The Book of Hours

I have been working on a project somewhat related to the Medieval Book of Hours. Someday hopefully I will post it online.

It has turned out to be much larger than I thought, and I keep adding to it from time to time, but was examining some old Medieval texts yesterday and found a great site that I had stumbled across before.

The books are beautful themselves, and are meant for dedicated layman to do devotions in a similar, but less rigorous way that the monks did.

These Book of Hours usually had a calendar, 22 Psalms (7 ones of Repentance, and the 15 songs of Ascent – 22 …the same as the Hebrew alphabet), some Gospel lessons, and great illustrations.

They differ in exact material, since they were all custom made, but what if Christians kept time like they did today?

The day was divided into the following times according to medieval practice. And they celebrate the coming of Christ in his infancy, God coming from outside, into time with us and for us. There are two ways to think of time, in light of an Jesus’s infancy cycle and his passion cycle.

  • Infancy Cycle
    • Matins (Annunciation to Mary and Joseph) Midnight
    • Lauds (Visitation: Mary Visiting Elizabeth) Pre-Dawn
    • Prime: (Nativity: Jesus is born) Early Morning (Dawn)
    • Terce: (Announcement to the Shepherds) 3rd hour of Daylight
    • Sext: (Adoration of the Magi)  6th hour of Daylight
    • None: (Presentation: Jesus at the Temple) 9th hour of Daylight
    • Vespers: (Flight to Egypt) Sundown
    • Compline: (Massacre of the Innocents) Late Evening
  • Passion Cycle
    • Matins (Betrayal of Judas in Gethsemane) [Starts at Midnight]
    • Lauds (Christ in front of Pilate) [Starts at 3am]
    • Prime: (The scourging of Jesus) [Starts at 6am]
    • Terce: (Jesus carrying the cross) [Starts at 9am] 
    • Sext: (The crucifixion) [Starts at 12pm]
    • None: (The soldiers depose of his body) [Starts at 3pm]
    • Vespers: (Jesus goes to the tomb) [Starts at 6pm]
    • Compline: (The Resurrection) [Starts at 9pm]

An Old Poem in a Book of Hours (Note, this one counts seven hours…they skip terce.)

At matins bound, at Prime reviled
Condemned to death at Terce,
Nailed to the Cross at Sext.
At None His blessed Side they pierced,
They take Him down at Vesper-Tide,
In the grave at Compline lay,
Who henceforth bids His Church observe

To learn more, press advanced tutorial on the linked page.

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  1. Book of Diverse Devotion: Thread One, Reading One – Ryan's Scriptorium

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