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St Michael the Archangel, in a Passionale

St Michael the Archangel, in a Passionale

Medium: Ink and pigments on vellum

Date: 1110

Shelfmark: Arundel MS 91

Item number: f.26v

Length: 32.6

Width: 21.5

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. This English martyrology or passional was made in the early 12th century for the monastery of St Augustine, Canterbury. Few contemporary English passionals have decorated initials (letters beginning a section of text), and this one has ingeniously designed decoration which may present a saint's story within the initial's interior. Celebrated in October, the dedication of the Church of St Michael the Archangel is commemorated with a sermon on his appearances to humans, the earliest being on Mount Garganus near Naples. In this passional, it follows the story of the martyrdom of Saints Cosmos and Damian, as indicated by the red and green title in the right column. The story of St Michael begins with a historiated initial (first letter bearing a picture) of the Archangel battling the serpent, which is supposed to be his role in the apocalypse (end of the world). The artist's style retains much of the expressive movement of 11th-century Anglo-Saxon art combined with more rigid shapes and cool colours of Norman painting.

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