AUTHORITY, ART and AMAZEMENT: Jesus drives out a demon or unclean spirit, from the 15th-century Très Riches Heures (Very Rich Hours)


As we unfurl the pages of history and zoom past a century we encounter an age of type written and hand written documents called Manuscripts. Hidden among its fragrant fascinating pages are the greatest and the finest arts of the Middle Ages. This includes text supplemented with a variety of decorations such as initials, borders and illustrations. Embellished with ornate gold and silver, the scripts are referred to as Illuminated manuscripts.

©Photo. R.M.N. / R.-G. OjŽda


The greatest illuminated manuscripts were often liturgical in nature. The most popular of these is the Book of the Hours. It is an abbreviated form of the Breviary which includes the Divine Office as recited in the monasteries. The breviary was further developed into the Book of the Hours in order to adhere to the desires of the laity who wanted to incorporate the virtues of monasticism in their daily life.

Written in Latin, the Book contains a Calendar of the Church feasts, weekly cycles of psalms, prayers, hymns and readings. Grooms often presented these as a wedding gift to their brides. Regarded as a family legacy, it was then passed down through generations and mentioned in wills.


The greatest, famous and finest example of an illustrated Book of the Hours is the Tres Riches Heures du Duc de Berry. It was conceived between 1412 and 1416 for the extravagant royal library of its patron John, Duke of Berry by the Limbourg brothers (Herman, Paul and Jean). Although faint in the fog of history, the Limbourg brothers were the best miniature painters in 15th century France.

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