Published online by Cambridge University Press: 17 July 2018
The English monk, historian and artist Matthew Paris composed and illustrated his Vie de Seint Auban (Dublin, Trinity College, MS 177) between 1230 and 1250. On folios 29v–50r, thirty tinted outline drawings with a colour wash in Matthew's own hand accompany his Anglo-Norman French verse account of the conversion and martyrdom of St Alban. A supposed fourthcentury Romano-British patrician, Alban was the patron saint of Matthew's Benedictine abbey in Hertfordshire.
Preceded by two unillustrated Latin vitae of St Alban, Matthew's Vie is followed by a further series of Latin texts. These consist of liturgical lessons for the feast of the invention and translation of St Alban's relics; a treatise on the invention and translation of St Alban's relics; copies of a series of spurious foundation charters purportedly issued to St Albans abbey by King Offa of Mercia and his son; and a series of treatises primarily concerned with the invention and miracles of the relics of Amphibalus, the Welsh missionary responsible for Alban's conversion. Matthew enlivened these texts with another twenty-four images, placed in the upper section of each folio and unfolding in the manner of a strip cartoon. All are accompanied by Anglo- Norman verse rubrics at the head of each page.
These later illustrations depict the journey to Britain made by the sixthcentury bishops St Lupus of Troye and St Germanus of Auxerre. The bishops are shown holding a council at Verulamium (the Roman town from which medieval and modern St Albans evolved), as part of their fight against the Pelagian heresy, and declaring their great respect and honour for Alban (fols. 51r–55r). This section includes a pictorial interpolation from the life of St Genevieve (fols. 52r–52v). In keeping with the textual contents below, it is followed by a visual account of the invention of Alban's relics, and the foundation and patronage of the abbey by King Offa of Mercia in the eighth century (fols. 55v–63r). Across the manuscript, the illustrations thus range from the era of apostolic and missionary early Christianity to an imagined ‘golden age’ of Anglo-Saxon Christian kingship.