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St. Avia in Prison Receiving Communion from the Virgin
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Jean Bourdichon
French, Tours, about 1480 - 1485
Tempera colors and gold on parchment
6 7/16 x 4 9/16 in.
MS. 6, FOL. 143

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One version of the legend of the virgin and martyr Saint Avia tells that the saint, imprisoned for adhering to her Christian beliefs, miraculously received communion from the Virgin Mary. In this miniature the crowned Virgin appears with an entourage of adoring angels carrying liturgical objects, including an incense holder and a processional cross. The Virgin herself offers the host and holds the chalice.

In this book of hours, the miniature accompanies an intercessory prayer written in French rather than in the more common Latin. The use of French rather than Latin illustrates the local and contemporary popularity of Avia, one of many fictitious saints who were widely venerated in fifteenth-century France. Intercessory prayers, appeals for assistance addressed to God or to specific saints, were grouped together in books of hours. The contents of these sections varied, since they were personalized with prayers dedicated to locally popular saints or to saints with personal meaning for the patron.

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