Earthenware Pilgrim Flask with Saint Menas

Date: ca. 610–50

Culture: Byzantine

Medium: Earthenware

Dimensions: Overall: 3 3/8 x 2 11/16 x 11/16 in. (8.5 x 6.9 x 1.8 cm)

Classification: Ceramics

Credit Line: Gift of J. Pierpont Morgan, 1917

Accession Number: 17.194.2291


Pilgrim flasks (ampullae) bearing the image of Saint Menas flanked by two camels are associated with the pilgrimage center that developed around the tomb of the Egyptian soldier who was martyred during the reign of the emperor Diocletian (r. 284–305). Pilgrim flasks were an important souvenir from a shrine. They could be filled with oil or water that had been poured over the shrine or reliquary. This liquid could then be poured over a sick person or broken limb in order to effect miraculous cures at home.