LVPL-DEA190: Medieval ampulla

Rights Holder: National Museums Liverpool
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AMPULLA

Unique ID: LVPL-DEA190

Object type certainty: Certain
Workflow status: Awaiting validation Find awaiting validation

A complete lead alloy medieval pilgrim's ampulla, dating from c. AD 1350-1530. The bowl is semi-circular in plan and the neck is sub-rectangular in cross-section flaring outwards at the top. The flask is decorated on one face with a flower. The flower has a central pellet and 11 petals of which those on the lower half are very worn. Surrounding the flower the edge of the bowl on this face is decorated with a zig-zag band within a curvilinear border. Either side of the zig-zag is decorated with diagonal grooves giving the impression of a series of decorated triangles.

The opposite face of the object is decorated with a shield which is worn. Within the shield is a central rectangle within which appears to be the letter h (in lower case Lombardic style). Below the letter on the lower edge of the rectangle is a pellet from which two thickened lines extend downwards. This gives the impression of a stamped seal and ribbon. Outside of the shield on either side are four pellets arranged in a lozenge formation. The pellets and shield are surrounded by an oval band. There is possibly further decoration above the shield however it is too worn to be certain. The edge of the bowl on this face of the object is decorated with a series of diagonal lines.

Two handles connect the neck to the body of the object and are complete. At the top of the neck on the flower decorated face are some horizontal nicks which appear to be deliberate and are not recent damage. On the opposite (shield decorated) face a linear cut or groove runs from within the rectangle inside the shield up to the top of the object. This appears to be ancient damage rather than related to the design of the object. The top of the ampulla is complete and sealed and iron corrosion can be seen from within the top of the mouth. When moved a tinkling sound, like that of a bell, can be heard from within the object. The ampulla has a light white patina and is in good condition.

Brian Spencer, formerly Senior Keeper at the Museum of London, who made a life-time study of ampullae, has written: 'Ampullae or miniature phials were an important kind of souvenir. Generally flask-shaped, but with a narrow, flattish section, they were designed to contain a dose of the thaumaturgic water that was dispensed to pilgrims at many shrines and holy wells. Ampullae were made of tin or lead or tin-lead alloy and were provided with a pair of handles or loops so that they could be suspended from a cord or chain around the wearer's neck. Coming into use in the last quarter of the twelfth century, they were, in England, almost the only kind of pilgrim souvenir to be had during the thirteenth century. They were nevertheless available at a number of shrines, and thanks to returning pilgrims or to local entrepreneurs, probably featured as secondary relics in virtually every thirteenth-century English parish church.

Dimensions: 50mm in length, 30mm in width, 8mm thick, 34.6g.

Find of note status

This is a find of note and has been designated: Regional importance

Subsequent actions

Subsequent action after recording: Returned to finder

Chronology

Broad period: MEDIEVAL
Period from: MEDIEVAL
Period to: MEDIEVAL
Date from: Circa AD 1350
Date to: Circa AD 1530

Dimensions and weight

Quantity: 1
Length: 50 mm
Width: 30 mm
Thickness: 8 mm
Weight: 34.6 g

Discovery dates

Date(s) of discovery: Saturday 1st August 2015 - Tuesday 22nd September 2015

Personal details

Found by: This information is restricted for your login.
Recorded by: Ms Vanessa Oakden
Identified by: Ms Vanessa Oakden

Materials and construction

Primary material: Lead Alloy
Secondary material: Iron
Manufacture method: Cast
Decoration style: Floral
Completeness: Incomplete

Spatial metadata

Region: North West (European Region)
County or Unitary authority: Cheshire East (Unitary Authority)
District: Cheshire East (Unitary Authority)
To be known as: Baddiley

Spatial coordinates


Grid reference source: Generated from computer mapping software
Unmasked grid reference accurate to a 1 metre square.

Discovery metadata

Method of discovery: Metal detector
General landuse: Cultivated land
Specific landuse: Character undetermined

References cited

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Timeline of associated dates

Audit data

Recording Institution: LVPL
Created: 3 years ago
Updated: 3 years ago

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