Fol. 176

Primary tabs

Jean Poyer

St. James: St. James with Hermogenes
Border: Decapitation of James

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. 176)
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. James: St. James with Hermogenes
Border: Decapitation of James (fol. 176)

James the Greater, or Elder (he was the older of two Apostles named James), was the brother of John the Evangelist. Here Poyer rendered the demons holding Hermogenes as exotically dressed soldiers, while the converted Philetus looks on. The terrified magician repented and promised to destroy his magic books.

After Christ's Ascension, James preached in Judea and Samaria, and then went to Spain. When he returned to Judea, the Pharisees requested that the magician Hermogenes should send his disciple, Philetus, to confront and refute the saint.

St. James performed some miracles, resulting in the conversion of Philetus and the rage of Hermogenes, who then ordered two demons to capture James and Philetus. Warned of the plot, the saint prayed that the demons bind and deliver Hermogenes instead, which they did.

The terrified magician repented and promised to destroy his magic books. Afraid of the demons, Hermogenes asked for something that belonged to the saint to prevent their attack, so James gave him his staff; when the converted magician returned with his tomes, the Apostle threw them into the sea.

The disappointed Pharisees dragged the saint before Herod Agrippa, who condemned him to be beheaded (A.D. 43). In the margin a crowd of kneeling men and women witness James's decapitation. This story apparently was modeled on that of Peter and Simon Magus in the preceding narrative.

James's Decapitation
After James's death, angels transported his body to Spain, where it lay on a stone that closed over it. His relics were discovered in the year 800 and taken to Compostella, which became a major pilgrimage site in the Middle Ages.

Pilgrims would return with badges as souvenirs, especially scallop shells (see also M.50 fol. 3); these were valued and often handed down as legacies. By the late Middle Ages, the saint himself was depicted as a pilgrim—his costume including a satchel decorated with a shell, a large hat, a traveler's cape, and staff; in the miniature two scallop shells decorate James's hat. (Feast day: July 25)