The Hours of Charles of Angoulême

The Hours of Charles of Angoulême St George slaying the dragon (f. 53v)


St George slaying the dragon (f. 53v)

The book of hours ends with suffrages to two saints: St Anthony and St George. St Anthony was very popular in the Middle Ages. He was venerated particularly for resisting the Devil’s temptations and also regarded as a patron against different illnesses. St Georges, depicted here in a print by Israhel van Meckenem which Robinet Testard coloured slightly, refers to a higher-ranking world. St George was the patron saint of medieval chivalry in Europe and of all military orders (Teutonic Order, Order of the Garter, etc).

The legend about this saint, set down in writing by Jacobus de Voragine in the 13th century, tells how he saved the king of Silene’s daughter from being fed to a dragon wreaking havoc in the region. The saint braving the monster represents the victory of the Christian faith over the Devil and Evil. The importance given to this saint in this manuscript is not surprising: being a prince of royal blood, Charles of Angoulême was obliged to show particular deference to knightly symbols. The choice of this dragon-slaying saint rather than St Michael, the patron saint of the crown of France from Louis XI onwards, was probably the result of a desire to disassociate Charles from the king of France. St George resembles St Michael in many respects: they both slew evil and were regarded as military saints. In addition, in 1469 Louis XI created a new order of knights in honour of St Michael. It is not known whether Charles of Angoulême belonged to that order but his interest in St George suggests he did not. Finally, the choice of St George was also a reference to Louise, Charles of Angoulême’s wife. She belonged to the dynasty of the dukes and princes of Savoy which held this saint in very high esteem, alongside St Maurice, another military saint.

Robinet Testard made virtually no changes to the illumination apart from the princess’s headwear, replacing her conical hat and veil with the turban more in vogue in the 1480s.

Séverine Lepape
Musée du Louvre

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