Pilgrim Flask


Artist
Byzantine (Roman, 395 – 1453)
Date
5th to 6th CE
Medium
earthenware
Dimensions
Work : 3 1/4 x 2 1/2 x 1 5/8 in. (8.25 x 6.35 x 4.13 cm)
Credit Line
Hope College Collection
Object Number
2018.17

Label
When early Christian pilgrims visited a church, shrine or other important religious site, they often collected a sample of holy oil, holy water or some other substance to take home as a memento of their visit. They frequently put the oil, water or other substance in a small metal or ceramic flask called an ampulla, which could be sealed and worn around the neck or carried easily in a pocket. The contents of the flask were thought to provide blessings and protection to whomever held or touched the flask, so the flasks became a way for pilgrims to preserve the spiritual benefits of their journey and share them with family and friends who could not make the trip. This pilgrim flask was made in the Holy Land or Syria sometime around the 5th or 6th century CE. It was made using a simple two-piece mold and would likely have been quite inexpensive at the time it was made. It is decorated with a sunburst design that was used in early Christian art to symbolize the power and light of the risen Christ.   

Object Type
Ceramic