Lead Ampulla; Pilgrim Flask

MOL LI 15/2011.1


ID: A small, dark grey shell shaped lead flask with a square neck and two short handles. This lead ampulla, or medieval pilgrim’s flask, is a shell-shaped flask. It was found on the coast at Meols, Wirral, during the 19th century. It dates to the late 15th-early 16th century. It would have been worn around a person’s neck using string attached to the small handles at each side. It is thought that the individual who carried it would have been taking it with them on a pilgrimage, a type of spiritual or often religious journey to a sacred destination. Some would be undertaking the journey to ‘heal’ a disability or a long-term health condition. Souvenirs like this would have been dipped in water or wine, to be drunk as medicine, or applied to body parts in an attempt to cure them.(1) Pilgrim souvenirs, like scallop shell ampullae, have been made and sold at shrines since the early Christian period. Some pilgrimage destinations, such as Lourdes, France are still considered by some to be a place where disability can be ‘cured’. Thanks to the changing social attitudes towards disability brought about by the disability rights movement and disabled people’s activism, it is widely understood that this way of thinking can be degrading and harmful. 1) https://thebecketstory.org.uk/pilgrimage/souvenirs