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Pilgrim's Ampulla with (Symbolic) Crucifixion and Marys at the Tomb


Early Byzantine
6th century - early 7th century
4.6 cm (1 13/16 in.)
lead
BZ.1948.18

On view


Permalink: http://museum.doaks.org/objects-1/info/27026

Additional Images
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Additional Image Detail: Marys at the Tomb
Detail: Marys at the Tomb
Additional Image Obverse and reverse
Obverse and reverse
Additional Image Reverse
Reverse


Description
According to the inscription on this lead vial or ampulla, it contained oil from the wood of the true cross, obtained from the Holy Land. At the sites of sacred events, pilgrims could acquire “eulogiae,” literally “blessings,” in the form of tokens or cloth or oils that they believed shared in the sacred power of the Holy Sites and relics themselves. The Dumbarton Oaks ampulla shows the crucifixion on one side, and Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James carrying spices to Christ’s tomb on the other. In both images, the illustrations deviate from the Gospel accounts. Some Biblical details are selected and then mixed with aspects of the holy site as it would have appeared to a pilgrim hundreds of years later. So, in the case of the crucifixion, while there are details from the Gospels, such as the two thieves being crucified on either side, we do not see Christ’s body on the cross, but rather an emblematic cross surmounted by a bust of Christ. In fact, we know from pilgrims’ descriptions that this is what pilgrims would have seen in the basilica erected by Constantine over the traditional site of the crucifixion. In the case of the Marys at the tomb, the tomb is depicted, not as a cave, as it is described in the Gospels, but as a small porticoed shrine with grilles in front. This is what was visible in the Church of the Resurrection (Anastasis) in Jerusalem as it developed into a pilgrimage site. The shrine is surrounded by columns, and set under a row of windows, representing the windows around the bottom of the dome that rose over the sacred spot. So, these images, like those on other mementos of the Holy Land overlay Biblical details with aspects of the pilgrim’s visit, allowing the faithful to map his or her own experience onto sacred history.

- J. Hanson


Bibliography
The Dumbarton Oaks Collection, Harvard University (Washington, D.C., 1955), 46, no. 112, fig. p. 50.

M. C. Ross,
Catalogue of the Byzantine and Early Mediaeval Antiquities in the Dumbarton Oaks Collection,Metalwork, Ceramics, Glass, Glyptics, Painting (Washington, D.C., 1962), 71-72, no. 87, fig. 48.

Handbook of the Byzantine Collection (Washington, D.C., 1967), 40, no. 146.

D. Barag. "Glass Pilgrim Vessels from Jerusalem: Part I,"
Journal of Glass Studies 12 (1970), 35-63, esp. 59.

J. Engemann. "Palastinensische Pilgerampullen im F.J. Dolger-Institut in Bonn,"
Jahrbuch für Antike und Christentum 16 (1973), 5-27, fig. 9.

K. Weitzmann. "Loca Sancta and the Representational Arts of Palestine,"
Dumbarton Oaks Papers 28 (1974), 31-55, esp. 42, pl. 24.

M. E. Frazer. "A Syncretic Pilgrim's Mould from Mamre(?)," Gesta 18, no. 1 (1979), 137-45, esp. 139.

K. Weitzmann, Age of Spirituality: Late Antique and Early Christian Art, Third to Seventh Century, exhibition catalogue, Metropolitan Museum of Art, November 19, 1977-February 12, 1978, (New York, 1979), 585-586, no. 524.

G. Vikan,
Byzantine Pilgrimage Art Publications / Dumbarton Oaks Byzantine Collection (Washington, D.C., 1982), 20-24, reproduced front and back covers.

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Mitteilungen zur spätantiken Archäologie und byzantinischen Kunstgeschichte 2 (2000), esp. 10 n. 4, 15 n. 33, 17 n. 41, 32.

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Loca Sancta Souvenirs and the Art of Memory," in Pèlerinages et lieux saints dans l'antiquité et le moyen âge: mélanges offerts à Pierre Maraval, ed. B. Caseau, J.-C. Cheynet and V. Déroche. Monographies, Collège de France-CNRS-Centre de recherche d'histoire et civilisation de Byzance (Paris, 2006), 193-201, pl. 1,2.

A. J. Wharton, Selling Jerusalem: Relics, Replicas, Theme Parks (Chicago, 2006).

R. Ousterhout. "'Sweetly Refreshed in Imagination': Remembering Jerusalem in Words and Images," Gesta 48, no. 2 (2009), esp. 155, pl. 3.

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Exhibition History
New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, "Age of Spirituality: Late Antique and Early Christian Art, Third to Seventh Century," Nov. 1977 - Feb. 1978.

Washington, DC, Dumbarton Oaks, "Byzantine Pilgrimage Art," March 5 - Sept.6, 1982.

Washington, DC, Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition, "King Herod's Dream: Caesarea on the Sea," 1988.

Jerusalem, The Israel Museum, "Cradle of Christianity," March 16, 2000 - Jan. 30, 2001.


Acquisition History
Collection of Hayford Peirce, Bangor, ME.

Acquired from Mrs. Hayford Peirce by Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, Washington, D.C., October 1948.

Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, Byzantine Collection, Washington, D.C.