This ampulla is typical of those made at Canterbury in the second half of the 13th century. They were filled with water, supposedly tainted with the blood of St Thomas, and would have been carried home from the shrine by the pilgrim – the water being put to use for mixing with medicine or any of the other superstitious uses for which it was employed.
Following his murder and martyrdom in December 1170, St Thomas became one of the most important saints of the Middle Ages, with miracles being attributed to him across all of Europe, often through the agency of ‘Canterbury Water’. The inscription on the border reads ‘optimus egorum medicus fit thoma bonorum’ (Thomas is the best healer of the worthy sick) – a reminder for those seeking cures that they should put their faith in the saint’s miracle-working powers rather than trusting in the cures offered by healers.
Although the ampulla is a faithful copy of an original artefact found in the River Thames, the lid is conjectural. Many ampullae were simply crimped shut, although some were supplied with lids and, for ease of use, we have chosen to supply a lid as standard (easily removed of course). The cord is also fitted as standard; ampullae being worn suspended around the neck at the time. On the front is a depiction of St Thomas, while the reverse shows the martyrdom, with Thomas being struck down by a sword blow and the clerk, Edward Grim, holding out his arm in a forlorn attempt to protect Thomas.
73 x 67 mm (without lid) Made from lead free pewter and supplied in an attractive gift box. The ampulla has no water or other liquids included.