It is believed to have been produced in England in the late 15th century and consists of four parchment strips sewn end to end, measuring four metres when it is fully unrolled. It is illustrated with thirteen illuminations depicting Christ and various saints and their martyrdoms and also contains a two-column text with rubrics in English and prayers in Latin to the Five Holy Wounds of Christ and other related devotions.
The inscription at the top of the second membrane under the central image of Christ’s Passion, believed to have been written by Prince Henry some time prior to 1509 when he presented the roll to William Thomas a Gentleman of his Privy Chamber, reads: ‘Wylliam thomas I pray yow pray for me your lovyng master Prynce Henry’.
Henry’s royal badges consisting of the two Tudor roses, the Prince of Wales crowned ostrich feather as well as Katherine of Aragon’s emblem of a sheaf of arrows at the head of the roll are evidence that the roll was once owned and used by Prince Henry. The prayer roll provides fascinating and surprising insights into Henry’s traditional and conservative early religious practices that he would later destroy when he broke with Rome and established himself as head of the Church of England.
Images (British Library):
- The Archangel Michael and the Devil