Les Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry

The Holy Sacrament

Folio 129v

The Thursday Office is devoted to the Holy Sacrament, or the institution of the Eucharist, in honor of which Pope Urban IV in 1264 designated the Thursday after Trinity Sunday a holy day.
Jean Colombe has illustrated the service with two superimposed scenes. The large one represents the interior of a Gothic church, with lavishly decorated pillars, in which two groups of figures pay tribute to the veritable presence of Christ in the Eucharist.
On the right, representing the Old Testament, are three men with oriental headdresses, probably Melchizedek (who offered bread and wine to Abraham), Moses (who received manna), and Elijah (who was fed by an angel).
On the left, representing the New Testament, are several bareheaded men, probably the four Evangelists.
All raise their heads to worship and appear to proclaim the grandeur of this sacrament, repeating the words of Thomas Aquinas in the Pange lingua, a hymn composed for the feast of the Holy Sacrament: "Tantum ergo sacramentum veneremur cernui. " "Let us kneel in veneration before such a great sacrament." In the choir at the back of the church, behind a jubé of fine openwork, two priests seem to join in the tribute.
The scene below depicts the story of Saint Anthony of Padua and the mule, one of the many edifying anecdotes in circulation at the end of the Middle Ages proving the presence of Christ in the Eucharist.
A heretic of Toulouse refused to believe in Christ's presence unless a mule knelt before the sacrament.
After a few moments of prayer, Saint Anthony presented a mule with the Eucharist in one hand and some oats in the other. To the amazement of the onlookers, the animal refused the grain and knelt before the Eucharist. Convinced by this experience, the heretic believed henceforth.

small image (33KB) --- large image (283KB) --- Architectural detail (large) (254KB) --- One of the Evangelists and Elijah (large) (215KB) --- Saint Anthony of Padua and the mule (large) (226KB)

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