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Martyrdom of St Foillan, in a Passionale

Martyrdom of St Foillan, in a Passionale

Medium: Ink and pigments on vellum

Date: 1110

Shelfmark: Arundel MS 91

Item number: f.179r

Length: 33

Width: 22.5

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. Martyred near Nivelles by bandits, the 7th-century Irish wandering holyman, Foillan, was revered in northern France and Belgium. A friend of Erconwald, Mayor of the Palace of the Frankish king, he brought Christianity to the region and helped organise it, founded a monastery at Fosses and brought books and relics from England and Ireland. The story of his martyrdom is summarised in the initial: he had travelled to Nivelles to say mass but while returning through a forest was killed. Most of the historiated initials in this passional introduce saints connected with northern France.

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