Fol. 178

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Jean Poyer

St. Christopher: Conversion of Christopher
Border: Christopher Carrying Christ

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. 178)
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. Christopher: Conversion of Christopher
Border: Christopher Carrying Christ (fol. 178)

The miniature portrays the moment when St. Christopher embraced Christianity, acknowledging the Cross's power with a reverential glance and gesture. The Devil, on horseback, gallops away in terror.

The name Christopher, which means "Christ-bearer" seems to suggest the basis of the saint's legend. As a Canaanite named Reprobus before his baptism, Christopher was a fearsome giant of a man.

Deciding to serve only the most powerful lord on earth, Christopher became a follower of Satan. However, the Devil fled upon seeing a crucifix planted in the roadway. Seeing Satan's fear, the giant resolved to follow Christ and his Cross instead.

In the margin, with the young Christ Child perched on his back, the saint struggles to cross the raging river. He leans heavily on his staff, panting with exertion. On the opposite bank is his mentor, the old hermit, who holds a lantern to light the way. (Feast day: formerly July 14)

Christopher's Resolve to Follow Christ
A hermit subsequently instructed the newly baptized Christopher in the Christian faith and gave him the task of helping travelers across a river. One stormy night a child asked the saint's assistance in traversing the current. The child was so heavy on Christopher's back that he nearly did not manage to cross. On the opposite bank the child announced that he was Jesus and Christopher had just carried the weight of the entire world on his shoulders. As proof of this, the child commanded the saint to plant his staff in the ground, where the next day it would blossom with flowers and dates.