By Levi Clancy for Student Reader on
The technique of blowing glass into a mould is particularly associated with pilgrim flasks. The flasks were filled with sanctified oil or earth and taken away by pilgrims as mementoes.
Glass pilgrim flask. Syria. British Museum, MME 1911,5-13,1. Image by L M Clancy 2009/09/13.
On one side is a hooded bust above a cross in a circle on a pillar. The bust represents a stylite, a monk who spent his life on a pillar. These ascetics were particularly associated with Syria, where the first stylite, Symeon the Elder, died in AD 459.
Glass pilgrim flask. Holy Land. British Museum, MME 1971,10-2,1. Image by L M Clancy 2009/09/13.
Two sides are decorated with the crux gemmata of Golgotha, a monumental gemmed cross erected there by Theodosios II. The presence of the crux gemmata mounted on three steps suggests that the flask was made between the first appearance of this design on the coins of Tiberius II (AD 578-82) and the loss of the cross during the Persian attack of AD 614.