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Statue of St Anthony the Hermit, Netherlands, 1801-1900

St Anthony the Hermit (b. 423) is shown here in his monk’s black coloured habit carrying a Bible and rosary beads. The carved wooden statue measuring 720 mm high is standing on a bed of fire. This symbolises St Anthony’s fire or ergotism, a poisoning from eating the ergot fungus. Ergot is a disease of rye, a cereal used to make bread. More often than not, it was eaten by accident. Ergot fungus causes hallucinations similar to LSD in its affects. Pilgrims seeking a cure would travel to St Anthony’s shrine in Motte au Bois, France, and pray for his help.

Object number:

A71663

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Glossary:

Glossary: statue

A sculpture in the round representing human or animal figures or small figure groups; a statuette is a smaller sculpture.

Glossary: ergotism

Poisoning induced from too much medicinal ergot or eating grain infected by ergot (fungus). Symptoms include spasms, cramp and gangrene. Historically known as St Anthony’s fire because a pilgrimage to his tomb was said to cure the symptoms.