St John the Evangelist, 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).
In a medieval prayerbook, saints that are special to the community using it are given special treatment. Their names are written in red in the calendars ('red-letter day') that helped the user organise daily prayers and, as in the Stowe Breviary, special decoration may be given to the prayers for the saint's day. This page has prayers for the feast of St John the Evangelist. Often prayers or other acts of devotion on that day were believed to carry extra spiritual benefit. John is shown writing his gospel on a scroll and his symbol, the eagle, looks up at him. The beautifully painted faces in the border appear throughout the book.