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Gothic Aquamanile, Lower Saxony, end of the 13th century,Brass and bronze

Aquamaniles were used for washing priests' hands during the mass. Ewers (water vessels) were common in ancient Greek and Roman art and were introduced to the Western world during the Crusades.

Aquamaniles were used by priests, but they were also used at the courts of secular rulers for ceremonial hand washing during banquets. The Gothic aquamanile pictured is in the form of a slender, upright lion, and the heraldic lion is a symbol of power, courage and justice. We suppose that this aquamanile had an exclusively secular purpose because it is similar to the sign of the zodiac used in medieval woodcuts.


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