Books of Hours of the Duc de Berry
The Limbourg Brothers

A book of hours is a prayer book. The prayers are to be said at specific times (hours) and on specific days. They are one of the most common medieval manuscripts to be found. However few had elaboration to match the Belles Heures commissioned by Jean de France, Duc de Berry. None can match his next commission, the Tres Riches Heures.

The Limbourg brothers, Paul (b. 1386 or 7), Herman (b. 1385) and Jean (b. 1388) illuminatored the two Books of Hours for Jean of France, the Duc de Berry. They did some illuminations for a bible for Philip the Bold, Duke of Burgundy (brother of Jean of France and Charles V, king of France). On Philip's death, Jean contracted the brothers to work for him. They did the "Belles Heures" starting in 1405 and finishing late 1408 or early 1409 and started the "Tres Riches Heures" probably in 1411. It was incomplete on their death (probably plague) in 1416.

Hours of the Virgin

The Hours of the Virgin tell the nativity story. In the Belles Heures it is arranged as shown below. The arrangement is rather different in the Tres Riches Heures, but I have placed some coresponding pictures both versions.
Matins – 12:00 AM
Lauds – 3:00 AM
Visit with St. Elizabeth
Prime – 6:00 AM

Terce – 9:00 AM
Annunciation to the Shepards

Sext – 12:00 PM
Adoration of the Magi

None – 3:00 PM
Pesentation at the Temple

Vespers – 6:00 PM
Slaughter of the Innocents

Compline – 9:00 PM
Flight into Egypt

Mary visits Elizabeth
The Visitation
(Tres Riches Heures)
  Adoration of the Magi
Adoration of the Magi
(Belles Heures)
The Nativity
(Tres Riches Heures)
Annunciation to the Shepards
(Tres Riches Heures)
Adoration of the Magi
Adoration of the Magi
(Tres Riches Heures)

Each Saint's day has particular prayers for each hour. Some, as in the Hours of the Virgin above, have an illustration for each hour. Others, such as Saint George have a single picture as a heading. The selection of saints varied according to the patrons wishes and particular devotion. Only a few books, such as these, have any illustrations at all. In the Duc de Berry's instance, some sections may have been added simply as an excuse to have more pictures.
Adam and Eve
Garden of Eden
(Tres Riches Heures)
  St George
Saint George
(Belles Heures)

Very Rich Hours Calendar Pages

Accompanying each pictures is a listing of the saint's days for that month.


February March




April May June




July August September




October November December




  Zodiacal Body  

Zodiacal Influences on the Human Body


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