Making Hay » June page from the Belles Heures

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June page from the <em>Belles Heures</em>

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 the recto page and the appropriate zodiacal sign within a corresponding frame at the bottom.

The text in gold at the top records that June has thirty solar days; blue ink is used to indicate that the month has twenty-nine lunar days. The feasts proper to June are recorded in the column below and continued on the verso of the folio. The saints’ days are listed in alternating red and blue ink, among them Saint Nicomedes of Rome, an early Christian martyr, on June 1. Also listed is the feast of Saint Boniface, the eighth-century apostle to the Germans who famously took an ax to an oak tree sacred to Thor while proselytizing in Frisia, inviting the god to strike him down for doing so. A great wind arose and toppled the tree, and the witnesses were converted to Christianity. The feast of Saint Barnabas on the eleventh of the month is rendered in burnished gold, as are the feasts of Saint John the Baptist on June 24, Saint Eloy on June 25, and Saints Peter and Paul on June 29, on the verso. The vigil of the feast of Saint John on the 23rd of June, Midsummer’s Eve, was a major folk festival in medieval Europe, and will be the subject of a post of its own to be published later in the month.

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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