Menas Flask with a cross on the reverse side - ROM2010_11707_50


Menas Flask with a cross on the reverse side

Geography: Abu Mena, Egypt; found in al-Fayyūm
Date: c. 575-700 CE
Period: Mediaeval, Byzantine period
8.8 x 6.55 x 2.6 x 5.9 cm
Object number: 910.165.110
On view
Gallery Location:Joey and Toby Tanenbaum Gallery of Byzantium
Pilgrim souvenir ("blessing") of St Menas in the shape of a circular flask with an elongated neck and two handles. One side contains an image of St Menas and camels with small motifs (crosses) in field above. Circular frame consists of a row of dots between lines. The other side contains an equal-armed cross, jewelled with double knobs at tips, single knob at centre, and small leaf-like ornaments between the arms in a circular border of a row of dots between lines.

Menas was a Egyptian soldier in the Roman army martyred around 295 CE for his belief in Christ. His remains soon became renowned for causing miraculous cures. Menas flasks depicting and naming him would have held miracle-making water collected from a cistern near his shrine at Abu Mena in Egypt. Saint Menas is traditionally depicted with two kneeling camels on his sides.

Pilgrim eulogiae (literally "blessings") were little souvenirs sanctified by contact with the divine, given or sold to pilgrims to take home as mementoes of their journey. But eulogiae did more than induce a traveler’s memory: by virtue of the concentrated holiness they contained, eulogiae could miraculously heal the sick or calm a stormy sea. Eulogiae took the shape of pressed-earth seals or tokens, lamps, flasks for oil or water (ampullae), or even ribbons and pieces of cloth (brandaria) that had touched a saint or holy place. Many eulogiae were a sensory multiplex of material, inscription, and image. In addition to fostering or even creating memories of the locus sanctus (holy place) from which they came, eulogiae ensured that the salvific, curative power of the saints was accessible no matter the distance from their shrines.
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