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Aquamanile is a type of decorative water vessel that was commonly used in medieval Europe, particularly during the Romanesque and Gothic periods, from the 12th to the 16th centuries. These vessels were typically made of bronze, brass, or copper alloys and were often shaped in the form of animals, mythical creatures, or human figures. The most common forms were lions, dragons, horses, and knights. The name aquamanile is derived from the Latin words aqua, meaning water, and manus, meaning hand, reflecting their function as handwashing vessels. Aquamanilia were used for the ritual washing of hands before meals in wealthy households and religious ceremonies in churches. The water would be poured from the vessel's spout, which was usually located in the animal's mouth or beak, over the hands, and collected in a basin below. These vessels were not only functional but also served as status symbols and decorative objects, often displaying intricate craftsmanship and artistic skill. The designs often incorporated symbolic elements and religious iconography, reflecting the cultural and spiritual values of the time. Today, surviving aquamanilia are highly prized by collectors and can be found in museums and private collections around the world, providing a glimpse into the art, culture, and daily life of medieval Europe.

medieval handwashing, decorative water vessels, animal-shaped vessels, bronze handwashing vessels, Romanesque water vessels, Gothic water vessels, medieval religious ceremonies, medieval dining customs

John Armstrong

Aquamanile Definition
Aquamanile on Design+Encyclopedia

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