French Renaissance Paleography


Orléans?,[1] ca. 1480
“Les xv joyes Nostre Dame.” In Book of Hours  
Chicago, Newberry Library, VAULT Case MS 41


Books of Hours, the most common type of late medieval illuminated manuscripts, assisted lay women and men in their private devotions. These books offer a shortened version of the Divine Office, the devotions performed by monks and nuns at the eight canonical hours each day. Books of Hours usually also contain a liturgical calendar showing the saints days celebrated throughout the year. Since the Virgin Mary was central to medieval spiritual devotion, the Hours of the Virgin, or Little Office of the Blessed Virgin, was the main text of Books of Hours. Often the “Joys of the Virgin” appears as well, a prayer commemorating anywhere from five to fifteen happy moments in Mary’s life, although seven “joys” is the most common. This prayer is usually the only part of the manuscript in French, apart from the calendar, since the main text of Books of Hours is in Latin. The Latin and French texts vary slightly according to the liturgy practiced in a particular region, known as its “use,” such as the Uses of Rome and Paris.

For a later example of Christian meditations, see Pensées (doctrines de la sainte foy chretienne)/manifest.

[1] Capital of the Loiret département and Centre region in France.


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