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The Saved Awaiting Entry to Heaven, in The Liber Vitae of New Minster and Hyde Abbey

The Saved Awaiting Entry to Heaven, in The Liber Vitae of New Minster and Hyde Abbey

Medium: Ink and pigments on vellum

Date: 1031

Shelfmark: Stowe MS 944

Item number: f. 6v

Length: 25.4

Width: 14.8

Scale: Centimetres

Genre: Illuminated Manuscript

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The Liber Vitae ('Book of Life') of New Minster and Hyde Abbey contains a list of names of the members of the community and its associates and benefactors, living and dead, along with two unusual pictures, grants, historical accounts, material for church services, prayers and other devotional material. It is thought that Aelfwine, abbot 1031-1057, had the book made at the beginning of his abbacy and to commemorate the New Minster's associations with royal patrons. The name of the scribe, Aelfsige, a monk and priest who also wrote Aelfwine's prayerbook (British Library), appears on one of its pages. This manuscript is called the Liber Vitae because it was meant as a contribution to the Eternal Book of Life in which the names of the saved were believed to have been written. Every day, at one of the major church services held at Hyde Abbey, names were read aloud from the list at the high altar. In 1110 the New Minster moved from Winchester to Hyde.

This page is the left half of a large picture spreading across two pages and showing the faithful being admitted to heaven while the damned are pushed into Hell's mouth. This page has a queue of male figures--monks, priests, martyrs (identifiable by their palm leaves) and early Christian disciples--ushered by two angels before the gate of heaven. Below the queue two churchmen, both tonsured as monks and wearing clerical vestments, gaze with enjoyment at the vision on the adjoining page. The name Aelgarus, written to their left, perhaps refers to Aelfgar or Aethelgar, Abbot of New Minster (965), Bishop of Selsey (980) and Archbishop of Canterbury (988).

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