MS M.917/945, pp. 220–221

Download image: 

St. Thomas

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. 220–221

Thomas clasps the lance by which he met his demise and a girdle book is at his waist. His hood is up, which, along with the book and the female pilgrim in the lower border, suggests his far-flung travels. As the only apostle to go beyond the bounds of the Roman Empire, Thomas died at the sharp end of a spear in India, near modern-day Chennai. The woman in the lower border totes two rectangular packs fastened over her shoulders and wears a cylindrical cap, covered in writing, that may list her sins.


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