This subject could not have been originally planned
for the Très Riches Heures since only one text column,
not enough space for a large miniature, remained
free between the end of the Penitential Psalms and
the beginning of the Litanies of the Saints. However,
the Limbourgs ingeniously used this column to paint
a large double-page miniature, which they placed at
the beginning of the Litanies since the Procession of
Saint Gregory was known as "The Great Litany, " or
"The Great Supplication."
The scene is based on The Golden Legend. At the time of Gregory's election to the papacy in 590, Rome was ravaged by the plague. The newly elected Pope, later known as Gregory the Great, ordered a procession around the city to entreat the heavens to end their affliction. While praying at the head of the procession, Gregory saw an angel appear on the top of the citadel and sheathe a bloodstained sword. He understood the plague was coming to an end; thereafter the citadel, formerly Hadrian's mausoleum, was called the Castel Sant'Angelo, or the Castle of the Holy Angel.
The artists have shown the procession passing before the city walls, led by priests, one of whom has just fallen victim to the plague, and by deacons wearing banners.
Wearing the papal tiara, the Pope follows and implores Heaven with both arms. Behind him come the cardinals, beside whom lies a monk, also felled by the scourge. The procession ends, with a crowd thronging through the city gates.
Beyond the walls are the monuments of Rome as imagined by the Limbourgs, who in fact probably never saw them. Instead of the actual squat and massive Castel Sant'Angelo, they have depicted a slender building on which the angel appears sheathing his sword.
The Limbourgs did not complete this large miniature. The design and coloring of the sky, buildings, and figures, as well as the execution of the faces on the left-hand page, undoubtedly reveal their mastery.
However, the round, somewhat dazed physiognomies on the facing page are in the style of Jean Colombe. As in folio 9v, the fact that the faces were obviously painted last attests to the miniaturists' procedure of work.
small image (39KB) --- large image (271KB) --- Architectural detail (large) (232KB) --- The angel sheathing his sword (large) (209KB) --- The procession (large) (248KB) --- Pope Gregory the Great (large) (242KB)