Advent Calendar Day 25

The Nativity on a Carved Pilgrim Souvenir

It’s the final day of our 2020 Ashmolean Advent calendar, and today’s surprise is this carved shell souvenir from 18th-century Palestine.

Once a holy pilgrimage was complete, pilgrims often wanted to take home a relic for future protection and blessings. Clay tokens made from the earth near the pilgrimage centre were common souvenirs. Holy water was also carried back from Mecca, Jerusalem, or sites in India. This practice continues to this day.

This carved pearl shell souvenir from 18th-century Palestine shows a Nativity scene, as well as the Virgin and Child again at the very bottom and an elaborate floral border. These were popular Christian pilgrims' souvenirs from Palestine in the 1700s.

The Nativity, Carved Pearl Shell Pilgrims' Souvenir, 1700s

Shell (pearl)