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Bottle, Crucifixion bottle (God bottle)

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Te Hikoi Museum

A glass bottle with a miniature ladder and cross suspended in oil and water. This style of bottle craftsmanship is called a 'crucifixion bottle'. It depicts objects related to the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, including the cross and numerous tools such as a ladder and axe. The items inside the bottle are made of wood and are preserved in a combination of water and oil. This particular bottle is unique as most Crucifixion Bottles only use oil. Using a combination of water and oil means that the contents of the bottles are far more easily viewed through the glass. The main feature of the bottle is always a cross and they feature commonalities including various tools detailed in accounts of the crucifixion; ladders, a spear, a long stick with a sponge at the end, hammer, nails and sometimes a shovel. More elaborate bottles can even include the cock that crowed when St Peter denied Christ three times, a flail, dice representing the soldiers’ guards and/or the two thieves with no cross. It appears to have a few possible origins; it is possible that this bottle may have a connection to Norwegian Sail craft but they more likely originate from Germany and Eastern Europe and from Irish Catholicism. Relating to Catholicism, bottles were spread through diaspora from Ireland and the Slavic regions of Europe. The tools may represent either railway or mining work, or some other similar industry, and are possibly related to the Catholic 'passion' and the Irish Roman Catholic diaspora in Northern England in the 19th Century whereby Irish Catholics went looking for work in various industries in Northern England. It is most likely a religious icon or talisman used by Irish Catholics during that time.

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Te Hikoi Museum

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Te Hikoi Museum

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  • Text adapted with permission from Te Papa and Digital NZ

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