Judith, 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. This page has services for early morning prayers for the last Sunday in September. This was known as 'Judith' because of one of the hymns, 'Adonay', which asks for God's help via the hand of a woman, and the first reading, part of Judith 2. The historiated initial of the day's title shows Judith holding her sword over the neck of her people's enemy, Holofernes. The imaginary creature looking on appears to stretch his neck.