Feast of St Swithun, in the Stowe Breviary
Medium: Ink and pigments on vellum
Called the 'Stowe Breviary' because it was in the collection at Stowe House, this prayerbook may have belonged to a member of the clergy in the Diocese of Norwich. The exceptional quality of its handwriting and decoration suggest that the original owner was an important person. Two artists painted the pictures within letters (historiated initials) and another artist created the decoration. Their work resembles other East Anglian art, showing the superb skills of the region's 14th-century scribes and artists. Several parts, however, are lost from it, and a section at the end was added later in the 14th century. It has the prayer services used in much of England after the Norman invasion (Sarum usage).
The breviary gives hymns, prayers and readings, along with instructions, for the prayer services called the 'divine office' which were said several times each day, and provided the material appropriate to feasts and saints' days. Saint Swithin's day (15 July) is commemorated with the prayers and readings on this page, which begins with his portrait in the historiated initial. Swithin, a 9th-century bishop of Winchester, is commeorated on the day of his translation or the day his relics were transferred from the graveyard to a shrine.