Sweet Flowers of the Martyr Band


Holy Innocents ScanThe Holy Innocents were the children of Bethlehem, murdered at King Herod’s behest; in his attempt to destroy the infant Jesus, he ordered that all the male children in Bethlehem under three years of age be put to the sword.  The banner bears the first line from the hymn appointed in the Office for this Feast, “Hail thou martyr flowers,” and indeed tradition holds that the Innocents were the earliest martyrs (though the dignity of being the first Christian martyr goes to St. Stephen).  Scripture states that before Herod’s massacre, St. Joseph was warned to flee with his family to Egypt where, it is believed, all of the idols of that land shattered when the Holy Family entered therein.  The statutes of Isis and her son Horus are crumbling atop their pillars in the uppermost part of this panel.  (Many early images of the Madonna and Child are modeled after images of the infant Horus sitting in his mother’s lap.)


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