Betnüsse or prayer (s) nuts are stained walnut or pod-shaped capsules that can be opened in half and mainly from the late 15th century until 1530 as a trailer on the Rosary were born or on a necklace. The advent of betnuts went hand in hand with the practice of the more frequent rosary prayers in the late Middle Ages.
The origin of the Betnuts is unclear. For style-critical and other reasons, however, a Flemish origin is most likely. The German term “Betnuss” dates from the late 19th century and is probably a translation of the French term noix de prière.
Betnuts had a maximum diameter of 6 cm and were made of boxwood , later also of ivory , metal and other materials. The oldest surviving specimens are mostly perforated with tracery patterns or have a surface that is partly flattened like a medallion.
Inside there are more or less figurative relief carvings depicting scenes from the life of saints or the Passion of Christ. Some specimens housed additional, hinged wings. An object in the shape of a skull and a betnut, which contains small "peas" with tiny reliefs , have been preserved as special forms .
Only wealthy people could afford betnuts. As a popular collector's item, they were often given a metal frame.
- Kurt Dingelstedt: Betnuss . In: Otto Schmitt (Ed.): Reallexikon zur Deutschen Kunstgeschichte. Volume 2. Druckermüller, Stuttgart / Waldsee 1948, Sp. 371-377