Fol. 171

Jean Poyer

Trinity: Trinity
Border: Angels

Hours of Henry VIII, in Latin
Illuminated by Jean Poyer

France, Tours
ca. 1500
256 x 180 mm

The Dannie and Hettie Heineman Collection; deposited in 1962, given in 1977

MS H.8 (fol. 171)
Item description: 

Illuminated around 1500 by the artist Jean Poyer, The Hours of Henry VIII receives its name from the possible but unproven eighteenth-century tradition that holds King Henry of England once owned this splendid manuscript. By following the simple instructions, you can explore every painting of this Renaissance masterpiece and learn how Books of Hours helped their readers to pray.

Books of Hours contain more or less standard texts—Calendar, Gospel Lessons, Hours of the Virgin, Hours of the Cross, Hours of the Holy Spirit, Penitential Psalms with Litany, Office of the Dead, and Suffrages—as well as a number of common accessory prayers. Based on the frequency and variety of added devotions, it appears that scribes included these for owners who wished to personalize their prayer books.

Page description: 

Trinity: Trinity
Border: Angels (fol. 171)

The Christian conception of a triune God, each part equal and indistinguishable, is the subject of this miniature. (The same corruption can be seen in Poyer's Prayer Book of Anne de Bretagne, M.50, fol. 1.)

The Three Persons of God, seated on a golden rainbow within an aureole surrounded by clouds, are physically and hierarchically identical: they each appear as a young Christ holding an orb. It is tempting to identify the central blessing figure as God the Father, flanked by Christ at his right hand (as in the Apostles' and Nicene Creeds) and the Holy Spirit at his left.

Three Persons of God
The Athanasian Creed (sometimes called the "Quicunque vult" from its opening words in Latin), which specifically emphasizes the equality of the Three Persons of the Trinity, is included as the last text in the Hours of Henry VIII (fols. 196–99v).

Trinity Sunday, the feast day dedicated to the Trinity, was not originally celebrated in the early Christian Church. Although it was observed regionally in the tenth century, it was not universally accepted until 1334, when Pope John XXII (r. 1316–34) ordered it to be generally observed. (Feast day: the first Sunday after Pentecost, or the eighth Sunday after Easter)

Nine Orders of Angels
The nine celestial angels kneeling in adoration and prayer below may recall nine orders of angels, a hierarchy codified in the fifth century.

The ranks of the nine orders of angels were codified in the fifth century in De Hierarchia Celesti, a work that was attributed to Kionysius the Areopagite, the convert St. Paul. The choirs were grouped hierarchically:

  1. Seraphim, Cherubim, Theones
  2. Dominations, Virtues, Powers
  3. Princedoms, Archangels, Angels

The first group perpetually adored God, while the second group made the stars and elements. The princedoms protected earthly kingdoms, and the last two were messengers.