MS H.8, fols. 171v–172r

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St. Michael the Archangel: Michael Battling a Devil

Hours of Henry VIII
Illuminated by Jean Poyer

France, Tours
ca. 1500
256 x 180 mm

Gift of the Heineman Foundation, 1977

MS H.8, fols. 171v–172r

St. Michael the Archangel: Michael Battling a Devil
Border: Fall of the Rebel Angels (fol. 172)

Throughout the Middle Ages, St. Michael's iconography varied. We know him best in armor or at least minimally carrying a shield (as here) while slaying the Devil in the form of a dragon or demon.

With a cross-surmounted spear Michael stabs the defeated Satan, who is garbed in antique- style armor (a convention Poyer acquired while visiting Italy).

Michael is sometimes confused with St. George, who also slew a dragon, but there is an easy way to distinguish the two. George, a canonized human, is never depicted with wings, while Michael, an archangel, always has them. (Feast day: September 29, Michaelmas)

In the margin, Satan's corps of rebellious angels, changed into demons, fall into the flames of hell.

St. Michael the Archangel
St. Michael the Archangel is God's commander in chief in the war against the Devil. In his dramatic confrontation with Satan at the beginning of time, Michael defeated his army and hurled the fallen angel and his minions into hell. At the end of the world it is said that Michael will return to earth for his final battle with the Antichrist. The archangel's second duty will be to weigh the souls of the departed and determine if they can enter heaven.

Michael's cult began in the East, where he was invoked for care of the sick (Constantine built a church near Constantinople for this purpose). A fifth-century apparition on Monte Gargano (in southeast Italy) was important in spreading the cult to the West. In the later Middle Ages, the Valois dynasty of French kings adopted him as their patron saint.