Fol. 174

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Jean Poyer

St. John the Evangelist: John the Evangelist Descending into His Grave
Border: John and the Beast of the Apocalypse

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. 174)
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. John the Evangelist: John the Evangelist Descending into His Grave
Border: John and the Beast of the Apocalypse
(fol. 174)

St. John was a prominent figure in the early Church. He preached in Samaria and Jerusalem with St. Peter and traveled on to Rome, from where he was presumably exiled to Patmos under the persecution of Emperor Domitian. Tradition (but not modern scholarship) says that on this island he wrote the Apocalypse, or Book of Revelation, based on visions he experienced there.

The youngest of the Apostles, the Evangelist survived all of the Apostles and lived to the ripe old age of about 101. As his end neared, according to the Golden Legend,Jesus appeared and called him. John had a grave dug near the altar of his church and then, as in the miniature, walked into it. He said a prayer, a bright light surrounded him, and the saint vanished, leaving the grave filled with manna.

In the lower margin of fol. 174, John blesses the poisoned cup, from which serpents slither. Across a narrow body of water is the seven-headed beast of the Apocalypse. (Feast day: December 27)

After Domitian's death (A.D. 96), John went to Ephesus. There Aristodemus, high priest of Diana, challenged him to drink a cup of poisoned wine as a test of his God's strength. John blessed the cup, and the poison departed in the form of a serpent.

John the Evangelist
In the first year of his teaching, Christ called John the Evangelist (son of Zebedee) and his younger brother, St. James the Elder, while they were mending their fishing nets on the Sea of Galilee. Originally disciples of John the Baptist, they became followers of Jesus. John witnessed the Transfiguration and the Agony in the Garden with Peter and James, and was the "beloved disciple" who fell asleep on the bosom of Christ at the Last Supper. The only disciple not to forsake the Savior during the Passion, he was made the guardian of Jesus' mother, Mary, and was thought to have cared for her until her death.