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Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, in The Carmelite Missal

Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, in The Carmelite Missal

Medium: Ink and pigments on vellum

Date: 1395

Shelfmark: Additional MS 44892

Item number: f.140r

Length: 71.4

Width: 53.1

Scale: Centimetres

Genre: Illuminated manuscript

An order of monks and nuns who followed a strict ideal of abstinence, the Carmelites or 'White Friars' became prominent in England in the 13th and 14th centuries. They were well-connected with powerful supporters in the royal court. The Carmelite Missal was probably made for use at Whitefriars in London. Its beautiful decoration can be seen as an expression of both the White Friars' religious intensity and their highly placed patronage. At least three artists, one a foreigner, decorated it and introduced new ways of depicting the human figure and creating illusions of space. Their work brought English manuscript art into a new phase of the 'International Style' of western European painting. The missal's early 19th-century owner allowed his children to cut it up and paste scraps of its decoration into 'collages'. In the 1930s Margaret Rickert reconstructed the missal from its scraps.The fragments here are from the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, a feast which commemorated the date of the finding by St Helen, mother of Emperor Constantine, of the cross on which Jesus was believed to have died. The large letter bears part of a picture of Constantine's vision of the cross during the Battle of Milvian Bridge (312/313). His victory there, predicted by the vision, was supposed to have inspired his decree of tolerance for monotheistic religions, especially Christianity.

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