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St Jerome and the Lion, in a Passionale

St Jerome and the Lion, in a Passionale

Medium: Ink and pigments on vellum

Date: 1110

Shelfmark: Arundel MS 91

Item number: f.31v

Length: 32.2

Width: 22

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. Following the life of St Jerome for his feast in October, the passional adds the story of the miracle usually associated with him. A lion approached Jerome's monastery, holding out his paw, but all the monks except Jerome fled. The saint tended to the beast's injured paw, extracting thorns and applying a salve to heal it. The lion then became a faithful servant, a miraculous behaviour for any cat. The historiated initial (first letter bearing a picture) shows Jerome and the lion.

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