February Fill-Dyke » February page from the Belles Heures

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February page from the Belles Heures

As in the other calendar pages of the Belles Heures, the activity appropriate to the month appears within a quatrefoil frame at the top of each page, and the appropriate zodiacal sign within a corresponding frame at the bottom.

The text in gold at the top of the page records that February has twenty-eight solar days; blue ink is used to indicate that the month has thirty lunar days. The column of feasts proper to February is recorded below. Candlemas (here, Chandeleur) on February 2 is rendered in gold and the saints days are in alternating red and blue ink.

Both the Presentation in the Temple and the Purification of the Virgin were celebrated on February 2. The feast was popularly known as Candlemas because of the candlelit procession that came to be widely celebrated in the Western Church by the twelfth century, and the custom of blessing candles on that day, which then were imbued with apotropaic power:

Then comes the Day wherein the Virgin offred Christ unto
The Father chiefe, as Moyses law commaunded hir to do.
Then numbers great of Tapers large, both men and women beare
To Church, being halowed there with pomp, and dreadful words to heare.
This done, eche man his Candell lightes where chiefest seemeth hee,
Whose Taper greatest may be seene and fortunate to bee;
Whose Candell burneth cleare and bright, a wondrous force and might
Doth in these Candels lie, which if at any time they light,
They sure beleve that neyther storme or tempest dare abide,
Nor thunder in the skies be heard, nor any Devil’s spide,
Nor fearefull sprites that walke by night, nor hurts of frost or haile.

The Popish Kingdom or Reigne of AntiChrist written in Latin Verse by Thomas Naogeorgus and Englished by Barnaby Googe 1570, ed. Robert Charles Hope (London, 1880).

See the Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History to learn more about manuscript illumination in Northern Europe, or see special exhibitions for information about the exhibition “The Art of Illumination: The Limbourg Brothers and the Belles Heures of Jean de France, Duc de Berry” (on view at the Main Building March 2 through June 13, 2010).

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