Drug jar showing St John the Baptist, 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 their devotees. The figure of St John, or St John the Evangelist, is painted on the drug jar on the right hand side. St John was a Christian saint and apostle and is credited with writing the fourth Gospel of the New Testament of the Bible. The jar was used to store syrup of violets, taken by the spoonful to expel gas from the stomach and intestines. “SPQR” (Senatus Populusque Romanus), the motto of Rome meaning “Senate and People of Rome” is painted on the side. It is shown here with a similar example depicting St Matthew (A97373).
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Glossary: drug jar
A (usually earthenware) container designed to hold apothecaries' ointments and dry drugs.
The preparation and medicinal dispensing of drugs.