Initial C: Saint Nicholas
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Master of Gerona
Italian, Bologna, late 1200s
Tempera colors and gold leaf on parchment
22 15/16 x 15 13/16 in.

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This initial C opens the prayers for Saint Nicholas's day on December 6th. The legend of Saint Nicholas, a fourth-century bishop, relates the story of the saint rescuing the daughters of an anguished father from prostitution by offering the father money for their dowries.

The initial provides a keyhole-like view of a house. Through its windows, the reader sees a man weeping on the lower floor, his two daughters upstairs, and the saint to the right, proffering the necessary gold. Although the legend mentions three daughters, the artist only included two daughters and two gold balls. Saint Nicholas's story became an important theme in art of the late 1200s because the rising costs of dowries in Italy developed into such a burden that contributing to young girls' dowries became a common act of Christian charity.