Fol. 172

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Jean Poyer

St. Michael the Archangel: Michael Battling a Devil
Border: Fall of the Rebel 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. 172)
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: 

St. Michael the Archangel: Michael Battling a Devil
Border: Fall of the Rebel Angels (fol. 172)

Throughout the Middle Ages, St. Michael's iconography varied. We know him best in armor or at least minimally carrying a shield (as here) while slaying the Devil in the form of a dragon or demon.

With a cross-surmounted spear Michael stabs the defeated Satan, who is garbed in antique- style armor (a convention Poyer acquired while visiting Italy).

Michael is sometimes confused with St. George, who also slew a dragon, but there is an easy way to distinguish the two. George, a canonized human, is never depicted with wings, while Michael, an archangel, always has them. (Feast day: September 29, Michaelmas)

In the margin, Satan's corps of rebellious angels, changed into demons, fall into the flames of hell.

St. Michael the Archangel
St. Michael the Archangel is God's commander in chief in the war against the Devil. In his dramatic confrontation with Satan at the beginning of time, Michael defeated his army and hurled the fallen angel and his minions into hell. At the end of the world it is said that Michael will return to earth for his final battle with the Antichrist. The archangel's second duty will be to weigh the souls of the departed and determine if they can enter heaven.

Michael's cult began in the East, where he was invoked for care of the sick (Constantine built a church near Constantinople for this purpose). A fifth-century apparition on Monte Gargano (in southeast Italy) was important in spreading the cult to the West. In the later Middle Ages, the Valois dynasty of French kings adopted him as their patron saint.