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Brass amulet to protect the wearer from cholera, France, 1820-1880

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Hung on thread or chains and worn around the neck, the metal amulet shown in the top of the photograph was worn as protection against cholera. The reverse shows St Roch (1295-1327), a Christian saint. Roch was a Christian pilgrim who was believed to cure sufferers of, and protect against, plague. Once plague was no longer a threat in Europe, St Roch’s protection was transferred to other diseases, such as cholera. Amulets have been worn for thousands of years to protect the wearer from illness, ill fortune and bad luck. It is shown here with two other amulets that feature images of St Roch. (A677845 and A677945).

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    Glossary: amulet

    Small object or piece of jewellery worn as a protecting charm to ward off ill health and bad luck.

    Glossary: plague

    An acute contagious fever with high levels of mortality. Both the 'Black Death' that swept Europe in the 1340s and the Great Plague of London in 1665 are believed to have been bubonic plague.

    Glossary: cholera

    A severe infection of the small intestine commonly contracted through eating or drinking contaminated food or water. Causes severe vomiting and diarrhoea, leading to dehydration, which can be fatal.