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Drug jar showing St Matthew, Italy, 1570-1630

Medieval Christian teaching included the notion that illness and disease were the result of sin. Prayers were said to saints who could plead with God and aid the recovery of devotees. St Matthew, a Christian saint and apostle, is shown on the left hand jar, which was used to store a plant called sweet flag. Matthew was an apostle and writer of the first Gospel of the New Testament of the Bible. “SPQR” (Senatus Populusque Romanus), the motto of Rome meaning “Senate and People of Rome” is painted on the side. The jar is shown here with a similar example depicting St John (A97372).

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Glossary: drug jar

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

Glossary: pharmacy

The preparation and medicinal dispensing of drugs.