Medieval hagiographies did more than simply narrate the lives and deaths of the saints, with their extraordinary miracles and often gruesome martyrdoms. These texts also connected individual saints with the feast days of the Church, helping to make them an integral part of the liturgical year. Some hagiographic collections, such as James of Voragine’s Golden Legend, were compiled for use in writing homilies. Sometimes, saints’ lives also found their way into manuscript miscellanies alongside popular romances.
Takamiya MS 45, a fragment from the “Life of St. Sylvester,” comes from the Gilte Legende, a Middle English translation of the Golden Legend (an immensely popular collection of saints’ lives which survives in at least a thousand manuscripts). According to legend, Sylvester successfully converted the Emperor Constantine, who had been stricken with leprosy. When Sylvester anointed him with the baptismal waters, he was immediately cured.
Takamiya MS 130 is a portion of the “Life of St. Adrian” derived from the Vitae sanctorum. Adrian, a Christian, lived in Nicomedia (in modern-day Turkey). When his secret faith was discovered, he was forced to choose between paying homage to the pagan gods and being executed; he chose the latter. Aside from Adrian himself, the most important figure in this saint’s life is his wife Natalia, who encouraged him to remain a faithful Christian even at the cost of his life.