Fol. 189v

Jean Poyer

St. Margaret: Margaret and Olybrius
Border: Margaret and the Dragon

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. 189v)
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. Margaret: Margaret and Olybrius
Border: Margaret and the Dragon (fol. 189v)

Margaret was the daughter of Theodosius of Antioch, a third-century pagan prince. Shortly after Magaret's birth, her mother died, so her father placed her in the care of a countrywoman, a secret Christian who raised the young girl in that faith. Later, after Margaret's conversion was discovered, she was disowned and banished with her nurse from the palace. They lived in the country as shepherdesses.

One day Governor Olybrius of Antioch, as in the miniature, saw Margaret spinning wool while tending sheep and fell in love with her. Margaret's refusal to yield her faith angered the governor.

Olybrius ordered Margaret tortured and thrown into prison, where a fierce dragon appeared and swallowed her. The saint made the sign of the Cross, causing the dragon to explode, freeing her from its belly. She then prayed that women in labor invoking her name would be as safely delivered as she was from the dragon.

During the late fourteenth and early fifteenth centuries, Margaret was most frequently shown guarding sheep; later the prison scene with the dragon (her primary attribute) became popular. (Feast day: formerly July 20)