A Passionale f.58r
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 stories in passionales were arranged according to the calendar of saints' feasts. This page has two saints who share 19th April: the end of St Alfege's 'Life' and the beginning of the 'Life' of St Ursmarus, an early 8th-century Benedictine monk--probably from Ireland--who founded a monastery at Lobbes, on the river Sambre, in Falnders. The life tells of his highly successful missionary operations, founding other monasteries at Aulne and Wallers. The initial with its spiralling vine ornament from which emerge imaginary beasts, a human profile and oversized blossoms represents the cutting edge of early 12th-century decoration.