Matins of the Hours of the Holy Spirit, in a Breviary
Medium: Ink and pigments on vellum
A breviary is the prayerbook compiled especially for the daily prayer services (divine office or hours) of monks and nuns. Monks and nuns recited psalms and prayers, read aloud excerpts from the Bible and commentaries in a series of services every day at set hours, beginning very early in the small hours until bedtime, which was at nightfall. The prayers for each day of the year were different. The breviary contained all of the texts needed for the divine office. This breviary belonged to the English nuns of St Brigitta (or Brigittines) whose house, Syon, was originally located near Twickenham. After Henry VIII dissolved Syon in 1539, the Brigittines wandered in the Netherlands, France and Spain, eventually settling in Lisbon.
The first page of this breviary has the beginning of a cycle of prayers around the theme of the Holy Spirit's actions on earth. The prayers on this page were for matins or very early morning (about 2:30 am). Framed with a rich border of leaves and patterns in gold, the page is not as elaborately decorated as some other contemporary examples. Often in other manuscripts it begins with a picture of the descent of the Holy Spirit.