Breviary leaf, c. 1475. Feasts of Sts. John & Paul.

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Jewel-like illuminated initials

The Basilica of Saints John and Paul, not to be confused with the Apostles, sits atop the Caelian Hill, one of the seven hills of ancient Rome. The basilica is built over the home of Saints John and Paul, Roman military officers and blood brothers, who were martyred for the Catholic faith in their own home.

Verso:  Text in Latin written in two columns on high quality vellum in black ink in two sizes of an assured Gothic bookhand.   Pricking marks on the left margin.  Ruled in red and rubrics in red.  Some initials touched in yellow. Eight exquisite two-line illuminated initials in pink and blue outlined in black with different internal designs and finished with fine white penwork.  The initials are on highly burnished gold grounds and four have illuminations radiating into the margins of black tendrils bearing coloured flowers, green leaves and burnished gold ivy leaves and bezants.

Recto:  As Verso, with a further three equally fine illuminated initials.

Origin:  Northern France/Flanders, for the Use of Sarum (Salisbury).

Date:   c.1475

Content: The text on Verso is a section of The Feast of Saints John and Paul.  The second initial in the left column begins the passage:

Julianus dixit : « Putatis quod vos martires sibi faciant christiani ? Si quod dico non feceritis puniam vos non ut martires sed quasi publicos hostes.

Tunc sancti iohannes et paulus christianos ad se invitantes  ordinaverunt de omnibus que relinquere poterant  per totos decem dies die noctuque elemosinis insistentes.

This reading (see Notes) concerns the threat of retribution to the saints by the Emperor Julian the Apostate if they did not agree to acknowledge his pagan gods.   Julian gave the saints 10 days (decem dies) to agree.

Condition:  The leaf is in pristine condition. It has clean, fine vellum and jewel-like illuminations as colourful and lustrous as the day they were done, well over 500 years ago. It is unconditionally guaranteed genuine.

Size: Size of leaf: approx. 190x140 mm. Text and illuminated area : approx. 135x95 mm.

Notes:  Following the successful soldiering careers of John and Paul, Constantine the Great entrusted them with the protection of his daughter, Constantia.  On the death of Constantine in 337 and his bequeathal of a formidable inheritance, the brothers retired to private life, built a house on the Caelian Hill, led exemplary Christian lives of charity and prayer, and prospered under the reign of Constantine II.

In A.D. 361 Julian the Apostate ascended to the imperial throne. Julian re-established many pagan practices, persecuted the Church, and challenged the authority of bishops throughout the empire.

In the summer of 362, Julian called John and Paul back to military service in his court. Their acquiescence to his request would have meant a denial of their Catholic faith, since court officials were required to offer incense to false pagan gods.

John and Paul recoiled at the thought of apostasy. Their refusal enraged Julian who gave them ten days to reconsider.

When they rejected Julian's order to offer sacrifice to Jupiter, they were beheaded in the garden of their house on the night of June 26, 362.

Saints John and Paul’s feast day is celebrated on June 26, the date of their martyrdom.

Item No:  MOT079a

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