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Temptation of St Martin, in the Caligula Troper

Temptation of St Martin, in the Caligula Troper

Medium: Ink and pigments on vellum

Date: 1060

Shelfmark: Cotton MS Caligula A XIV

Item number: f.29r

Genre: Illuminated Manuscript

Made up of fragments from a late Anglo-Saxon liturgical chant book, the Caligula Troper's illuminations introduce songs which would be inserted into the mass on special feast days and sung by a soloist, hence the book's small scale. The pictures' geometric abstraction of form and use of vibrant colours embellished with gold give an opulence that speaks of manufacture for use by an important figure. It is named for its 17th-century position in a bookcase supporting a bust of Caligula in the Cotton rare books library. Its selection of tropes (songs) and where it was in the Middle Ages suggest origins at Winchester or Worcester.

A scene of triumph over temptation introduces the feast of St Martin, bishop of Tours, who also had a career as a hermit. The devil, poorly disguised as Christ at the Second Coming but given away by the tell-tale demon on his back, tries to deceive the saint. The hand of God above Martin transmits a helpful revelation: this is not the true vision of the wounded saviour in humble clothing. The devil will vanish, leaving behind a bad smell. The figure of Martin and the hand of god were later overpainted, but the original drawing is visible.

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