The Contest For Souls, in The Liber Vitae of New Minster and Hyde Abbey
Medium: Ink and pigments on vellum
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.
Near its beginning, the Liber Vitae has a large picture of the saved and damned spreading over two pages This page, at the top, shows St Peter welcoming the queue of saved from the facing page while Christ is adored within the Heavenly Jerusalem. In the centre band, souls are fought over, with St Peter winning by force of the Book of Life (over the devil's faulty document) backed up with his large key, and a lay man and woman shudder comforted by an angel (who has consulted the Liber Vitae) as two companions dive into damnation. In the lowest, an angel prepares to lock the gates as a monstrous devil grasps sinners by the hair to fling them into the maw of Hell.