Medieval Pewter Pilgrim Signs and Religious Goods from Billy and Charlie

Ampullae

Ampullae were commonly distributed at shrines which had sources of sacred or thaumaturgically active water. Canterbury, for example, distributed water from the well in which the body of Thomas Becket was washed after he was murdered. Many ampullae cannot be firmly identified by the shrine from which they came. The first ampulla was copied from an example now in Salisbury, but the original source is unknown. The second ampulla is unmistakeably a souvenir from Canterbury.
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    This ampulla can be supplied either open for you to fill with water from your preferred source or closed with water already in it. The ampulla is shown closed.

P-17 Ampulla $8.00
* Salisbury, no. 170

Original ampullae are usually made of lead. These are made of pure tin. To produce these ampullae, a mold with a large cavity is filled up entirely with molten metal, then as the metal starts to freeze from the outside first, the still molten center of the pool is poured back out, leaving a hollow shell. Lead and tin both have rather small ranges of temperature between really molten and really solid, so they can be used in this "slush casting." Other metals and alloys have a longer period between phases, during which the metal is grainy and sticky - these metals slush cast very poorly.   

 

 

Thumbnail Ampulla. The ampulla this is copied from was among the earliest pilgrim signs from the shrine of St. Thomas Becket (killed in 1170), and probably dates between 1180 and 1200.

P-29 Thumbnail Ampulla $5.00
PSSB 1,1a,1b



Reliquary Ampulla.
In the form of the reliquary chasses which were produced in Limoges from the late 12th until the late 13th centuries. We usually call it the Lunchbox Ampulla - but we thought we should put something higher class on the website.

P-31 Reliquary Ampulla $8.00
PSSB 200-20l
1270-1350.

 

 

Large Becket Ampulla. The inscription on this spectacular ampulla can be translated "Thomas is the best doctor of the worthy sick." Pilgrims to Canterbury would have taken home water from the shrine in an ampulla like this one, then saved it until the day when it was needed as a specially powerful medicine. No blow-up of this item; it's big enough already!

P-26 Large Becket Ampulla $12.00
3-1/4 x 2-3/4" or 80 x 70mm
* Pilgrim Signs, no. 14


Further Devotional Items