The stripping of the altars



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S. I )ewick, "( )n .i neumsctipt of a Sarum l'rymcr which belonged to a brother of the Jesus Gild at St Paul's, London", 'I'nur„rrtion', of the .tit l'mrl'i Leelecioio totI Society, V, 1905, pp. 1711—1; CUI. Inc.5.l).1.29 (this is I loskins no. 17, RS'IY; 15887).

I'or a representative example of a primer used to record family history, as well as additional prayers over a period of a century or so, sec CUL MS Ii VI 2. (1'1. 86, 87).

4' The standard layout of illustrations to the Little Office in the MS Horne is discussed in R. S. Wicck (cd.), 'fare Book of Hours in Medieval Art and Lile, 1988, pp. 60—73.

achieved in the representations of saints with their attributes which often accompanied the suffrages to the saints at Lauds in the Little Office. These marginal or initial images, which became an even more consistent feature of printed Horae than of the manuscript books, would have enabled the devotee to find the particular prayer he wanted to use, and to be quite certain whose aid he was invok­ing once launched on the prayer — James with his cockle-shell and hat, Sebastian bristling with arrows, George and the dragon, Anthony with his pig, Martin dividing his cloak, Barbara with her tower, Apollonia with her pliers and tooth. Such images helped link the private prayer of the primer with the corporate worship of the parish church, where essentially the same images looked down from the windows, or flickered on pillar, tabernacle, and bracket in the candlelight maintained by the wills of fellow-parishioners and gild brothers or sisters.`"

In the rest of the hook the correspondence between images and text was more complicated. The treatment of the penitential Psalms illustrates this complexity. Since their recitation was part of the normal intercession for the dead, the illustration might portray Judgement Day, with Christ seated on the rainbow and Mary and John the Baptist interceding for souls before him. This was the conventional imagery of Doomsday, and a similar Christ would have gazed sternly down from the chancel arch in most parish churches, once again effecting a link between the prayer of the primer and the parish church. But especially iii the printed primers, it became more common to preface these Psalms with a depiction of David watching Bathsheba, often portrayed with considerable voluptuousness, at her bath (Pl. 88). The reference here, of course, was to the belief that David had composed the penitential Psalms in his remorse for his unlawful passion for Bathsheba, the murder of Uriah, her husband, and the subsequent judgement of God in the death of their child. The message encoded iii such an image, often expanded into a series of pictures with accompanying rhymes in the Horae of the 152(Is and 1530s, was quite different from that carried in the I)oonm picture, more particular, but paradoxically, in the specificity of its application to David, perhaps less pressing and immediate than the Doom's generalized call to penitence."

Other images universally found in the florae could take on a similar independent existence. The image of Veronica holding in outstreched arms the vet-nick or veil on which Christ's face was imprinted always preceded the indulgenced devotion "Salve Sancta

Facies nostri Redemptoris". But the accompanying rubric, offering 5,000 days of pardon to those reciting the prayer "beholding the glorious visage or vernacle of our Lord" offers the same indulgence to anyone who "cannot say this prayer" provided they say five Paters, five Aves, and a Creed. What mattered was "beholding the glorious visage or vernacle", not the words. The picture here has broken free of the constraints of any text, and is an icon, not an illustration.as

The advent of printing had enormous implications for the iconography of the primers. Though many editions were produced in duodecimo or smaller sizes with few illustrations, aimed at the cheapest end of the book-buying market, the woodcut made it possible for the first time to produce moderately priced but richly illustrated Horae, with decorated borders as weil as initial and full-page illustrations. This meant that an interpretative scheme could be sustained through whole sections of the text, rather than relying on the impact of single images to "colour" or direct the reading of the text that followed. A beautifully produced edition of the primer published by Thielman Kerver in Paris in 1497 had a fine series of large marginal illustrations of the six days of Creation (Pl. 89) and a smaller set of the fifteen signs of the end of the world, both popular themes in the devotional literature of the day and often illustrated in glass- or wall-paintings. Scattered through the book to illustrate appropriate prayers were a set of individual devotional images, such as a Nativity scene, a Calvary, and the Mass of Pope Gregory. Repeated throughout the hook was a set of marginal illustrations of the life of Christ, each Gospel scene being flanked by Old Testament types, derived from the Biblia Pauperurn. So the illustra­tion of the Resurrection is flanked by pictures of Jonah being disgorged by the whale and Samson carrying off the gates of Gaza. Such typological images had a venerable ancestry, and English users of Kerver's Horne could have seen the image of Samson on a misericord in Ripon Minster, or a roof-boss in Norwich Cathedral, or, iii the early sixteenth century, the Creed illustrations in didactic works like 'l'ke Arte or Crafte to Lyve well (Pl. 90).46

The most successful Horae of this kind in England were produced by the printer Philippe Pigouchet for Simon Vostre, deservedly the best-known French publisher of Books of Hours. This partner-ship produced at least six editions of the Sarum Hours before



Ibid. pp. 111-23. °" Ibid. pp. 97-103.


p "' Hoskins 15, RSTC 15885; M. I). Anderson, The Imagery of British Churches, pp. 97-8.



125.
as See for example Hoskins 37, RSTC 15909; text of the indulgence quoted in Hoskins

1512, characterized by sensitivity and intelligence in the use of stock illustrations.47 Certainly, the need to decorate every page dictated the use of much purely ornamental material in borders — occupations and amusements of the seasons, putti, children climb­ing fruit-trees — all delightfully done if not particularly conducive to recollection at prayer. There was also a certain amount of repeti­tion, the same images recurring without particular appropriateness at several points within one book. But in the most important parts of the Nora(' the imagery advances and assists the use of the text. This is evident at once at the very beginning of the books, where the calendar is ornamented not only with the signs of the zodiac and cuts of seasonal activities, but also the most important saints whose feast days occur in the month, alerting the worshipper to the holy days even before he or she attends to the small print.

Like other publishers, Vostre prefaced the Seven Psalms with a picture of David and Bathsheba, but he surrounded the Psalms themselves with borders depicting the parable of the Prodigal Son, including a shortened version of its text (Pl. Ol). The Office for the Dead was prefaced, as was customary, with a picture of Job and his comforters, but the borders depicted the Dance of Death, a vivid series impressing on the reader the personal as well as the generalized applicability of the prayers. At the toot of each page a separate sequence of appropriate illustrations on the themes of death, judgement, and repentance — the Judgenient of God on Sodom and Gomorrah, or the story of Job — offered an eloquently compressed reminder of the transience of worldly greatness. The Commendations were surrounded by a different series portraying the universal victory of death, and the Psalms of the Passion had borders depicting the story. The "Rosariuni Beate Marie" with which the Bodleian Library copy of Vostre's 1512 1lorac concludes had margins displaying the miracles of the Virgin.4s

Not all Vostre's images were so directly related to the text. The fifteen signs of the end of the world which surrounded the litany of the saints had sonie appropriateness in a prayer of supplication which was also part of the liturgy for the dead, but the story of Joseph which is placed round the series of prayers for use in the morning seems to have no particular application. Other images, such as the series of virtues treading down vices, occurred in

This discussion is based oil ()Whim beau' Marie i~(ir),t'iniç ad sown Sarum (Paris), for S Vostre, 1512, Hoskins 411, RSTC; 15913 (Bodleian library copy). ()n Vostre's work more generally see Mâle, Religious Art In France, pp. 208—9, 253—8, 307—8, 347—8; J. Harthan, Books of Hours and their Owners, 1977, pp. 169—74.

an The Rosarium is a non-STC item: it is to be found on University Microfilms reel 89.

apparently random placings (Pl. 92). Nevertheless, the user of Vostre's primers was not merely provided with material for endless devotional browsing in the margins of his book, but a host of images and stories, often derived directly from scripture, on which he could reflect at leisure. In many cases, such as the Office for the Dead or the penitential Psalms or the Psalms of the Passion, the images provided added a new dimension to the reading of the prayers of the Hours, offering a direct and sometimes profound commentary on the text being recited.

In the late 1520s and early 1530s the Parisian publisher François Regnault, whose presses commanded the market for Sarum primers in the years immediately before the schism with Rome, produced a highly successful series of primers simpler in scheme than Vostre's, but whose illustrations were similarly a major part of the attraction of the book to the lay purchaser.4' The title-pages of these Horae vary slightly, but characteristically had an emblematic picture of Mary illustrating her prerogatives and titles from the Song of Songs — the fountain, the enclosed garden, the gate of Heaven, the star of the sea, and so on. Beneath it was printed the English metrical prayer "God be in my head", and over it an advertisement that the book contained "many prayers and goodly pictures", the title-page thereby cleverly giving examples of both (Pl. 93). The English material iii these primers was prominently placed at the front of the book, and was clearly an important selling-point. That English material is fascinating iii its own right, and will be discussed else-where. It included a brief treatise on "the maner to live well", a farhi of confession, English prayers to the "Trinity, Christ, and the Virgin, a moralistic text on "the three verities" by Gerson, and sets of verses moralizing the months of the year as reflections of the ages of hiau and the days of the week. The verses on the months accompanied emblematic illustrations of the stages of man's life, printed opposite each month of the calendar, from the child playing with birds and toys in January to the dying hian having a candle placed in his hand by the priest in December.'"

It might be thought that in a book with so much English material the pictures would be of less importance than in earlier Horae, but those in Regnault's books were in tact carefully planned. The decoration of the books follows a common scheme: the cuts are in a

the disastrous end of Regnault's English career is briefly treated in 11. S. Bennett, l:nt'lish Books and Readers 1475—1557, 1970, pp. 311—12, 221; the following analysis is based on I loskins nos 98, 109, RSi C 15973 and 15981.

s" ()t die vernacular material in Regnault's printers for England see M. C. Eyler, "The Manor to Iyve well and the coating of English in Francois Regnault's Primers of the 1520s and 1530s", The Library, 6th series, V1, 1984, pp. 229-43.

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distinctively Renaissance style, reflecting the advances in perspec­tive and realism in the painting of the period, and lacking the elaborate Gothic framing of Kerver's and Vostre's books, but the themes of the woodcuts are thoroughly traditional. The Gospel passages have vignettes of the evangelists. The hours of the Virgin have a cut of the Jesse tree at the beginning, and then scenes from the life of Mary — the Annunciation, the Nativity, the adoration of the shepherds, and so on. The most striking images in the book are those in the Office for the Dead. This begins with a double-page picture of the three living and the three dead, then three pictures illustrating the fall of Adam and Eve and their expulsion from the Garden, the sin which brought death into the world. The other illustrations for the "I )irige'' picked up texts from the prescribed lessons from the Book of Job and elaborated them. All had an English quatrain at their foot, expanding the text illustrated. The picture for the fourth lesson of the Office depicts the story of the English "canon of Paris", whose dead body was supposed to have declared his soul's damnation for a concealed sin during the singing of the Office for the Dead. This was a moralistic tale frequently included in sermons on repentance,51 and the cut depicts his startled fellow-canons gathered in choir round the hearse, while above them a devil drags the lamenting soul to hell. The fifth lesson from the "Dirige'' was illustrated by a striking portrayal of the text "man that is born of a woman, having but a short time to live, is filled with many miseries." in an upper room a child is being born to a woman on a bed, assisted by a midwife. On the stairs outside the room the grown ratan, ragged and on crutches, stumbles down-wards into a lower chamber where the aged ratan is expiring, his wife placing a candle iii his hand. Regnault's artists produced a number of version of this scene (PI. 94), all of them memorable. The verses are less so:

Every ratan / that borne is of woman

Fulfylled is of all inysery

Sure of dette / but how / where / nor whan it is so short as it is seen dayly.

The cut for the seventh lesson illustrates the verses "the grave only awaits rte" and "deliver me, O Lord, and set me beside thee"with a deathbed scene, the dying man receiving the viaticum while the frustrated Devil rages and God blesses from Heaven (PI. 95). The eighth lesson, a lament for physical decay and sickness, has a picture of Job on his dunghill, and the final illustration expands the

51 For example in Middle E,R'lioh Sermons, pp. 176-7.

openir the wi the n( woma a bag

is naraely ne set wan many a to. Whiche euer is redy to his undoyng.

The worlde / the fleshe / devylle and deth also.

The rest of the book was punctuated by devotional images matched to appropriate prayers and texts. The Passion narrative had a representation of the agony in the garden, the prayers provided for use at the sacring had an illustration of the Last Supper, while the "Stabat Mater" had a striking image of the Seven Sorrows of the Virgin, each sorrow represented in a roundel from which a sword proceeds, each sword piercing the Virgin's heart: the whole picture is clearly designed as an aid to systematic meditation on the scenes represented (Pl. 96). Regnault's Horae were produced in both up-market and cheaper versions with cruder cuts, but the same iconographic scheme, testifying to the breadth of their appeal, and they were being produced right up to and beyond the break with Rome. Their mixture of traditional devotional and didactic imagery with innovative material and techniques, in particular their Renaissance style illustrations, alongside an increased use of the vernacular, demonstrates the vitality of the traditional primer form and its ability to adapt to a changing religious market. Simpler and in some ways less sophisticated than the Vostre books, they were probably more direct and memorable in their impact on unlearned readers.

The primers, then, were an immensely complex and multilayered expression of late medieval lay religion, functioning in part as sacred objects, communicating blessing in much the same way as the devotional images which filled the churches and which, in the form of cheap woodcuts and plaster and alabaster plaques, were to be found in lay households. Because their essential core was liturgical, and the visual conventions which governed their produc­tion were derived from liturgical books, they formed an important bridge between lay piety and the liturgical observance of the church, for they enabled lay people to associate themselves with the prayer of the clergy and religious. They were also repositories of the proliferating affective devotions which are to be encountered everywhere in the commonplace books and devotional collections of the late Middle Ages. These devotions were often linked to and

glossed by conventional illustrations, but they functioned also as texts in their own right, and they were familiar to lay people at all social levels through continuous repetition. Up to the very moment of Reformation the layout and content of the primers was evolving, adapting to the growth in English literacy and the demand for more vernacular devotional material. In the next chapter we will con­sider the character and content of the Latin and English devotional material of the primers.

CHAPTER 7

THE DEVOTIONS OF THE PRIMERS

The basic shape of the Horne was the product of the high Middle Ages: in essence they were scriptural prayer-books, drawn largely from the liturgical arrangement of the psalter. The primer, there-fore, was intended to be in some sense the lay man or woman's breviary. But the late Middle Ages saw an enormous flourishing of extra-liturgical piety which, though often originating in religious communities, quickly found favour with the laity. Hard-nosed city shopkeepers just as much as aristocratic ladies with time on their hands took an active and enthusiastic interest in things of the spirit. This spreading lay devotionalism was reflected in the expansion of the business of producing devotional objects, not merely the Horne themselves but the holy images which poured from the alabaster factories of Nottinghamshire or the printing-houses in London, France, and the Low Countries, catering for the demand for cheap religious prints.'

It was also reflected it) the swelling volume of devotional and edifying texts circulating among lay people for use in their own hones. As we have seen, many owners of Horne entered the prayers they had collected into the margins and blank pages of their primers, but they were just as likely to copy them into miscellaneous commonplace books, as Richard Hill and Robert Reynes did. Specialized collections of prayers and devotions also proliferated in the fifteenth century. Such collections could be commissioned, like the prayer-book given by Lady Margaret Beaufort to her second husband, Thomas Stanley, in the late fifteenth century, and now in Westminster Abbey.' The prayers preserved in this way clearly

1 for the market for devotional ohiects see Francis Cheetham, English Medieval Alabasters, 1984, pp. II-53. On the growth of lay devotion see M. Vale, Piety, Charity and Literacy anion' the Yorkshire Gentry, 1340-1480, Ilorthwick Papers 1, 1976; J. Catto, "Religion and the English Nobility in the Late Fourteenth century"in H. Lloyd Jones et al. (eds), History and Imagination, 1981, pp. 43—53; H. M. Carey, "Devout Literate Lay-People and the Pursuit of the Mixed Life in Later Medieval England", Journal of Religious History XIV, 1987, pp. 361-81.

2 See above, chapter 2, "How the Plowman learned his Paternoster", pp. 68-77.

234 PRAYFRS ANI) SI'LLLJ

reflected lay religious preferences more closely than the inherited structure of the Horae could, but it was merely a matter of time before consumer demand resulted in the expansion of the Horae to include such material, and the history of printed Horae is to a large extent one of growing elaboration of the basic structure by the accretion of such material. Though individual clerics were doubtless involved in the production and editing of these prayers, no real regulation by the Church appears to have dictated or inhibited what was included. Market forces dominated, a fact which permits some degree of confidence in using the resulting compilations as indicators of lay opinion. Lay people wanted prayer-books which, in addition to the core materials of Little Office and "I)irige", enabled them to say their morning prayers, helped them venerate the Sacrament at Mass, or prepared them for its reception at Easter-time. They wanted prayers which helped them cultivate that intense relationship of affectionate, penitential intimacy with Christ and his Mother which was the devotional lingua franca of the late Middle Ages, and they wanted prayers which focused on their day-to-day hopes and fears. They wanted hooks which would provide them with illustrations, indulgences, and other spiritual benefits. And increasingly in the years before the break with Rome, they wanted more vernacular material. All these concerns were reflected in the additional material in the Horae of the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries, and they offer us a unique window into the religious preoccupations of those who used the books. And since the Passion of Jesus dominated these devotions, as it dominated the piety and art of the period, it is to late medieval devotion to the Passion that we must turn first.
Devotions to the Passion
The presentation of the stages of the Passion as themes for medita­tion and prayer was already implicit in the placing of illustrations of the Hours of the Passion before the Hours of the Little Office. It developed its own devotional momentum in the course of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. This was the age when, as Emile Mâle wrote, "the Passion became the chief concern of the Christian soul.'0 The liturgical centrality of the Crucifix in the surroundings of late medieval English men and women was matched by a similar emphasis on the Passion as the centre of their private devotion. In England as elsewhere the Bernardine tradition of affective medita 

Emile Mâle, Religious Art in France: the Late Middle Ages, 1986, p. 83.

IlIL, Vli\/lVJ ~/~ 1111. ~ 1.,iria.a~J

tion on the passion, enriched and extended by the Franciscans, had become without any rival the central devotional activity of all seriously minded Christians. The most common method of such meditation was that prescribed in the Meditationes Vitae Christi, normally then attributed to the Franciscan St Bonaventura. Translations of this work circulated freely in late medieval England, and the best of them, by the Carthusian Nicholas Love, was prob-ably the most popular vernacular book of the fifteenth century. In it the events of the Passion were distributed according to the primer pattern of the liturgical hours, to facilitate systematic meditation. The devout soul was encouraged to saturate her or his mind with detailed imaginings of the Passion itself:

It behoveth [a man[ to set thereto all the sharpness of his mind, with open eyes of [the' heart . . . and making himself present in all that befell in the Passion and Crucifixion, effectively, busily, thoughtfully and perseveringly, and passing over naught lightly or with tedious heaviness, but with all the heart and with ghostly gladness.`

There was more than the arousal of mere emotion to all this. Behind such affective devotion was a Christology which traced itself back at least to St Anselm, and which found in Christ's suffering not merely a theme for grateful and penitent reflection, but the ultimate manifestation of his human nature, and therefore his credentials as Saviour of humankind.

The theory of atonement contained in Auselnl's Cur 1)etts Homo? involves the notion that Christ, as perfect elan, on behalf of sinful null, slakes to God the satisfaction due to hint for the dishonour done to his majesty by sin. It is thus central to the Christological claim of the Cur Deus Morro?, that the God-man Jesus is representa­tive of humanity, that he is our brother:

To whorl could he most fitly assign the fruit of and retribution for his death . . . or whom could he more justly make heirs of a debt due to hill of which he himself had no need, and of the overHowings of his fulness, than his kindred and brethren, whom he sees burdened with so many and so great debts and wasting away in the abyss of miser-y.5

"Kindred and brethren" — that is also a central note of the affective tradition in the late Middle Ages. It is made explicit by Langland in

I Iorstmann, Yorkshire Writers, I p. 198.

Anselm, Cur I)eus Homo? Book 2 chapter 19, in S Auseltni Opera Omnia, cd. F. S. Schmitt, 1946-61, II, pp. 130-1.

Passus XVIII of Piers Plowman, where Christ is describing the Judgement:

And thanne shall I come as a kyng, crowned with aungeles And have out of helle alle mennes souk's.

"Fendes and fendekynges bifore me shul stande

And be at nay biddyng wheresoevere [be] me liketh. Ac to be merciable to man thanne, my kynde it asketh, For we beth brethren of blood, but noght in baptisme alle. Ac alle that beth myne hole bretheren, in blood and in

baptisme,

Shul noght be dampned to the deeth that is withouten elide!'

"Myne hole bretheren, in blood and in baptisme": it was to empha­size this kinship that the affective tradition was designed. Emphasis on the suffering humanity of Jesus gave medieval men and women confidence to see in him a loving brother, and to claim from him the rights of kin. It was this sense of close kinship with the suffer­ing Christ which underlay the English form of the devotion to the Holy Name of Jesus, a cult which emphasized the sweetness, gentleness and accessibility of the human Saviour. The fervent and affectionate prayer "O Bone Jesu", invariably found in the printed Sarum Horae, and directly derived from St Auselm's Meditations, was the classic expression of this sense of solidarity:

O good Jesu, o sweet Jesu, o Jesu, son of the Virgin Mary, full of mercy and truth . . . who for us sinners deigned to pour out your blood on the altar of the cross: I invoke your holy naine. This name of Jesu is a sweet name ... for what is Jesu but Saviour .. . O good Jesu, call to mind what is yours in me, wipe away all that I have made alien.'

The perception of Jesus as brother, kin, recurs again and again in the devotional literature of pre-Reformation England:

Thou my suster and my moiler And thy soue my broder Who shulde thenne drede?"

It was summed up on the eve of the Reformation by Luis de Vives, the humanist whose prayers were a staple resource for the compilers of Tudor devotional manuals: "O Brother of ours, O natural son of the Father, whose sons thou makest us by adoption,

Langland, Piers Plowman, 13 Text Passus xviii lines .372—9. Hor. Ehor. pp. 83—4.

" M. S. Luria and R. L. Hoffman, Middle English Lyrics, 1974, p. 173.

O Head of our Body, we see that thou art king of Heaven: forget not thou thy earth, whereinto thine inestimable love to us did bring thee down."

The affective dimension of all this, the dwelling on the details of Christ's suffering reflected in the realism of late medieval images of the Crucifix, or in the visual listing of the instruments of the Passion in the Images of Pity, or in the brutal realism of such plays as the Towneley Coliphizacio1" were vital elements in an under-standing of redemption in which the humanity shared by Saviour and sinner was central. The Crucifix was the icon of Christ's abiding solidarity with suffering humanity. As Ludolf the Carthusian wrote, in the life of Jesus which supplied so much of the imagery of the affective tradition,

O Good Jesus, how sweet you are in the heart of one who thinks upon you and loves you . . . I know not for sure, I am not able fully to understand, how it is that you are sweeter in the heart of one who loves you in the form of flesh than as the word, sweeter in that which is humble than in that which is exalted . . . It is sweeter to view you as dying before the Jews on the tree, than as holding sway over the angels in Heaven; to see you as a man hearing every aspect of human nature to the end, than as God

manifesting divine nature, to see you as the dying Redeemer than as the invisible Creator. t t

The enormous imaginative power of this form of meditation, and its spread into the world of the "lowed" laity, is evident from the accounts Margery Kempe has left of her visionary experiences, which seem in places little more than literal-minded paraphrases of the relevant sections of the Meditationes Vitae Christi or of Richard Rolles's almost equally influential Meditations on the Passion, works read to her by the spiritual directors she found in such abundance in fifteenth-century East Anglia. t'

All this was amply reflected within the Horae. They were not, of course, nteditational manuals, but the Passion of Christ was as dominant here as in the rest of late medieval religion. Most of the Horae contained the so-called Hours of the Cross, and the full text of the Passion narrative from St John's Gospel, the central text of the Good Friday liturgy. Some editions also printed an indulgenced

'' A Hooke o/ Christian Prayers in Private Prayers l'ut forth by Authority in the reign of Queen !:N`abo`b, ed. W. K. Clay, Parker Society, 1851, p. 514.

Happe, English Mystery Plays, pp. 465—83.

C. A. Conway, The Vita Christi of Ludolph at Saxony ... a descriptive analysis, Analecta Cartusiana no. 34, 1976, p. 56 (niy emphasis).

'2 C. W. Atkinson, Mystic and Pilgrim, pp. 144—7.

summary of the Passion narrative, reputedly compiled at Avignon for the dying Pope John XXII, which had an attached prayer invoking the Wounds of Christ.13 But the most striking embodi­ment of this Passion piety was the group of prayers found almost universally in the printed Horae, and frequently also in manuscript prayer collections and handwritten supplements to Horae, itemizing the incidents of the Passion, especially the Wounds of Christ or his Seven Words on the Cross.



The Mass of St Gregory and the Wounds of Jesus

Devotion to the Wounds of Jesus was one of the most popular cults of late medieval Europe, and in England it was growing in popularity up to the very eve of the Reformation.14 It is hardly surprising, therefore, that all of the printed Horne contain a selection of prayers to the Wounds. Several of these had rubrics, often in English, ascribing them to Pope Gregory the Great. None is in fact his work, but the attribution is crucial to an understanding of the way in which the use of these prayers spread among the laity, for it indicates their link with a devotional image, the picture known variously as the Mass of Pope Gregory, the Man of Sorrows, or the Image of Pity. According to the legend, Pope Gregory, while celebrating Mass in the church of Santa Croce in Gerusalemnle in Rome, had experienced a vision of Christ, seated on or stand­ing in his tomb, displaying his Wounds and surrounded by the Implements of the Passion. The legend almost certainly derives from an early medieval Byzantine icon displayed in the church of Santa Croce, which had a chapel dedicated to St Gregory. The image became an object .of pilgrimage, and from the fourteenth century was widely copied, first in Italy and then in France. With its symbolic itemization of the stages of the Passion, depicting lance, spear, scourges, nails, and so on, the image provided an ideal aide-mémoire for non-literate and even literate devotees seeking to practice affective meditation. More importantly, perhaps, the poignancy and strangeness of the central image of the dead Christ, often supported by angels, together with the lavish indulgences which Popes bestowed on those who prayed before it, combined to fire the popular imagination.15

On the Hours of the Cross see Wieck, The Book of Hours, pp. 89—93. For the shortened Passion narrative see Hor. Ebor. p. 123.

1° Pfaff, New Liturgical Feasts, pp. 84—90.

s On the Mass of St Gregory and its related images see Emile Male, Religious Art, pp. 94—100

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