MS M.917/945, pp. 206–207

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Guardian Angel and Demon Fighting over the Book of Life

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. 206–207

In this miniature, which illustrates a prayer to a guardian angel, that angel is shown in combat with a demon for the fate of the corpse's soul. They fight over the contents of the Book of Life, in which the dead man's good—and bad—deeds are recorded. The image (unlike that in the Monday Hours of the Dead) depicts burial according to common practice—with a shroud instead of a coffin.


Suffrages are short prayers to individual saints. As protectors of medieval people, saints were their doctor in plague, their midwife at childbirth, their guardian when traveling, and their nurse during toothache. If the Virgin was the figure to whom one addressed the all-important petition for eternal salvation, it was from saints that one sought more basic or temporal kinds of help. While the Virgin became, as the Mother of God, almost a goddess herself, saints retained more of their humanity and thus their approachability.


Image courtesy of Faksimile Verlag Luzern