Both initials of the prayer, standing against a golden background, are further enriched by beautiful floral decoration, comprising a finely detailed carnation and a red rose. Both flowers had specific meanings in Christian symbolism. Carnation flowers refered to Christ’s incarnation, whereas the red rose symbolized the shedding of Christ’s body and the charity of the Virgin Mary. Each flower or fruit had a specific meaning in Christian symbolism and they were extensively used to deliver messages beyond the text in illuminated manuscripts.
The Book of Hours is a book of Christian devotion, which evolved from the psalter. It gained popularity during the Middle Ages, and typically consisted of psalms, prayers, and other devotional texts. It is the most common surviving type of manuscript, but each copy was unique – whether on account of a different selection of texts, or different decoration. As a result, books of this type offer some of the most interesting examples of medieval calligraphy and decorative practice.
The Litany of the Saints is a prayer to the Triune God, as in the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, which also includes invocations for the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Angels and all the martyrs and saints upon whom Christianity was founded. Following the invocation of the saints, the Litany concludes with a series of supplications to God to listen to the prayers of the worshippers.
To find out more about Medieval manuscripts please see our relevant blog post: Illuminated Manuscripts and Vellum Pages.