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The martyrdom of St Theodoret, in a Passionale

The martyrdom of St Theodoret, in a Passionale

Medium: Ink and pigments on vellum

Date: 1110

Shelfmark: Arundel MS 91

Item number: f.156v

Length: 36.2

Width: 27.4

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. The martyrdom of St Theodoret the priest (of Antioch) begins with its first letter bearing an image of the saint, as though crucified on it. Theodoret was beheaded in 362 under Emperor Julian, the apostate (reverting to the traditional Roman gods). In the picture, instead of being nailed to the letter T, he is standing on a devil and holding two serpents, his arms outstretched, to express the idea that he triumphed over pagan spiritual death. The artistic style of the figures retains some of the expressive use of line seen in Anglo-Saxon art of the previous century, although transformed by the style brought from northern France.

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