MS M.917/945, pp. 232–233

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St. Simon

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. 232–233

Simon's setting – with its delicately ornamented pink tiles and exquisite floral green backdrop – is more elaborate than many in the book. The apostle reads from a book while cradling the instrument of his martyrdom in his left arm: a long-bladed saw. The border is made up of two varieties of fishing nets. A small man in red leans out from behind the frame of the miniature to repair one of the nets. The association with fishing may have resulted from confusion between this Simon (known often as "the Zealot") and Simon Peter, the great fisherman who became the fisher of men.


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