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E02833: Lead ampullae showing the scene of the incredulity of *Thomas the Apostle (S00199). Now in Bobbio and Monza (both northern Italy), and the British Museum (perhaps from Egypt). Almost certainly from the Holy Land, just possibly from a church dedicated to the saint at Jerusalem. Probably 6th c.

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posted on 2017-05-21, 00:00 authored by pnowakowski
In the Corpus Inscriptionum Iudaeae/Palaestinae, Leah Di Segni discusses three types of ampullae with scenes referring to the biblical story of the incredibility of Thomas the Apostle (John 20.26:29). The ampullae were certainly distributed to pilgrims visiting Jerusalem, but it is not clear for which sanctuary they were produced. The scene, as described in the Gospel, takes place in the Cenacle, whose presumed site was converted to the Church of Holy Sion. Di Segni points out, that the ampullae could have been distributed by a church dedicated specifically to Thomas, for example the one mentioned in E02734 and E02735. However, it is notable that none of the inscriptions refer to Thomas, and it is more plausible that these ampullae celebrated Christ and his bodily resurrection.

Type 1:
An ampulla of this type is housed in the collection of eulogiae in Bobbio (north Italy). The scene is scarcely visible, but one can recognise Christ standing in the middle, flanked by the Apostles, including specifically Thomas and Andrew. In his left hand, covered by a fold of his cloth (himation), Christ is holding a codex, probably with the Gospel.


[+ ἔ]λαιο[ν ξύλου ζωῆ]ς τῶν ἁ[γίων τοῦ Χ(ριστο)ῦ τόποων]

[ὁ Κύριός μου κ(αὶ) ὁ] θ(εό)ς μου

'Oil of the wood of life from the holy places of Christ. My Lord and my God!'

Type 2:
A lead ampulla housed in the British Museum, reportedly acquired in Egypt. The scene shows Christ holding a book (Gospel), flanked by Apostles. Thomas is kneeling to the left of Christ, who is holding his hand and nearing it to his side.


+ ὁ Κύριός μου κ(αὶ) ὁ θεός μου +

'My Lord and my God!'

Type 3:
Ampulla no. 9 from the collection of Monza (northern Italy), shows on the reverse the scene of the Crucifixion in the upper register and of the Resurrection in the lower register. On the obverse we have a depiction of standing Christ, holding the hand of Thomas and nearing it to his side. Christ has a beard and long hair, and is holding a book. He is the only figure shown with nimbus. The scene is being observed by other Apostles. Some of them are raising their arms to touch Christ, other (apparently the Evangelists) are holding books.


ὁ Κ(ύριό)ς μου καὶ ὁ θεός μου

'My Lord and my God!'

Text: CIIP 1/2, no. App. 41*.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Thomas, the Apostle : S00199

Image Caption 1

Ampulla, Type 2. From: Dalton 1911, 627.

Type of Evidence

Inscriptions - Inscribed objects Images and objects - Lamps, ampullae and tokens Images and objects - Narrative scenes


  • Greek

Evidence not before


Evidence not after


Activity not before


Activity not after


Place of Evidence - Region

Palestine with Sinai

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc


Place of evidence - City name in other Language(s)

Jerusalem Caesarea Maritima Καισάρεια Kaisareia Caesarea Kayseri Turris Stratonis

Cult activities - Places

Cult building - independent (church)

Cult activities - Activities Accompanying Cult

  • Production and selling of eulogiai, tokens

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs


Cult activities - Use of Images

  • Private ownership of an image

Cult Activities - Relics

Contact relic - other Ampullae, eulogiai, tokens Transfer, translation and deposition of relics Transfer/presence of relics from distant countries

Cult Activities - Cult Related Objects

Ampullae, flasks, etc.


Edition: Cotton, H.M., Di Segni, L., Eck, W., Isaac, B., Kushnir-Stein, A., Misgav, H., Price, J.J., Yardeni, A. and others (eds.), Corpus inscriptionum Iudaeae/Palaestinae: A Multi-Lingual Corpus of the Inscriptions from Alexander to Muhammad, vol. 1, part 2: Jerusalem, nos. 705-1120 (Berlin, Boston: De Gruyter, 2012), no. App. 41*. Ampulla, type 1: Grabar, A., Ampoules de Terre Sainte (Monza, Bobbio), with photographs by D. Fourmont (Paris: C. Klincksieck, 1958), 37, no. 10, and Pl. XLII, 2. Ampulla, type 2: Thomsen, P., Die lateinischen und griechischen Inschriften der Stadt Jerusalem und ihrer nächsten Umgebung (Leipzig: J.C. Hinrichs, 1922), no. 217. Dalton, O.M., Byzantine Art and Archaeology (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1911), 624, fig. 399. Ampulla, type 3: Grabar, A., Ampoules de Terre Sainte (Monza, Bobbio), with photographs by D. Fourmont (Paris: C. Klincksieck, 1958), 24-26, no. 9, and Pl. XIV-XV.

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