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Christmas, in a Missal

Christmas, in a Missal

Medium: Ink and pigments on vellum

Date: 1425

Shelfmark: Arundel MS 109

Item number: f.23r

Length: 43.2

Width: 28

Scale: Centimetres

Genre: Illuminated manuscript

A missal provides all the prayers, hymns, and readings necessary for the celebration of Mass over the course of the year. This deluxe 15th-century missal made for use on the altar was given to the church of St Lawrence in London by William Melreth, alderman, textile merchant of Broad Street and eventually member of Parliament, probably just before he served as Sheriff of London. A lavish border, with generously applied gold and modelled leaves in rich colours, signals an important feast on this page. It presents instructions, hymns and prayers for Christmas eve and Christmas day. In the left column, the reading for Christmas eve from the Gospel of Luke is highlighted by the long golden letter I which begins the story of the shepherds. At the end of the right column, the hymn verses for the introductory procession (introit) of mass on Christmas day begin with an historiated initial showing the Virgin lying on a red blanket, receiving the infant Christ from the midwife, while Joseph looks on. Above are the animals who recognised the child, according to tradition. The verse begins 'A child is born to us', based on Isaiah 9:6.

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