Depicting Devotion: Illuminated Books of Hours from the Middle Ages

Washington University Libraries, Department of Special Collections, St. Louis, Winter 2001-2001

Table of Contents
Introduction
Essay
Books of Hours
I Calendar
II Gospel Lessons
III Hours of the Virgin
IV Hours of the Cross
V Additional Prayers to the Virgin
VI Hours of the Holy Spirit
VII Penitential Psalms
VIII Office of the Dead
IX Accessory Texts
X Peacocks and Eggs
Bibliography

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Section IX: Accessory Texts

Within a book that makes no claims for consistent structure, the Accessory Prayers and Suffrages section proves most inconsistent. These varieties, however, allow for the individual and regional character of the Book of Hours. Different saints were venerated in different areas; furthermore, particular saints were sought for different purposes. Since Books of Hours were not official Church books but were sold and made by secular booksellers, variations between texts are extensive.

The medieval Legenda Aurea (Golden Legend), a collection of saints' lives compiled by Jacobus de Voragine in 1275, provided numerous stories of various saints. Legenda Aurea and Books of Hours were two medieval best-sellers. Herein the reader finds stories of the saint's life, miracles attributed to him or her, and any special attributes. Often the depiction of a saint, which seems foreign and strange to modern eyes, was standard for the medieval viewer. The prayers to the saints found in Books of Hours are succinct devotions, consisting of an antiphon, verse, response, and a prayer.

St. Margaret St. Apollonia MS 7
France, ca. teens or 1520s
resembles work of the Master of Morgan 85;
possibly the work of a follower of the Master of Petrarch's Triumphs
16.3 cm. by 11.5 cm., BX2080/R57/ca. 1530


Margaret and Apollonia
For instance, St. Margaret, who is depicted with a dragon. When in prison for professing her faith, a dragon devoured her; but at the sign of the cross the dragon split open. From these circumstances, St. Margaret was sought as a helper in childbirth. St. Apollonia, a seemingly obscure saint from the early church, had her teeth removed as torture for her profession of faith. Thus she became an intercessor for those with toothaches and the patron saint of dentists.


St. Catherine St. Anthony MS 7
France, ca. teens or 1520s
resembles work of the Master of Morgan 85;
possibly the work of a follower of the Master of Petrarch's Triumphs
16.3 cm. by 11.5 cm., BX2080/R57/ca. 1530


Catherine and Anthony
St. Catherine, an early saint from Alexandria, stands next to a broken wheel. On this wheel Catherine suffered torture for her faith. The Emperor Maxentius, who wanted Catherine as his spouse, sent 50 philosophers to dissuade Catherine from her faith. All 50 emerged from the debate as converted Christians. The emperor then devised a wheel for torture, but lightning broke the wheel. She holds a sword, representing her execution, and a book, representing her wisdom.

St. Anthony holds a bell and leans on a crutch. The crutch shows his great age and the bell represents his ability to banish evil spirits—the hog behind him symbolizes an evil spirit. He stands in flames because of his saintly zeal; flames generically symbolize a saint's religious enthusiasm.


St. George MS 7
France, ca. teens or 1520s
resembles work of the Master of Morgan 85;
possibly the work of a follower of the Master of Petrarch's Triumphs
16.3 cm. by 11.5 cm., BX2080/R57/ca. 1530


St. George and the dragon
St. George slays the dragon as the princess, daughter to the king of Lybia (various traditions place them in different locales), watches from the distance. The dragon represents evil in general or specifically paganism. The princess personifies the heathen country, soon to be converted by George's victory. St. George was one of the more popular saints in medieval times and frequently appears in religious art.


St. Nicholas of Myra (or Bari)  MS 7
France, ca. teens or 1520s
resembles work of the Master of Morgan 85;
possibly the work of a follower of the Master of Petrarch's Triumphs
16.3 cm. by 11.5 cm., BX2080/R57/ca. 1530


St. Nicholas of Myra (or Bari)
The prototype for Santa Claus, St. Nicholas, fulfills many roles: he is patron saint of children, sailors, pawn-brokers, travelers, and many others. In the depiction shown here, Nicholas, in full episcopal vestments (a symbol of his role as bishop) blesses three children in a tub. According to the story, an inn-keeper murdered these children and placed them in a pickling tub so that he could serve them to his guests. Nicholas, upon discovering this atrocity, restored the children to life.


St. Mary Magdalene MS 4
Flemish, ca. 1480s-1490s
stylistically closer to Ghent than Bruges
19.5 cm by 13.3 cm, BX2080/A4/ca. 1450


St. Mary Magdalene
Commonly Mary Magdalene can be identified by her ointment jar (from when she anointed Christ's feet). Here she is shown in the wilderness; according to the Golden Legend, she spent 30 years in the wilderness as a hermit. Angels carry her soul up to heaven at each of the canonical hours for her to hear the heavenly choirs.

St. Jerome and the lion MS 7
France, ca. teens or 1520s
resembles work of the Master of Morgan 85;
possibly the work of a follower of the Master of Petrarch's Triumphs
16.3 cm. by 11.5 cm., BX2080/R57/ca. 1530


St. Jerome and the lion
The translator of the Scriptures into Latin appears here as a hermit. He is usually accompanied by a lion. Jerome befriended the lion by removing a thorn from the lion's paw; thus the lion followed him in servitude and became his constant companion. His red clerical garments hang in the background. Jerome meditates upon the crucifix (seen to the left), which shows his devotion. To mortify the passions of this world and focus on eternal life, Jerome beats his chest in penitence.


Archangel Michael on Judgment Day MS 7
France, ca. teens or 1520s
resembles work of the Master of Morgan 85;
possibly the work of a follower of the Master of Petrarch's Triumphs
16.3 cm. by 11.5 cm., BX2080/R57/ca. 1530


Archangel Michael on Judgment Day
Michael is patron saint of the church militant (the church on earth, in contrast to the church triumphant, the heavenly church). Michael holds the scales that weigh souls on Judgment Day. Dressed in military armor and with a sword (the wings distinguish him as an angel, so as not to confuse him with other monster-slayers such as St. George), Michael vanquishes the devil. His slaying of the devil represents the overcoming of evil, and this battle also reflects the battle between Christ and Antichrist.


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