A Passionale f.115r
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.
Opening the story of the early Christian martyr St Germanus, the letter 'B' has rich decoration done by a very skilled artist. The bizarre combinations of human, animal and plant forms foreshadow the teeming patterns of beasts and oversized plants that inhabit mid-12th century manuscript decoration. The inventiveness and richness express the wealth and status of Canterbury, meant to be impressive to any visitors.