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Albarello drug jar, Italy, 1600-1700

The decoration of this colourful earthenware drug jar shows the emblem of the Franciscan Order: two arms surrounding a crucifix displaying stigmata. The Franciscans are a religious order for men and women founded by St Francis of Assisi in 1209. The letters “S N S” probably refer to the Franciscan hospital that commissioned and used this jar. Until the 1800s, religious orders were one of the main sources of medical care in Europe, especially for the poor.

Object number:

1986-433

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Glossary:

Glossary: drug jar

A (usually earthenware) container designed to hold apothecaries' ointments and dry drugs.

Glossary: pharmacy

The preparation and medicinal dispensing of drugs.

Glossary: earthenware

Pottery made of clay which is fired at a relatively low temperature. Earthenware is often semi-porous, meaning some liquid or air can pass through it. This can be altered by treating the pottery with a glaze.