A Passionale f.73v
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.
St Dunstan, one of the most important Anglo-Saxon saints, was archbishop of Canterbury (961-988), but also had been abbot of Glastonbury and bishop of Worcester and London. He started his career as a hermit at Glastonbury, where he lived in a hut, studied, made religious objects and played the harp. Well-connected, he came to control large amounts of money and property, which he used to further the reform of the church. His 'Life' was written by a monk of Bath, Adalard, for archbishop Alfege, as the inscription and title in red (rubric) at the top of the page inform the reader. His 'Life' begins with a decorated letter bearing a picture of an angel playing a harp--a reference to stories of his days at Glastonbury.