The Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas is doing a three-part online series concerning the Book of Hours. Ten volumes of the manuscript reside in the center.
Pestilence, famine, war, and death: The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse were close companions to life in the 14th century. The Church was compromised by political corruption and worldliness, and the pope resided not in Rome, but at Avignon, where he remained a virtual pawn to the king of France. During this calamitous phase of European history, a devotional text called the Book of Hours emerged as a medieval bestseller.
This installment takes a look inside a Book of Hours and illustrates the some of the more common elements of these books with images drawn from the Ransom Center’s manuscript collections. Although their contents varied widely depending on the date and place of production, most Books of Hours possessed certain common elements. The most important and frequent of these elements are described here.
Coming in July, 2010.
*Above image: Vespers. Flight into Egypt. Mary cradles the Christ Child as Joseph leads the Holy Family to safety, and an idol falls in the background, HRC MS 6, fol. 53r. Leaf size 6.2 x 4 in.