Two pilgrims' relics from Bethlehem, Palestine

1900-1929 in Bethlehem and Bethlehem and

Buy this image as a print 

License this image for commercial use at Science and Society Picture Library

Science Museum Group Collection
© The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum

Specimen bottle containing two Christian pilgrims relics from Bethlehem

These two objects, one still with its paper wrapping, were collected by Christian worshippers on a pilgrimage to Bethlehem in the early twentieth century. They are small tablets of terra sigillata – a clay traditionally believed to have medicinal qualities. The clay was ground up and used in medical preparations, a practice begun in the Middle Ages that continues today.

The wrapping is marked with a Latin inscription which translates as “Believed to be from the sacred crypt of the suckling blessed virgin Mary”. This white clay is from the Milk Grotto at Bethlehem, a holy site for Christians because they believe it was where Mary gave birth to Jesus Christ. The clay was also used to help women who had difficulty breastfeeding.


Materia Medica & Pharmacology
Object Number:
bottle, glass, relic 1, plaster, moulded, relic 2, paper and relic 2, wax, sealing
relic 2: 8 mm x 22 mm x 21 mm,
relic 1: 41 mm x 23 mm,
  • drug
  • furnishing and equipment
  • container - receptacle
  • ceremonial container
Mutch, N.

Cite this page


We encourage the use and reuse of our collection data.

Data in the title, made, maker and details fields are released under Creative Commons Zero

Descriptions and all other text content are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 licence

Using our data


Download catalogue entry as json

View manifest in IIIF viewer

Add to Animal Crossing Art Generator

Download manifest IIIF

Our records are constantly being enhanced and improved, but please note that we cannot guarantee the accuracy of any information shown on this website.