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Saints Crispin and Crispinian, in a Passionale

Saints Crispin and Crispinian, in a Passionale

Medium: Ink and pigments on vellum

Date: 1110

Shelfmark: Arundel MS 91

Item number: f.161v

Length: 33

Width: 23

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. The beginning letter of the story of the late 3rd-century brothers, Crispin and Crispinian, shows their martyrdom by beheading, at the command of Emperor Maximianus. The hand of God descends on the scene, a sign of their sanctity. With the lively story-telling typical of the historiated initials in this martyrology, the picture shows one brother already killed, his head beneath the feet of the executioner, while the other is about to be beheaded.

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