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Prologue, in the 'Life of St Mildred'

Prologue, in the 'Life of St Mildred'

Medium: Ink and pigments on vellum

Date: 1205

Shelfmark: Harley MS 3908

Item number: f.1r

Length: 16.6

Width: 12

Scale: Centimetres

Genre: Illuminated manuscript

Royal women in Anglo-Saxon England were major players in religious communities, some of the most important monasteries having been founded by queens and princesses. Saint Mildred was a 7th-century Anglo-Saxon princess whose mother, Ermenburga or Aebbe, founded the monastery of Minster-in-Thanet. When St Boniface wanted to have manuscripts with specialised decoration made, he wrote to the abbess at Minster-in-Thanet. Mildred and her sisters joined the community at Thanet, Mildred eventually becoming abbess and all three commemorated as saints. Could Mildred have been a scribe or an artist? It is possible, but her 'Life' does not say anything along these lines. Made after the Normans had established rule in England, this copy of her life story promoted her sanctity for the sake of the community as well as to provide an example of Christian charity and holiness. The Normans did not ignore Anglo-Saxon saints but aided their memory with books like this so that they would be linked to the Christian history of their English kingdom. This page begins the prologue to the 'Life of St Mildred'. The author's name--as is the case for most stories of saints' lives--is not known. Not that much is known for sure about this manuscript, either. It is placed at St Augustine's monastery, Canterbury, where Mildred's relics eventually were entombed (St Gregory's hospital), because of special mention of St Augustine in a hymn it contains. Also the style of its handwriting associates it with St Augustine's. The handwriting suggests a date early in the 12th century because it is mostly in the style used in the century after the Norman invasion, with a strong component of the style of late Anglo-Saxon England.

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