A Passionale f.93v
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.
One steps into another world when looking at 12th-century art. The imaginary animals forming the letter O and the strange human-headed plant around which they pose are only a foreshadowing of the masses of composite beasts and enormous leaves and flowers seen in English book art of the mid-12th century. The initial opens the prologue to the story of St Ambrose, Bishop of Milan--idenified by the title in red. The small word 'incipit' in the page's lower right corner is a note of the first word on the next page made to help assemble the pages of the book when it was made.