Oval amulet designed to protect against cholera, 19th century.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
This amulet was made in Belgium or France and is inscribed on the obverse with the words 'St Roch priez pour nous' ('St Roch pray for us'), and on the reverse, 'Dieu de bonte! Preservez nous du cholera' (God of goodnes! Preserve us from cholera'). It is thought that St Roch (d 1327) was a protector against the Plague and other diseases. Cholera was a highly infectious, and often fatal, disease which spread rapidly in the industrial towns of 19th century Europe. It caused chronic diahorrea, vomiting, cramps and dehydration, and after the first symptoms appeared, death could take place within a day. The disease spread because of poor sanitation and was only eradicated after new public health legislation was introduced and public hygiene improved.