Free Library of Philadelphia


Opening with the Three Living and the Three Dead

This opening begins the Office of the Dead, which consisted of prayers to aid souls through Purgatory. The miniature is painted by a Bruges artist known as the Master of Edward IV for a manuscript he illuminated for the English king. The subject of the miniature, the Three Living and the Three Dead, is a reminder that death comes to all. Here, a young man, a middle-aged man, and an old man are confronted by three corpses. According to the popular legend, the corpses say to them: "We were once as you are now, and what we are, you soon will be." The scrolls inscribed "Memento mori" (Remember death) and the skulls in the grey borders underscore the moral of the story.

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Rare Book Department