MS M.917/945, pp. 96–97

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Tree Growing from Adam’s Grave

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. 96–97

Having taken root, the branch from the Tree of Mercy planted by Seth in his father's mouth grows into a healthy tree. It breaks through the slab covering Adam's grave, raising his skull in the process. The horizon glows orange: symbolically a new day has dawned. In the bottom border is depicted the sacrifice of Abraham. The patriarch's willingness to kill his son Isaac (a sacrifice stopped, as we see here, by the hand of God) symbolizes God's willingness to sacrifice his son, Christ, on the Cross. The vignette thus hints at the future of the tree painted above it in the miniature.

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