine in Bari, Southern Italy, where he is the patron saint of the archdiocese. “Sinterklaus” as Nicholas was known in nordic lands was translated as Santa Claus which for hundreds of years has been synonymous of Christmas, both in the old and new world.
The Brazilian miniature sheet has restored authenticity to historical facts regarding two of Nicholas’ most celebrated miracles: the three girls rescued by the saint from their sad fate as unmarried maidens by throwing gold coins through the window of their dwelling; and the three children killed and pickled in a barrel by a butcher, but later resurrected by Nicholas prayers“Even in our days of cyberspace and internet postage stamps are effectively spreading messages of peace, brotherhood and faith,” St. Gabriel Award President Gianni Fontana said at the well attended ceremony.
The honourees were presented with a beautiful sterling silver plaque depicting the Annunciation – a magnificent work of art by sculptor Enrico Manfrini. In good tradition, Italian Posts saluted the awards ceremony with a special one-day only pictorial postmark depicting the Annunciation – adorned by artwork by well-known artist, illustrator and stamp designer Marco Ventura whose signature has appeared on stamps of the Vatican, Great Britain, and San Marino.
The St. Gabriel International Award for Best Religious Stamp was established in 1969 in Verona and is named after “the Lord’s postman” – St. Gabriel. Legnago (not to be confused with Legnano) is the birthplace of the famous composer Antonio Salieri.
Great Britain won the St. Gabriel International Award in 2000 and in 2006; Israel won it in 1970 1974 and 2011; San Marino in 1989, 1997, 2001 and 2013; Germany in 1988 and 2004; Austria in 2013; the Vatican in 1987 and 2013; the United States in 1986; Poland in 2010, 2012, and 2015; and Portugal in 1975 and 1992.