Derived from the Greek word chrisma, meaning “anoint,” the same root word for Christós (or “anointed one”), the chrismatory was a receptacle for the oil used in sacramental rites of passage and church ceremonies. Measuring 47 millimeters (or 1.85 inches) in height and 78 millimeters (or 3.07 inches) in width, this late medieval, three-chambered chrismatory was made of lead alloy. Shaped as a trefoil, or three-leaved plant, it is relatively unadorned and unembellished compared to other chrismatories found in medieval London.
The circular (suspension?) clasp allowed individuals to open the lid easily, and the loops underneath the lid allowed it to stay closed with a lock. The inside of the lid is etched with the letters “C” (for chrisma) on the lower-left side, “I” (for oleum Infirmorum, or “oil of the sick”) on the top, and “B” (oleum Catechumenorum, or “oil of catechumens,” used for baptism) on the lower-right side. These identifying letters helped the priest choose the oil needed for the right occasion. When the chrismatory was not in use it was usually stored away in the sacristy. The chrismatory was both a holy and a practical object, and this one was likely one of many of its kind, as lead alloy was meant to last and cost less than chrismatories made of more expensive metals. This chrismatory may have been made from metals mined in Cornwall or Devon, and manufactured by one of the many metalworkers in London, although the provenance of this object, and where it was excavated in London, is unknown.
Still Image Item Type Metadata
78 mm (width)