The act of washing has always played a very important role in religious ceremonies. Judaism has spread real baths, which go back to the baptism of John the Baptist, while the Koran prescribes the washing of the face, arms and feet before prayer.
As part of Catholicism, in addition to baptism and sprinkling the faithful with holy water, washing of the hands of the priest occupies a key role. The washing of hands before the start of the liturgy is meant to purify the priest, to place him in a state of ritual purity so that he can proceed with his duties and be the bearer of the divine message. In addition, washing the hands is essential to allow him to touch the Eucharist. For this purpose in the sacristy is a manuterge: white linen towels, often adorned with lace or lace, with which the priest performs the ablution of hands before getting dressed for Mass. In addition, the top offertory, a smaller manuterge is used for a real and proper ritual ‘hand washing’.
The presence of the manuterge in the liturgy means that it is accompanied by an ewer containing the water needed for washing, which can also be presented in an appropriate manner as part of the celebration.
Manuterge ewers are objects of great importance and sacredness. Usually it is accompanied by a basin in which to pour the water and wash the hands before the start of the Eucharistic liturgy. The service can also be made up of several pieces, like an ewer and two basins: one below on which to pour the water, and one flat one to rest the pitcher after using it. Often the pitcher and accessories are crafted with engravings and decorations that enhance the brightness and elegance of the service.
Usually modern manuterge ewers are made of silver or gold plated brass, but they’re also made of other materials, such as glass and steel. In the antiquity, manuterge ewers could get to be objects of immense value and exquisite artistic workmanship, made of gold or silver, embossed or chiselled, decorated with encrusted gems.