MS H.8, fols. 181v–182r

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St. Adrian: Martyrdom of Adrian

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. 181v–182r

St. Adrian: Martyrdom of Adrian
Border: Christians in Prison
(fol. 181v)

The miniature shows Adrian's two-part martyrdom. He is seated on the anvil, his intestines having already fallen out, as two executioners begin to hack off his legs. Adrian looks heavenward, while in the background Natalia prays contentedly; the emperor, at the left, directs the torture.

Adrian (or Hadrian) was a young Praetorian Guard in Nicomedia under Emperor Maximian (r. 286–305). The soldier was converted by witnessing the steadfast confidence of a group of Christians under torture. Impressed by their constancy, he asked to be counted among their ranks. Needless to say, Adrian was promptly arrested and imprisoned. His new wife, Natalia, (a secret Christian) was overjoyed, ran to the prison, and encouraged him to remain firm in his new faith, kissing his chains. When he learned the date of his impending martyrdom, the saint convinced the guards to allow him to tell his wife so that she could witness the event.

On the day of his death (ca. 300), Adrian was first beaten so severely that his "bowels fell out." After he was returned to prison, the emperor ordered that the legs of all the imprisoned martyrs be broken on an anvil and cut off. Natalia, who was present, additionally requested that the guards cut off her husband's hands, so that he would be equal to other saints who had suffered more. After Adrian's death Natalia managed to get away with a hand (holding it to her bosom), taking it with her to Argyropolis, where she died peacefully.

In the margin a jailer guards the imprisoned Christians who prompted Adrian's conversion. (Feast day: September 8, the translation of his relics to Rome)