MS M.917/945, pp. 264–265

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St. Blaise

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. 264–265

Blaise is dressed in the vestments of a bishop, holding a crozier in his left hand and a wool-comb slung over his right shoulder. The long, sharp tines of this tool are the implements of his martyrdom. The textile background includes several ferocious looking beasts- an allusion to the story that he healed wild animals while a hermit in the desert. In the border, a monkey reaches out from the curling leaves to snatch a bird from the inhabited initial "O" in the text, which takes the form of a bird's nest.


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