Advent and After: 6. St Nicholas

Saint Nicholas, the 4th century Greek Bishop of Myra is celebrated on December 6th, (his name is picked out in blue in the calendar of this 15th century French Book of Hours, shown in the post for December 1).

In a later section of this manuscript, the suffrages or memorials of the saints, St Nicholas is shown with the three pickled boys from the traditional story associated with his name, and dressed in his bishop’s robes and mitre, holding his episcopal staff. St Nicholas is also associated with the tradition of secret gift-giving, and is therefore the model for the figure of Santa Claus.

The suffrage is a prayer of intercession to the saint, with an antiphon, a versicle and a response, arranged according to a hierarchy beginning with the Trinity and ending with female saints.

St Nicholas depicted in a medieval Book of Hours
St Nicholas depicted in a medieval Book of Hours, LUL MS.F.2.8

The saints included in this section of a Book of Hours will  depend upon the regional and personal preferences of the person who  commissioned the manuscript. In this manuscript, St Nicholas is followed by  Saint Anne, teaching the infant Virgin Mary to read, Mary Magdalene, Saint  Katherine and Saint Barbara.