MEDIEVAL PILGRIM'S AMPULLA, CIRCA 15TH CENTURY

MEDIEVAL PILGRIM'S AMPULLA, CIRCA 15TH CENTURY

175.00

An excellent quality medieval pilgrim’s ampulla, moulded from a cheap alloy of lead, and decorated with various emblems. These miniature flasks were sold at pilgrimage centres and shrines. They would be filled with holy water or oil and then sealed. The lugs allowed the ampulla to be sewn onto clothing or worn on a cord around the neck, as both souvenir and object of devotion. The iconography of the crown on a hatched field is associated with ampullas produced at The Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham, in Norfolk. Founded before the Norman conquest in 1061, by the time this ampulla was made, Walsingham had become one of the greatest shrines in medieval Christendom, and a favourite place of pilgrimage. The reverse bears the typical scalloped design, derived from the scallop shells sold at the famous pilgrimage destination of Santiago de Compostela. On the neck is a "W", probably for Walsingham. Mitchiner suggests that many ampullae were used in the annual springtime ’Blessing the Fields’ ceremony, in which the Holy Water they contained was sprinkled on the ground to bless the soil in hope of a good harvest. Mitchiner suggests that the ampullae were discarded after they had served this purpose. Others have suggested that the ampullae were buried along with their contents, for a similar purpose.

Dimensions: 47 mm x 33 mm.

References: Benet's Artefacts of England and the United Kingdom, Third Edition: M24-0209.

Michael Mitchiner, Medieval Pilgrim & Secular Badges.

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