AMPULLA AND SPOON — GREAT BRITAIN
The ampulla, probably from the late fourteenth century, is designed in the shape of an eagle. The anointing oil is poured out through its beak.
The oil of anointing consecrates the monarch and the anointing itself symbolizes God’s blessing of the monarch. Legends surround the ampulla of England and the oil of anointing. According to one, the Blessed Virgin appeared to St. Thomas á Becket (died 1170) and gave him a golden eagle that she said contained oil for the anointing of the Kings of England. The ampulla remained hidden for two centuries and was discovered in time for the coronation of Henry IV in 1399.
The original oil continued to be used until the coronation of Charles I in 1625. It is claimed that Elizabeth I complained at her coronation in 1559 that “the grease smelt ill.”
The Kings of France also claimed a celestial origin for the oil used at their coronation. By their account the chrism used at their coronations had been brought down from Heaven by a dove in a vial for the coronation of Clovis in 496. This sacred vial, the “Sainte Ampoule,” was shattered at the Revolution.
These legends reinforce the belief that the oil signifies the presence of the Holy Spirit and the anointing the divine confirmation of the new monarch.
The Spoon is attributed to the twelfth century with elements of Byzantine workmanship.