Communion of St. Denis in an Initial “C”
France, Paris, c. 1500
This unusually large initial “C” comes from a Choir Book and illustrates the opening of a chant to Saint Denis, the patron saint of France, especially Paris. It draws on the story of Sts. Denis, Rusticus, and Eleutherius, depicted with him and standing behind him wearing halos. Denis (or Dionysius) was sent as a missionary to Gaul c. 250 A.D. by Pope Clement. He is known as the first bishop of Paris and the Apostle of France. Acting as a missionary in Paris, he was captured and imprisoned, along with his two companions. The present scene from the legend shows his Last Communion, administered by Christ himself, aided by two angels standing alongside him. Although St. Denis would commonly occur among the saints in the Sanctoral of a Choir Book, it is unusual to dedicate a large miniature to him. It is possible that the present miniature thus comes from a set of royal Choir Books made for Louis XII and Anne of Brittany, of which miniatures, cuttings, and (one) leaf are widely dispersed in libraries and museums throughout the world.