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HIST 1061, The Rise and Fall of Ancient Rome (Jobin) Special Collections: Early Christianity in a Roman World: the Lives of the Saints in the Late Middle Ages

The Lives of the Saints

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The Martyrdom of St. Eustace, MS 315, Book of Hours, c. 1435 

Gift of John Feldman

Special Collections, CU Boulder Libraries

Like medieval stained glass windows and early printed books, Books of Hours offered Christians of the late Middle Ages and the Renaissance a visual means of learning about the lives of early Christians who lived and died before Constantine's Edict of Milan (313) protected Christians from persecution.

Similar in focus to the printed Golden Legend, Books of Hours were created for personal devotion.  These small books, often decorated with saints executed or martyred prior to 313, include a set of prayers - the Hours of the Virgin - in eight sections for the owner to use in meditation at regular intervals throughout the day. 

Special Collections holds numerous illuminated leaves - or pages - such as the leaf below depicting the martyrdom of St. Eustace in a bronze bull (see above).  A similar image of St. Eustace appears in the stained glass of Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris.  For other images of the saint, see the Life of Eustace, held by the British Library.  According to tradition, Eustace, a Roman soldier, converted to Christianity.  He refused to acknowledge the divinity of the Emperor Hadrian (117-138 CE) and was put to death. 

 

       

St. Margaret and the Dragon, Book of hours, Italy, early 16th century CE

Special Collections, CU Boulder Libraries

According to tradition, St. Catherine was was tortured on a wheel (see above) by the Emperor Maxentius  (306-312 CE) for refusing to renounce her Christian faith. The wheel broke and Catherine was eventually beheaded instead.  For additional images of Catherine, see The National Gallery. 

 

     

St. Margaret and the Dragon, Book of Hours, Italy, early 16th century CE 

Special Collections, CU Boulder Libraries

Like Catherine, Margaret was executed, or martyred, for her faith in the early 4th century CE.  According to tradition, Margaret was tortured for her faith and was eaten by a dragon; the dragon burst open and disgorged her because of the crucifix she carried with her.

She prayed that women in labor should be delivered of their child as she was delivered from the dragon.  Known as the dragon slayer, a dragon serves as Margaret's attribute.

For more on St. Margaret and the Dragon, see the British Library.

Sources for Medieval Manuscripts

For medieval manuscript leaves held by Special Collections, see:

For medieval manuscripts held in other collections, see: 

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