Martyrdom of St Lawrence, 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. The martyrdom of St Lawrence is shown in the historiated initial beginning the prayers, hymns and readings said on his day, 10 August. His tormentors, who killed him by roasting him, are shown as the conventional hideous characters, but the way the picture is designed, with an oblique view from above, is ingeneous.