Click here to skip to content

St Dionysus or St Eleutherius, in a Passionale

St Dionysus or St Eleutherius, in a Passionale

Medium: Ink and pigments on vellum

Date: 1110

Shelfmark: Arundel MS 91

Item number: f.86r

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. 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. The stories of the martyrdoms of three early Christian saints of France (Dionysus, Rusticus and Eleutherius) begin with a historiated letter bearing a portrait of a seated Bishop, referring probably to St Dionysus, bishop of Paris, although Eleutherius was bishop of Tournai. The bishop's feet rest upon a serpent which emerges from bow of the letter, symbolising a conquest of evil and death. The vertical stroke of the letter is inhabited by a struggling devil and a nude male figure below, who may represent the soul. In the margin, a medieval artist's studies, drawn using a metal stylus, develop a beast from those of the letter and a head, after the bishop's head, but possibly intended to represent the decapitated head of St Denis.

Search within this collection

Elsewhere on our websites


Latest events - register free online

Mobile app

For iPhone, iPad and Android

Report a Concern

What is the nature of your concern?

Report a Concern

What is the nature of your concern?

Email link to a friend

Write a brief note to accompany the email

Your friend's email address: