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 March has thirty-one solar days; blue ink is used to indicate that the month has thirty lunar days. The column of feasts proper to March is recorded below. The saints days are listed in alternating red and blue ink on this page and its verso, among them St. Gertrude of Nivelles, invoked against field mice and other rodents, and Saint Benedict of Nursia, whose Rule, with its maxim ora et labora (“pray and work”) is the foundation of Western monasticism. A minimum of five hours of physical labor a day was required of members of the Benedictine Order, and agricultural work was an important part of this discipline. The feasts of St. Gregory the Great and of the Annunciation are rendered in gold.
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).