A Passionale f.42v
Medium: Ink and pigments on vellum
A passionale was a book of stories of martyrs which was read from during the early morning prayer services of canons, monks and nuns. Each reading would be followed by short sung verses. From Christ Church cathedral, Canterbury, this passionale has beautifully decorated letters beginning each story. The decoration served a purpose--to mark the beginning of each section for reading. In this book, the style of the decoration looks forward to later art of the period called Romanesque.
The life of St Frontonius begins on this page. St Frontonius seems to have been an early Christian hermit who became abbot of a community of ascetics. Medieval 'Lives' of saints were not intended as historical documents but were written to present inspiring examples of holiness and to promote regional or local saints. Often they were closely modeled on earlier saints' lives, so that saintly identities merge together. This life seems to blend St Fronto of Nitria (Egypt), an early Christian desert hermit, with St Front, the 2nd-century apostle and bishop of Perigord. In any case, the imaginary animals, human heads and profusion of plant ornament of the initial letter were cutting edge decoration, foretelling later 12th-century art.