The Sforza Hours - Pages 1 and 2
Copyright © The British Library Board
folio 1r, Birago, St John
This is the first page of the manuscript. The illustration precedes pages from St John's Gospel. The Evangelist sits on a rocky island, representing the isle of Patmos. This is where St John was exiled in AD 95, after being persecuted by the Roman emperor Domitian, and where he had his 'Revelation'.
Ermines, because of their white fur and the legend that they preferred death to impurity, symbolise purity and innocence. They appear on many pages of the Sforza Hours.
The scroll in front of the Evangelist contains the first words of his Gospel: "In the beginning was the word."
The Evangelist is portrayed as an old man. He is said to have died of natural causes at a very advanced age.