Pilgrim’s souvenir flask from the shrine of Saint Menas showing the saint standing between two kneeling camels. 4th to 7th century AD. Donor: Dr Erica Wachs. Given in memory of the mother of Dr Kate Bosse-Griffiths.
St Menas (285-c.309AD) was an Egyptian soldier saint known for performing miracles and martyrdom. Like other Egyptian saints, he lived as a hermit in the desert.
The basilica built at Abu Mena over the supposed tomb of St Menas, in the desert east of Alexandria, was a shrine on the pilgrim’s route through Christendom. The springs nearby were famous for their cures and pilgrims carried flasks of the water home. Such flasks are found all over the Roman Empire. St Menas is shown dressed as a Roman soldier flanked by two camels. Camels supposedly carried his body into the desert and halted miraculously at the point where his shrine was to be built.