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Feast of St John the Baptist, in a Missal

Feast of St John the Baptist, in a Missal

Medium: Ink and pigments on vellum

Date: 1425

Shelfmark: Arundel MS 109

Item number: f.184r

Length: 43.1

Width: 28.6

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. St John the Baptist was an important saint all the way through the Middle Ages. The cousin of Jesus and a great prophet, he was the patron saint of cities, powerful families, and organisations such as guilds, as well as individuals. He has two feasts: one for his birth (24 June), the other for his martyrdom (29 August). Prayers, hymns and readings for the feast of his birth begin on this page. The first prayer (the offertory, a procession at the beginning of mass) has within its initial a picture of the saint in the wilderness, the way he usually appears in art. He wears an animal-skin garment, long hair and beard. He carries a book (possibly intended as a gospel book) to which is tied a small figure of a lamb, in reference to his greeting of Jesus (John 1:29) "Behold the Lamb of God."

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