MS H.8, fols. 183v–184r

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St. Anthony Abbot: Temptation of Anthony

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. 183v–184r

St. Anthony Abbot: Temptation of Anthony
Border: Anthony in the Wilderness
(fol. 183v)

Anthony Abbot, or Anthony the Great (ca. 251–356), is best known for his long life of asceticism in the Egyptian deserts. Born in an Egyptian village near Memphis, Anthony Abbot decided at age twenty, when his parents died, to become a hermit. For two decades the saint lived in complete solitude in an abandoned tomb. Here the Devil tempts him in the form of an attractive woman, and scares him in the forms of a black man and then wild animals.

In 1095, in La Motte (in southern France), an order of Hospitalers was created in the saint's honor. Wearing black robes with a blue tau cross, they traveled widely, ringing bells for alms. By special ordinance, the Hospitalers' pigs were allowed to forage freely, leading to pictures of the saint accompanied by a pig.

Poyer's miniature presents Anthony as an old bearded man in a black robe and tau cross (the Egyptian cross and a symbol of his abbatial authority). The crutch at the saint's feet refers both to Christ's Cross and to the Hospitalers' care of the infirm. Anthony reaches toward the fire to escape the demonic young woman (note her horns).

In the margin below Anthony appears with his staff in the wilderness; the open book symbolizes the book of nature, which compensated the saint for lack of any other reading material. The belled pig at his side refers to the order of Hospitalers, but it was also his only companion in the wilderness. (Feast day: January 17)