Initial V: The Descent of the Holy Spirit
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Italian, Montecassino, 1153
Tempera colors, gold leaf, and gold paint on parchment
7 9/16 x 5 3/16 in.

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The Holy Spirit, in the form of a dove, descends from the arc of heaven into an illuminated initial V. The initial introduces the hymn sung at Vespers (the evening prayer service) on Pentacost Sunday. Pentecost commemorates the descent of the Holy Spirit on the disciples, which occurred after the death, Resurrection, and Ascension of Christ, and marks the beginning of the Christian Church's mission to the world. The frenzied activity within the initial is particularly appropriate to Pentecost, which the Bible describes as "a sound of heaven, as of a mighty wind coming" that suddenly descended on the apostles, who then simultaneously preached in a variety of languages to a great crowd of people.