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Saints: View Documents

Click on the links to view images of the original document, alongside transcripts and translations where available.

Transcripts and translations for manuscript items are also available for download:

 

Document 1

WLC/LM/37: Fragment of an English ‘Life of St Zita’ (c. 1450-1475, English)  
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St Zita (died 1272) was a domestic servant to the Fatinelli family in Lucca, modern-day Italy. Her body is on display at the Basilica di San Frediano in Lucca, where she worshipped, and remains a focus for pilgrims. This English text is a literal translation of the Latin 'Life' which was written one hundred years after her death.

This passage describes Zita's pilgrimage to churches near Pisa. In 1456 a piece of her hair and her little toe were brought to the Knights Hospitaller’s church at Eagle, Lincolnshire. Eagle itself then became a place of pilgrimage for people venerating this saint, who was known in England as St Sitha or St Cithe.

 

Document 2

 

Image of St Zita from East Markham church, Nottinghamshire, photograph by Rupert Webber
 

WLC/LM/11, f. 42r: Prayer to St Zita (second half of the 15th century, Latin)   
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The cult of St Zita was probably brought to England by merchants from her home town of Lucca, Italy. Several churches are known to have had altars dedicated to her, and some still contain depictions of her in stained glass, wall paintings or statues (see right for stained glass from East Markham, Nottinghamshire). Servants, housekeepers and women are particularly known to have made pilgrimages to St Zita's relics. 

Further reading:
• Sebastian Sutcliffe, 'The Cult of St Sitha in England: An Introduction', in Nottingham Medieval Studies , 27 (1993), 83-89.

 

Document 3

Nottingham Castle Museum, NCM 1932-27: Alabaster statue of St Zita (1450-1500)
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This carved figure shows St Zita holding a book and a rosary, with two keys and a purse hanging from her belt. She is usually shown holding keys: this attribute reminds us that she was a loyal and trusted domestic servant, charged with maintaining her family’s stores. Her posy of flowers is a reference to a miracle attributed to the saint: a loaf of left-over bread she had taken for the poor was changed into a bunch of flowers when her employer challenged her to show what was under her cloak.

This statue was once part of an altarpiece and, excluding the canopy, stands 43 cm high. It would originally have been brightly coloured. Traces of red paint and gilding can be seen, especially at the bottom and edges of her cloak.

Further reading:
• Francis W. Cheetham. Unearthed : Nottingham's medieval alabasters (Nottingham : Nottingham City Museums and Galleries, [2004]). King’s Meadow Campus East Midlands Collection Not 3.R14 UNE  

 

Document 4

MS 250: Images of the Virgin Mary from the Wollaton Antiphonal (first half of the 15th century, c.1430)  
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The most famous and venerated female saint, the Virgin Mary, mother of Christ, is depicted five times within the lavish decoration of this service book.

Shown here are:

  • An image of Christ’s nativity (birth), with Christ being handed to Mary by a servant girl, Joseph next to the bed, and an ox and ass (f. 34r)
  • The Annunciation: Mary being told of her miraculous pregnancy by the angel Gabriel (f. 331v)
  • Mary’s Assumption into Heaven (f. 369r)
  • Mary’s own nativity, showing her as a baby at her mother St Anne’s breast, with her father St Joachim standing next to the bed (f. 375v)
  • Mary in Heaven, between Christ with wounds and God the Father, with the communion of saints (f. 393r)

 

Document 5

WLC/LM/1, f. 6v: Extract from lection on the martyrdom of St Margaret, from a Breviary (late 12th century, Latin) 
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According to tradition, Margaret was offered marriage by the Roman governor Olybrius on condition that she renounced her Christian faith. When she refused, she was tortured and put to death.

Transcribed here are the words accompanying a plainchant anthem celebrating the life and martyrdom of St Margaret the Virgin. The anthem would have been sung on 20 July, her saint’s day. 

 

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