MS M.917/945, pp. 288–289

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St. Leonard

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. 288–289

The extraordinary and non-historical legend of St. Leonard tells the story of a pious nobleman who was accomplished in obtaining the release of prisoners by prayer and negotiation. He holds in his right hand his attributes, a set of prisoner's fetters dangling from a chain. Interlaced chain-like links decorate the floor on which Leonard stands. This geometric motif is quite similar to that decorating the border of the miniature of Catherine of Cleves praying to the Virgin and the Crucified Christ (p. 160) and supports an identification of that abbot saint as Leonard.


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