Gaining Grain » July page from the Belles Heures

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July 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 July has thirty-one solar days; blue ink is used to indicate that the month has twenty-nine lunar days. The feasts proper to July 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 Martin of Tours, a patron saint of France and of soldiers, who was greatly venerated in the Middle Ages. July 4 is the combined feast of Martin’s ordination as bishop, the translation of his body, and the dedication of his basilica in Tours, although his principal feast is celebrated on November 11 (The Oxford Companion to the Year). Martin’s shrine at Tours was an important site on the great pilgrim route to Santiago de Compostela, the shrine of Saint James the Greater, whose feast was celebrated on the 25th of July.

The octave of the feast of Saints Peter and Paul on July 6 is rendered in burnished gold, as are the feasts of Saint Margaret of Antioch on July 20, Mary Magdalene on July 22, Saint James the Greater and Saint Christopher on July 25, and Saint Anne on July 28.

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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