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St Benignus, in a Passionale

St Benignus, in a Passionale

Medium: Ink and pigments on vellum

Date: 1110

Shelfmark: Arundel MS 91

Item number: f.186v

Length: 36.2

Width: 37.4

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. On this page, the story of the martyrdom of St Benignus begins with a historiated initial. An early Christian martyr, Benignus was a priest in the time of the Emperor Aurelian (270-275). At the top of the first letter, the small picture shows him teaching or preaching. Drawn in a lively style reminiscent of that of 11th-century Anglo-Saxon art, the figure is tinted with colours more typical of 12th-century painting in northern France.

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