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
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
All Saints: All Male Saints
Border: All Female Saints (fol. 192v)
All Saints was a catchall feast of
Eastern origin, which celebrated
the "martyrs of the whole world"
on the first Sunday after Pentecost.
(In the early Church all saints, with
the exception of the Apostles, were
martyrs.) Images of all saints
typically show them in ranks. In
accordance with a well-established
hierarchy, the male saints
out-ranked the females (hence the
women's relegation to the margin).
During the last few years (ca. 303–5) of Emperor Diocletian's reign so many Christians were martyred that it became impossible for each to have his or her own assigned day for commemoration, hence this all-encompassing feast. With the dedication of the Pantheon in Rome to St. Mary of the Martyrs on 13 May 609 (or 610), the feast changed to that date. When Pope Gregory III dedicated a chapel on November 1 to All Saints in St. Peter's Basilica, the feast was changed to that day, where it has remained. According to the Golden Legend, the date was changed so that greater crowds could come to Rome after the harvest and vintage to participate in the popular celebration. In English the feast is known as All Hallows and the night before as Hallowe'en (short for All Saints' Eve).
Within the context of Suffrages in a Book of Hours, this massive grouping of saints serves an additional purpose. Praying to all the saints at once, encourages them to join in an intercession. Surely it would be impossible for God not to grant the prayers of all the saints on one's behalf. Little wonder that the feast day was such a favorite.
The male saints were further
ordered by status: first came
the Apostles, followed by
martyrs, and then confessors.
Poyer suggested these divisions
by placing Peter and Paul at
the head of the contingent.
Close behind them are the four
evangelists; the young man at
left dressed in white is John,
the beloved disciple. Behind
them, the rest of the saints form
an isocephalic horizon.
The women in the margin of the
lower image, seated with books
or praying, have no identifying
attributes. (Feast day: November 1)