Initial R from Moralia in Job.

Essay by whitetalonHigh School, 12th grade April 2003

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It is often thought that it is St. George who is depicted in the Initial R from the Moralia in Job. St. George is known for being an early Christian Martyr, and also for the tale of his fight with the dragon. Serving Diocletian in the army, he complained, putting his position at risk, when Diocletian began the persecutions of the Christians. He publicly declared himself by tearing down Diocletian's edict against the Christians. The end result was his beheading near Lydda in 303. His actions were so powerful that Diocletian's wife, Alexandria, converted after Saint George's death, resulting in her own death. The fame of Saint George as a defender of Christianity was imposed on the Greek legendary story of the Virgin Andromeda and Perseus and retold as Saint George and the Dragon. The story is told as a dragon pillaged a pagan town in Libya, the people threw sheep at it to placate it.

The dragon still unsatisfied resulted in the town giving up citizens. Finally the princess was to be given to the beast, but Saint George came to the rescue, slaying the dragon and saving the girl. The entire town then converted to Christianity. The story quickly spread westwards and was thought to have been brought to Iona by Bishop Arculf in the 7th century.

Moralia in Job was written by Saint Gregory and monks created an illuminated copy. This page with the initial R, beginning the salutation Reverentissimo, is the first page of Gregory's letter to the Bishop Leandro of Seville. It was created just before Saint Bernard joined the monastery in 1112. Saint Bernard held a passionate opposition to figural art which led to a ban on elaborate paintings in manuscripts. Full-page illustrations were prohibited and initial letters had to be...