IOW-48E30D: Medieval: Pilgrim Ampulla

Rights Holder: The Portable Antiquities Scheme
CC License:

Image use policy

Our images can be used under a CC BY attribution licence (unless stated otherwise).


Unique ID: IOW-48E30D

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

An incomplete Medieval lead alloy pilgrim ampulla (c. 1250-c. 1500).

The neck and suspension lugs are missing.

The main body is circular in plan and there is a raised design on each face. One face has a double rose and the other side has initials: W B. The edge of the face with the rose is grooved and 'billeted'.

This ampulla has a buff patina and the break is ragged.

Height: 29.4mm; width: 32.0mm; thickness: 6.0mm. Weight: 17.32g.

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. Until the early fourteenth century, ampullae took various forms, were frequently inscribed and usually bore representations of the cult-figure or relic that they were intended to commemorate......Ampullae could be comfortably kept on the person or easily hung up in the home, or suspended , for the benefit of livestock, in the stable or cow shed or on the beehive. Ampullae were often donated to the neighbourhood, to be hung in the parish church. Almost as a matter of course, churches throughout thirteenth-century England secured possession of Canterbury ampullae containing what was perhaps the most famous of all elixirs, the water of St Thomas, tinged with the martyr's miracle-working blood' (Spencer, B. 1990, 57-58).

Spencer, B. 1990. Pilgrim Souvenirs and Secular Badges. Salisbury and South Wiltshire Museum. Salisbury.

Inscription: W B

Subsequent actions

Current location of find: Finder
Subsequent action after recording: Returned to finder


Broad period: MEDIEVAL
Period from: MEDIEVAL
Period to: MEDIEVAL
Date from: Circa AD 1250
Date to: Circa AD 1500

Dimensions and weight

Quantity: 1
Height: 29.4 mm
Width: 32 mm
Thickness: 6 mm
Weight: 17.32 g

Discovery dates

Date(s) of discovery: Wednesday 31st January 2018 - Wednesday 31st January 2018

Personal details

Found by: This information is restricted for your login.
Recorded by: Mr Frank Basford
Identified by: Mr Frank Basford

Other reference numbers

Other reference: IOW2018-1-39

Materials and construction

Primary material: Lead Alloy
Completeness: Incomplete

Spatial metadata

Region: South East (European Region)
County or Unitary authority: Isle of Wight (Unitary Authority)
District: Isle of Wight (Unitary Authority)
To be known as: Isle of Wight

Spatial coordinates

Grid reference source: GPS (from the finder)
Unmasked grid reference accurate to a 1 metre square.

Discovery metadata

Method of discovery: Metal detector
Discovery circumstances: Club rally
Current location: Finder
General landuse: Cultivated land
Specific landuse: Operations to a depth greater than 0.25m

References cited

Similar objects

Find number: IOW-4DD087
Object type: AMPULLA
Broadperiod: MEDIEVAL
An incomplete Medieval lead alloy pilgrim ampulla (c. 1300-c. 1500). The suspension loops are missing and the rim of the mouth is incomplete.…
Workflow: Awaiting validationFind awaiting validation

Find number: IOW-A1FF86
Object type: AMPULLA
Broadperiod: MEDIEVAL
A complete Medieval lead pilgrim ampulla (c. 1300-c. 1500). This ampulla is complete but the attachment lugs/loops are corroded. The body is…
Workflow: PublishedFind published

Find number: IOW-FBCDCB
Object type: AMPULLA
Broadperiod: MEDIEVAL
An incomplete Medieval lead alloy pilgrim ampulla (c. 1300-c. 1500). This ampulla is sub-rectangular in plan. The rounded body has bevelle…
Workflow: Awaiting validationFind awaiting validation

Timeline of associated dates

Audit data

Recording Institution: IOW
Created: 10 months ago
Updated: 10 months ago

Other formats: this page is available as qrcode json xml geojson pdf rdf representations.