Throughout the Middle Ages, stories of saints’ lives were extremely popular, as witnessed by the many copies that survive in numerous languages and manuscripts. Saints served as examples of ideal Christians and as intercessors, and their experiences were used as models for living by the tenets of the Christian faith. The lives of the most famous saints, comprising largely the early martyrs of the third and fourth centuries, were transmitted across Christendom.
This manuscript is an illustrated copy of eighteen saints’ lives, produced in Canterbury at the beginning of the ninth century. The text begins with the life of St Philip the Apostle (d. c. 80), who by tradition died by being crucified upside down. The book also contains the lives of several female saints, including St Agatha (d. c. 251) and St Agnes (d. c. 304). An elaborate initial ‘P’ begins the manuscript, decorated with beasts and animal heads, and ornamented with an outline of dots.
This manuscript was digitised with the support of The Polonsky Foundation.
- Article by:
- Tuija Ainonen
- Art and illumination, Christian religion and belief
The veneration of saints was an integral part of medieval culture. Tuija Ainonen examines a collection of manuscripts that contain saints’ lives and portraits.
- Article by:
- Charlotte Denoël
- Medieval manuscript collections today
Charlotte Denoël provides insight into the historic collections of illuminated manuscripts now in the national library of France.