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Martyrdom of St Edmund, in the Salvin Hours

Martyrdom of St Edmund, in the Salvin Hours

Medium: Ink and pigments on vellum

Date: 1275

Shelfmark: Additional MS 48985

Item number: f.95v

Length: 32

Width: 20.6

Scale: Centimetres

Genre: Illuminated manuscript

Named for its 17th- to early 20th-century owners, the Salvin Hours is one of the largest and most richly decorated English books of hours. Its decoration, created by two artists, resembles contemporary wall paintings in the Oxford area, suggesting that it was made in a workshop there. Its original owner probably was a high-status person living in Lincoln because it also resembles 13th-century books of hours associated with that city. It lacks a calendar, which would have helped to locate its original place of use because it would have listed saints' feasts special to a particular place. This page gives prayers for compline (bedtime hour) in the Hours of the Trinity, a set of meditations included in some English 13th-century manuscripts. In place of the scenes from the life of Christ that it gives the Hours of the Virgin, events from the lives of saints are depicted. The first letter of the prayers for compline presents the martyrdom of St Edmund. Edmund was king of East Anglia when the Danes invaded in the 9th century. Captured in battle, he was tied to a tree and shot with enough arrows to make him look like a porcupine (see the picture). This being unsuccessful, the Danes then chopped off his head. The content of the prayer has nothing to do with the story. The picture is meant to give an example of Christian faith and virtue.

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