June 26, 2009
Leaf from an antiphonary: Initial C with a funeral scene
Northern Italy, c. 1450
Parchment with ink, paint, and gold
This initial begins the first response of the first nocturn of Matins for the Office of the Dead, “Credo quod redemptor meus vivit …” (I believe that my redeemer liveth). As a series of prayers recited to help speed the soul to heaven, the Office of the Dead was usually illustrated with scenes from contemporary medieval funerary practices. In this initial, the priest sprinkles holy water with an aspergillum on the corpse as two mourners kneel beside the bed.
The Office of the Dead consists of four hours: First Vespers or Placebo, Mass, Matins or Dirige (from which the term “dirge” is derived), and Lauds or Exultabunt.
Free Library of Philadelphia Lewis E M 68:14