Book of Hours

Facsimile of a 15th-century Belgium manuscript

One of the best known genres of late medieval manuscripts is the Book of Hours. Assembled in the late 15th or early 16th century in Flanders, the luxurious example displayed here reflects in size and contents the book of hours’ function as a guide to lay devotion, in particular that of women. It begins with a liturgical calender noting major feast days and adorned with images of the zodiac and the seasons. An image of Christ (the Veronica) marks the transition to the devotional portion of the text, with lush full page illuminations marking further divisions between the devotional texts (prayers for the liturgical hours, the seven penitential prayers, office of the dead, etc.).

In addition to scenes of daily life and biblical history, this book of hours offers Carleton students in History 138 (The Making of Europe, 1000-1500) or History 234 (Medieval France) the opportunity to examine the “tools” of lay piety, in particular female devotion. Its extraordinarily small size bears tangible witness to contemporary expectations that this small book would be the woman’s constant companion. Students would be encouraged to explore the rich range of images and investigate the relationship between text and image, devotion and amusement.

These folia show the beginning of the Mass of the Blessed Virgin Mary along with the crucial complement to prayer and penitence, the Rosary.

William North
Director of Medieval and Renaissance Studies
Assistant Professor of History

Stundenbuch aus Brügge: Vaticanus Rossianus 94: aus der Biblioteca apostolica vaticana

Catholic Church. Book of hours (Ms. Biblioteca apostolica vaticana. Ross. 94). Zürich: Belser Verlag, 1996

Special Collections ND3363 .V36 1996