minima maxima sunt

The Small things are the Great things; as in a grain of mustard seed.

Archive for the tag “illuminated manuscript”

September with fish and turtles

September ended up more on the whimsical side. Was partially inspired by a recent visit to St. Augustine, Florida. Some of the seaside local art helped me along with the theme for this month.img_0472img_0473


August Thistle and Rose

August was a re-visit to the Flemish art style. Flowers with shadows make the panel art seem to pop out of the page. My first try at this was in February with Oak leaves.

So the top picture is obviously a rose surrounded by gold foil, the side panel… Are doodle flowers and I’m not sure if they could be tied to an actual type of flower in existence.

On the second page is Thistle surrounded by gold and on the side panel are Geranium. These grew wild in Alaska and I had a few of these planted in my yard when I lived there. They came back every year.

July. Ivy and Peacock Feathers

For July I looked back on January. My first attempts in my book of hours were full of trial and error. I revisited what I envisioned and here is the result. I will probably continue to re-do the first part of the year in the second half to see where I grew.

Ivy with gold leaves and a few animals. I used watercolor pencils for the peacock feathers and took a quick lesson on you tube on how to make them. Overall very happy with July and seeing my progress.

First page had a huge blunder on one date where I put the Saint on the wrong day. Blotted out to cover and shows. Will start focusing on the illuminated letters going forward. I figure that once I complete the calendar and move into other parts of the hours I will allow more room for this and have some fun.

Second page had no big blunders. Mixing the gold leaves with a few greens, red berries, a bird and a snail.

My New Project

After years of enjoying illuminated manuscripts I have decided to make one of my own. Way out of my league of course, as my writing/calligraphy is terrible, never used gold foil before and,  well, to be honest just about everything is a hack on this. I decided to do a book of hours, so a little research to get things right and to also update information. I want it to be true to the history but with a little post modern thrown in. image

Using some traditional and some new types of media. Gouache, gel pens, ink of India and a calligraphy set, imitation gold foil, a blank journal with leather binding from Hobby Lobby. Calendar dates are from the General Roman Calendar online and some help from the annotated book of hours, also online. And of course reviewing pictures of several illuminated manuscript studies and facsimiles I have.


For my first month of January there was a lot of trial and error. I actually patched over a few sections to correct mistakes and cover failed attempts at the art. The adhesive for the gold foil I laced on a bit too heavy so it looks more embossed. I had a better time doing February which I will post soon with some information on the calendars in a book of hours.

Book of hours of Bénigne Serre, 1524

Several months ago I discovered a few places that will make replicas of Illuminated Manuscripts for a very reasonable price. Below is an example of my second purchase from one of these sites. These are printed pages and have no gold foil that you would find with a more expensive facsimile, but they are complete manuscripts, beautifully bound and covered by hand and they allow one to get a sense of reading, or just looking, at a book of hours.image

In the picture above I have the book cover shown. Decoration and a leather cover on it that will still need to rest as it was recently oiled. The pages, which you cannot see, were given gilded edges. The replica is of the Book of Hours of Bénigne Serre:

“A book of hours following the liturgical custom of Rome, with a calendar containing a selection of saints for Langres. The manuscript was illuminated and dated in 1524 by a Master of Bénigne Serre, who was known by the name of his client, a highly-ranked official of the King of Burgundy. The artist was a hitherto unknown illuminator from the circle of the “1520s The Hours Workshop,” which framed the miniatures with Renaissance architecture or added naturalistic flowers and animals to borders. This manuscript contains a number of unusual images, e.g., for the Lauds of the Office of the Virgin, the meeting of Joachim and Anna at the city gate of Jerusalem replaces the usual image of the Visitation. In the 18th century, the manuscript was owned by the family Bretagne of Dijon.” More information on this Book of Hours and contents.
Above is a text page from this manuscript. The writing is in Latin and all the pages in this book have excellent designs showing flowers, animals, people and places in the side bars. Below I have a few examples of some of the full page illustrations found in this book. These would normally indicate the beginning of a section of texts, prayers or psalms. The first is the adoration of the Magi from the “Hours of the Virgin”.  Joseph is in the door of the building behind, Mary and the Christ child in center and the Magi on the right.

This next picture shows a much darker scene as Death, riding a bull, slays a man. The text starts the Office of the Dead for Vespers. These are prayers for those in Purgatory.  The text follows from Psalm 116

“1 My heart is aflame, so graciously the Lord listens to my entreaty; 2 the Lord, who grants me audience when I invoke his name. 3 Death’s noose about me, caught in the snares of the grave, ever I found distress and grief at my side, 4 till I called upon the Lord, Save me, Lord, in my peril. 5 Merciful the Lord our God is, and just, and full of pity; 6 he cares for simple hearts, and to me, when I lay humbled, he brought deliverance. 7 Return, my soul, where thy peace lies; the Lord has dealt kindly with thee; 8 he has saved my life from peril, banished my tears, kept my feet from falling. 9 Mine to walk at ease, enjoying the Lord’s presence, in the land of the living.”


This last picture shows Mary as a young girl with St. Anne. This comes in the end of the book in what are called the “Suffrages”. These are prayers to Saints, or rather petitions to those saints to keep us in their prayers. The text in the picture translates: “A heavenly blessing entered into Anne, through whom the Virgin Mary was born for us.”
For more information on reproductions you can visit this website.
Golden Gryphon Productions



The month of July was originally called Quintillis, which denotes it as the 5th month. In the old roman calendar the year began with March. The first months were named after things like roman gods and such, but starting with Quintillis the months were numerically named. The re-naming to July was made by Augustus to honor Julius Ceasar.

In America, July celebrates the nations holiday of Independence on the 4th; however, July also sees independence days, for Belarus, Algeria, Argentina, the Bahamas, Columbia, Belgium, Maldives, Peru and Vanuatu.

Continuing with the theme of calendar pictures from the Très riches heures Duc de Berry, we see July in the middle ages. This month views the bastion of the Château du Clain in Poitiers rising behind peasants laboring in the heat of summer, shearing sheep and working the fields. Poitiers was a frequent residence of the Duc de Berry but the Château is no more.

The feasts on the General Roman Calendar celebrated during the month of July are:

1. Thirteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Sunday
3. Thomas the Apostle, Feast
4. Independence Day (USA), Opt. Mem.
5. Anthony Mary of Zaccaria; Elizabeth of Portugal, Opt. Mem.
6. Maria Goretti, Opt. Mem.
8. Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Sunday
9. Augustine Zhao Rong and companions, Opt. Mem.
11. Benedict, Memorial
13. Henry, Opt. Mem.
14. Bl. Kateri Tekakwitha (USA), Memorial
15. Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Sunday
16. Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Opt. Mem.
18. Camillus de Lellis (USA), Opt. Mem.
20. Apollinaris, Opt. Mem.
21. Lawrence of Brindisi, Opt. Mem.
22. Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Sunday
23. Bridget, Opt. Mem.
24. Sharbel (Charbel) Makhloof, Opt. Mem.
25. James, Feast
26. Joachim and Anne, Memorial
29. Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Sunday
30. Peter Chrysologus, Opt. Mem.
31. Ignatius of Loyola, Memorial


From the Gospel according to John-chapters 18-19,

and images from the Petites Houres of John of Berry-14th century Book of Hours:

hen Jesus had said these things, he went forth with his disciples over the brook Cedron, where there was a garden, into which he entered with his disciples.  And Judas also, who betrayed him, knew the place: because Jesus had often resorted thither together with his disciples.  Judas therefore having received a band of soldiers and servants from the chief priests and the Pharisees, comes thither with lanterns and torches and weapons.  Jesus therefore, knowing all things that should come upon him, went forth and said to them: Whom do you seek?

Arrest in the Garden

They answered him: Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus says to them: I am he. And Judas also, who betrayed him, stood with them.  As soon therefore as he had said to them: I am he; they went backward and fell to the ground.  Again therefore he asked them: Whom do you seek? And they said: Jesus of Nazareth.  Jesus answered: I have told you that I am he. If therefore you seek me, let these go their way,  that the word might be fulfilled which he said: Of them whom you have given me, I have not lost any one.  Then Simon Peter, having a sword, drew it and struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his right ear. And the name of you servant was Malchus.  Jesus therefore said to Peter: Put up your sword into the scabbard. The chalice which my father has given me, shall I not drink it?  Then the band and the tribune and the servants of the Jews took Jesus and bound him.

Before Caiphas

And they led him away to Annas first, for he was father-in-law to Caiphas, who was the high priest of that year.  Now Caiphas was he who had given the counsel to the Jews: That it was expedient that one man should die for the people.

And Simon Peter followed Jesus: and so did another disciple. And that disciple was known to the high priest and went in with Jesus into the court of the high priest.  But Peter stood at the door without. The other disciple therefore, who was known to the high priest, went out and spoke to the portress and brought in Peter.  The maid therefore that was portress says to Peter: Are you not also one of this man’s disciple? He says I am not.  Now the servants and ministers stood at a fire of coals, because it was cold, and warmed themselves. And with them was Peter also, standing and warming himself.

The high priest therefore asked Jesus of his disciples and of his doctrine.  Jesus answered him: I have spoken openly to the world. I have always taught in the synagogue and in the temple, whither all the Jews resort: and in secret I have spoken nothing. Why do you ask me? Ask them who have heard what I have spoken unto them. Behold they know what things I have said.  And when he had said these things, one of the servants standing by gave Jesus a blow, saying: Do you answer the high priest so?  Jesus answered him: If I have spoken evil, give testimony of the evil; but if well, why do you strike me?  And Annas sent him bound to Caiphas the high priest.


And Simon Peter was standing and warming himself. They said therefore to him: Are you not also one of his disciples? He denied it and said: I am not.  One of the servants of the high priest (a kinsman to him whose ear Peter cut off) said to him: Did not I see you in the garden with him?  Again therefore Peter denied: and immediately the cock crew.

Then they led Jesus from Caiphas to the governor’s hall. And it was morning: and they went not into the hall, that they might not be defiled, but that they might eat the pasch.  Pilate therefore went out to them, and said: What accusation bring you against this man?  They answered and said to him: If he were not a malefactor, we would not have delivered him up to you.  Pilate therefore said to them: Take him you, and judge him according to your law. The Jews therefore said to him: It is not lawful for us to put any man to death.  That the word of Jesus might be fulfilled, which he said, signifying what death he should die.  Pilate therefore went into the hall again and called Jesus and said to him: Are you the king of the Jews?  Jesus answered: Do you say this thing of yourself, or have others told it you of me?  Pilate answered: Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered you up to me. What have you done?  Jesus answered: My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would certainly strive that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now my kingdom is not from hence.  Pilate therefore said to him: Are you a king then? Jesus answered: You say that I am a king. For this was I born, and for this came I into the world; that I should give testimony to the truth. Every one that is of the truth hears my voice.  Pilate said to him: What is truth? And when he said this, he went out again to the Jews and says to them: I find no cause in him.  But you have a custom that I should release one unto you at the Pasch. Will you, therefore, that I release unto you the king of the Jews?  Then cried they all again, saying: Not this man, but Barabbas. Now Barabbas was a robber.


hen therefore Pilate took Jesus and scourged him.  And the soldiers platting a crown of thorns, put it upon his head: and they put on him a purple garment.  And they came to him and said: Hail, king of the Jews. And they gave him blows.  Pilate therefore went forth again and says to them: Behold, I bring him forth unto you, that you may know that I find no cause in him.  (Jesus therefore came forth, bearing the crown of thorns and the purple garment.) And he says to them: Behold the Man.  When the chief priests, therefore, and the servants had seen him, they cried out, saying: Crucify him, Crucify him. Pilate says to them: Take him you, and crucify him: for I find no cause in him.

The Jews answered him: We have a law; and according to the law he ought to die, because he made himself the Son of God.  When Pilate therefore had heard this saying, he feared the more.  And he entered into the hall again; and he said to Jesus: Whence are you? But Jesus gave him no answer.  Pilate therefore said to him: Do you not speak to me? Do you not know that I have power to crucify you, and I have power to release you?  Jesus answered: You should not have any power against me, unless it were given you from above. Therefore, he that has delivered me to you has the greater sin.  And from henceforth Pilate sought to release him. But the Jews cried out, saying: If you release this man, you are not Caesar’s friend. For whosoever makes himself a king speaks against Caesar.

Now when Pilate had heard these words, he brought Jesus forth and sat down in the judgment seat, in the place that is called Lithostrotos, and in Hebrew Gabbatha.  And it was the parasceve of the pasch, about the sixth hour: and he says to the Jews: Behold your king.  But they cried out: Away with him: Away with him: Crucify him. Pilate says to them: shall I crucify your king? The chief priests answered: We have no king but Caesar.  Then therefore he delivered him to them to be crucified. And they took Jesus and led him forth.

Jesus Carries the Cross

And bearing his own cross, he went forth to the place which is called Calvary, but in Hebrew Golgotha.  Where they crucified him, and with him two others, one on each side, and Jesus in the midst.  And Pilate wrote a title also: and he put it upon the cross. And the writing was: JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS.  This title therefore many of the Jews did read: because the place where Jesus was crucified was near to the city. And it was written in Hebrew, in Greek, and in Latin.  Then the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate: Write not: The King of the Jews. But that he said: I am the King of the Jews.  Pilate answered: What I have written, I have written.  The soldiers therefore, when they had crucified him, took his garments, (and they made four parts, to every soldier a part) and also his coat. Now the coat was without seam, woven from the top throughout.  They said then one to another: Let us not cut it but let us cast lots for it, whose it shall be; that the scripture might be fulfilled, saying: They have parted my garments among them, and upon my vesture they have cast lots. And the soldiers indeed did these things.

The Crucifixion

Now there stood by the cross of Jesus, his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalen.  When Jesus therefore had seen his mother and the disciple standing whom he loved, he says to his mother: Woman, behold your son.  After that, he says to the disciple: Behold your mother. And from that hour, the disciple took her to his own.  Afterwards, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the scripture might be fulfilled, said: I thirst.  Now there was a vessel set there, full of vinegar. And they, putting a sponge full of vinegar about hyssop, put it to his mouth.  Jesus therefore, when he had taken the vinegar, said: It is consummated. And bowing his head, he gave up the ghost.

Jesus taken down from the Cross

Then the Jews (because it was the parasceve), that the bodies might not remain upon the cross on the sabbath day (for that was a great sabbath day), besought Pilate that their legs might be broken: and that they might be taken away.  The soldiers therefore came: and they broke the legs of the first, and of the other that was crucified with him.  But after they had come to Jesus, when they saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs.  But one of the soldiers with a spear opened his side: and immediately there came out blood and water.  And he that saw it has given testimony: and his testimony is true. And he knows that he says true: that you also may believe.  For these things were done that the scripture might be fulfilled: You shall not break a bone of him.  And again another scripture says: They shall look on him whom they pierced.

And after these things, Joseph of Arimathea (because he was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews), besought Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus. And Pilate gave leave. He came therefore and took away the body of Jesus.  And Nicodemus also came (he who at the first came to Jesus by night), bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about an hundred pound weight.  They took therefore the body of Jesus and bound it in linen cloths, with the spices, as the manner of the Jews is to bury.  Now there was in the place where he was crucified a garden: and in the garden a new sepulchre, wherein no man yet had been laid.  There, therefore, because of the parasceve of the Jews, they laid Jesus: because the sepulchre was near at hand.

Jesus placed in the Tomb

Chi Rho

Chi Rho in Lullingstone, Kent.

The Chi Rho, or Chi Rho Iota, is an ancient symbol for Christ and is found throughout church history in a variety of ways. The earliest use appears to be in the catacombs, along with several other symbols such as the ichthus (fish) and the anchor. The Chi Rho is formed by using the first two letters for Christ in the Greek language ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ, which phonetically would sound like KRISTOS. Often an alpha and omega will appear, as in the picture above from Lullingstone villa (4th century).

The symbol is also called a Labarum by the Romans and is the symbol that legend says the Emporer Constantine saw in a dream in the year 312, which would lead him to victory. The Labarum is a military standard and can be found on roman shields and on poles that would hold banners or flags.

ChiRho page from the Book of Kells

Both of the above used the Chi Rho as a monogram, affixing the letters in the same space to form a single symbol, and while this style of the symbol is still in use today it isn’t the only way in which the XP (Chi Rho symbol) was depicted.  In the famous Lindisfarne Gospels and the Book of Kells, the xp is found as well.

The Book of Kells dates to the 9th century Ireland. It is also known as the Book of Columba, who was a monk in the 6th century that taught the Gospel in Ireland and Scotland. The Lindisfarne Gospels dates to the 8th century England and are attributed to a monk named Eadfrith who was bishop of Lindisfarne. Both are famous illuminated manuscripts and  examples of how Sacred Scripture was preserved through the early middle ages.

The book of Kells as well as Lindisfarne are an Evangeliary, or Gospel Book. This is the book where the gospel is read from at mass. It’s cover has the four evangelical symbols for Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, and is usually made of gold, though both books lost their covers during Viking raids, taking the gold and leaving the real treasure. Both were written in Latin, which was the language of the people, and there is a translation of the Lindisfarne that has Old English which comes from the 10th century.

As can be seen on the ChiRho pages in both examples, the Book of Kells above and the Lindisfarne Gospels below, there is an entire page dedicated to the ChiRho, XP as well as the I (Iota), and are not found to be in the monogram style. They both are placed right at the beginning of Matthew 1:18 where in the genealogy listed, Christ enters and (the word is made flesh). In the Book of Kells the ChiRho page reads: XPI autem generatio.. which would translate as “Now the generation of Christ was in this wise…” and continues, “When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost.”

ChiRho page from the Lindisfarne Gospels

If you get a chance, find a detailed pic of both of these and look at the amazing detail, the figures of people, animals, and the beautiful celtic style knots.

Book of Hours

There was a tv series several years ago called Millennium that I followed. It was an offshoot from the X-Files….sort of. Sadly it only ran three seasons and then ended. It was in an episode from this series that I first heard about a Book of Hours.

A Book of Hours is a book of devotions from the middle ages. In those times books were hard to come by. Materials for writing and producing, along with the skills needed to create a book, were very selective. Until the invention of the printing press, all books, manuscripts, scrolls and text messages were written by hand and ink and was nothing short of art; a blending of calligraphy and iconography. Many of these books use illumination and some examples are brilliantly decorated and gilded, however the majority limited their decoration to capital letters at the beginning of psalms or prayers.

The Book of Hours developed as a devotional for the layperson, but followed in the footsteps of a few other books used by the religious in the church. The Psalter, which contained the psalms, and the Breviary, which contained the Divine Office read in monasteries. Basically this is a collection of psalms and prayers. The Book of Hours was a way for many to experience the contemplative life without the monastery.


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