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Life of St Venantius Fortunatus, in a Passionale

Life of St Venantius Fortunatus, in a Passionale

Medium: Ink and pigments on vellum

Date: 1110

Shelfmark: Arundel MS 91

Item number: f.145r

Length: 36.2

Width: 27.4

Scale: Centimetres

Genre: Illuminated manuscript

The daily round of prayers recited by monks (divine office) drew upon a number of different kinds of books: the psalter, Bible, hymnal, and collections of stories of saints' lives. The latter contained accounts of the deeds of the saints that marked them holy people. Excerpts from a saint's life might be read as part of the office on his or her feast day. Made in the early 12th century for the monastery of St Augustine, Canterbury, this English martyrology or passional has decorated initials--rare among martyrologies of its time--some with ingeniously designed decoration telling a saint's story. Not all the initials in the passionale are decorated with figures. A majority have beautifully painted vine-like ornament, like the letter beginning the life of St Venantius Fortunatus, who lived in the 6th century. Nonetheless, Venantius would have been important in the lives of monks and clerics because, besides being abbot and bishop of Poitiers, he was an important poet who wrote some of the most well-known hymns of the early medieval western church.

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