A newly acquired fragment (Frag. I. 33) provides a representative specimen of a historiated calendar from a fifteenth-century book of hours from France. The leaf contains the feast days of saints and other liturgical celebrations for the month of May. The entries are written in French using a double-graded system which invokes a deluxe presentation with a utilitarian element. Feasts written in gold are celebrated at a higher grade (e.g. as a solemnity) than the others. Those written in red and blue inks are celebrated at the same level, and the colors alternate purely for aesthetic purposes.
The outer border is decorated with black and gold rinceaux and contains acanthus leaves and other floral motifs. A similar piece border sprays from the initials KL in the upper inner margin (for Kalends, Latin for the first day of a month—hence our term ‘Calendar’).
The labors for the month of May are those of the nobility: courtly love and falconry. The lower margin features a miniature (below) which depicts both activities. The two lovers on horseback are engaged in courtship while on the hunt. The man holds a green branch, a symbol of fertility. A white hunting dog follows the couple closely on the ground, and the man’s falcon is perched on his left hand.
Though a product of biblioclasty from a period unknown, Frag. I. 33 still retains aspects which provide clues to its place of origin and location of use. For example, the Translation of the relics of St. Ouen celebrated on May 5 points towards the diocese of Rouen, which is located in the region of Upper Normandy. St. Ouen—also known as Audoin, Audoenus, or Dado—became bishop of Rouen in 641, and died in the last decades of the seventh century. A Gothic church bearing his name (the Basilica of St. Ouen) still stands in the city of Rouen.
Bibliography: David T. Gura, A Descriptive Catalogue of the Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts of the University of Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s College. Forthcoming 2016.
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