MS M.917/945, pp. 64–65

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Catherine of Cleves Distributing Alms

The Netherlands, Utrecht
ca. 1440
7 1/2 x 5 1/8 inches (192 x 130 mm)

Purchased on the Belle da Costa Greene Fund with the assistance of the Fellows, 1963

MS M.917/945, pp. 64–65

Piety is the sixth gift of the Holy Spirit. Illustrating pious charity afforded the opportunity to include a flattering portrait of Catherine as the generous giver of alms. In the miniature, the inspiring Dove of the Holy Spirit hovers directly above her head. The scroll above the beggars quotes Luke (11:41), "Give alms, and all things are clean unto you." In the bottom border, a woman tends to a prisoner. During the Middle Ages, this Corporal Act of Mercy was interpreted as charity toward Christ himself; thus the prisoner is given the Savior's cruciform halo.

Hours and Masses for the Seven Days of the Week

The most unusual texts in Catherine's manuscript are the series of Hours and Masses for every day of the week. Medieval Christian tradition associated certain figures or themes with different days. Thus Sunday, the day of the Resurrection, was the Lord's Day; Thursday was connected with the Eucharist since that sacrament was instituted on Holy Thursday; and Monday was the day of the dead, since their torments were suspended on Sunday but recommenced the following day. In Catherine's prayer book, the themes for the Hours and Masses of the seven days of the week are:

Sunday the Trinity
Monday the Dead
Tuesday the Holy Spirit
Wednesday All Saints
Thursday the Blessed Sacrament
Friday the Compassion of God
Saturday the Virgin.

Image courtesy of Faksimile Verlag Luzern