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Life of St Nicholas of Myra

Life of St Nicholas of Myra

Medium: Ink and pigments on vellum

Date: 1105

Shelfmark: Harley MS 3097

Item number: f.48v

Length: 27.8

Width: 16.5

Scale: Centimetres

Genre: Illuminated manuscript

Writing the lives of saints was a thriving industry all during the middle ages. The stories of saints' lives were meant as a way of commemorating their holiness and were read by churchmen, monks and literate lay people to follow the example of humans who had achieved exceptional closeness to God. Also, a place associated with a particular saint--site of birth, miracles, martyrdom, burial, church foundations or relics--would want the events of their saint 'broadcast' so as to draw pilgrims. A book on a saint's life was a medieval form of public relations or advertising. This manuscript of the Life of St Nicholas of Myra (or Bari) is in a book containing biblical commentaries and saints lives which is believed to have been at the Abbey of Saints Peter, Paul and Andrew, Peterborough. It was owned by Charles Howard, the Earl of Carlisle, in the 18th century. The story of St Nicholas begins with its title announced in red. St Nicholas, the 4th-century bishop of Myra, is one of the most popular saints of the Eastern and Western churches, but little historical information is known on his life. The tales of his miracles grew continuously during the middle ages, the different versions spread by books such as this one.

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