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Medieval & Renaissance Manuscripts

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Gospel Book
France, Saint-Omer, early 11th century
MS M.333 fol. 85r

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Initial I:
1) Christ: Crucifixion -- Christ, beardless, cross-nimbed, wearing long loin cloth, is affixed with four nails to cross entwined by serpent at base.
Below, Virgin Mary, nimbed, veiled, with right hand raised, and Evangelist John, nimbed, with book in left hand, stand beneath two arches, inscribed MARIA and JOHANN(ES).
Below, Personification of Church, wearing cross-inscribed head dress, holding banner and chalice, stands beneath third arch, inscribed ECCLESIA.
Below, Personification of Synagogue, wearing inscribed fillet, holding banner upside-down, stands beneath fourth arch, inscribed SINAGOGA.
Frame, top:
Christ: Ascension -- Nine apostles, as half-figures, including two with books in draped hands, flank Apostle Peter, tonsured, with key in right hand, and Virgin Mary, nimbed, veiled, orant, in mandorla. All flank Christ, with only feet showing, disappearing and ascending in half-mandorla.
Frame, left and right sides:
1) Four Personifications of Rivers, partially nude, pour water from vessels. Three sit at base of trees, holding branches; the fourth stands under and holds onto tree.
2) Christ: Harrowing of Hell -- Christ, beardless, extends left hand toward four nude figures, two with right hands raised, emerging from Hell Mouth at left. Building in background. Scene within half-medallion in left border of frame.
3) Holy Women: at Sepulcher -- Three veiled Holy Women (only heads visible) look toward angel, seated on sarcophagus, raising left hand toward women. Scene within half-medallion in right border of frame.
Frame, bottom:
Personification of Earth, seated against tree, suckles two serpents at breast, and Personification of Ocean sits beside water with fish in left hand and trident in right hand.

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