World Stamps

Poland wins St. Gabriel award for best religious stamp issued in 2014

October 15, 2015 11:49 AM

  • A souvenir sheet from Poland honoring the canonization of Pope John Paul II won the St. Gabriel award for the best religious stamp of 2014. The awards were presented Sept. 29.
  • This souvenir sheet from Brazil showing two miracles of St. Nicholas of Myra, the forerunner of Santa Claus, was given a special prize by the St. Gabriel award organizing committee.

For the third time in recent years, Poland has won the St. Gabriel award for the best religious stamp.

The award went to a souvenir sheet issued by Poland April 2, 2014, to celebrate the canonization of Pope John Paul II (Scott 4114).

In 2010, Poland received the St. Gabriel award for a commemorative stamp issued Oct. 19, 2009, in memory of Father Jerzy Popieluszko on the 25th anniversary of his death (Scott 3963).

In 2012, Poland won this international award again, this time for a souvenir sheet honoring the beatification of Pope John Paul II (4009), a joint issue with Vatican City.

This year’s award-winning souvenir sheet also was part of a joint issue with Vatican City.

Both the 2011 and 2014 souvenir sheets were designed by Marzanna Dabrowska, working with her husband Jacek.

The 2015 St. Gabriel awards ceremony took place Sept. 29 at the Fioroni Museum in Legnago, Italy.

The jury included Archbishop of Vienna Cardinal Cristoph Schonborn, Archbishop of Trent Luigi Bressan, British Virgin Islands Philatelic Society president Giorgio Migliavacca, and the presidents of many St. Gabriel societies throughout Europe.

Polish stamp designer Marzanna Dabrowska said this year’s competition was “overwhelming as more than 100 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.”

A major element of the design of the 5-zloty stamp in this souvenir sheet is the aureole of St. John Paul II, which comprises seven rings with historic quotes from the pope.

During the awards ceremony, Agnieszka Kloda-Debska, head of the philatelic and marketing agency for Poczta Polska (Poland’s post office), revealed that the aureole on the souvenir sheet from Poland includes 35 quotes, while there are only 34 quotes on its counterpart from Vatican City (Scott 1560).

Because Polish is a more concise language than Italian, extra space was available for an additional quote. This quote, a paraphrase of 1 John 4:20, translates to, “How may one love God who is invisible, without loving the human standing at one’s side.”

Also during the ceremony, a special award of the organizing committee was presented to Brazil’s 2014 souvenir sheet honoring St. Nicholas of Myra.

This fourth-century bishop is the patron saint of sailors, merchants, archers, repentant thieves, children, brewers, pawnbrokers, and students. St. Nicholas also is the basis for Santa Claus.

The souvenir sheet from Brazil illustrates 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 ceremony.

The St. Gabriel award was established in 1969 in Verona, Italy, and is named after “the Lord’s postman,” St. Gabriel.

In addition to Poland, other countries that have won this international award multiple times are (in alphabetical order): Germany in 1988 and 2004; Great Britain in 2000 and 2006; Israel in 1970, 1974 and 2011; Portugal in 1975 and 1992; San Marino in 1989, 1997, 2001 and 2013; and Vatican City in 1987 and 2013. Austria and the United States won the award in 2013 and 1986, respectively.