1 December 2017

Advent Calendar: 1st of December

Manuscript Advent Calendar

We begin with AM 249 a fol, a calendar produced in England sometime around 1300.

Click on the picture to see a larger version.

Calendars played an important role in medieval devotion, recording the basic structure of the liturgical year. They were often included in manuscripts containing missals, breviaries, books of hours, and psalters. 

Most of the medieval calendars give dates according to Roman method of reckoning time, it means that each month has three fixed points: kalends, usually abbreviated with letters KL, nones, abbreviated with N or Nos and ides, abbreviated with Id. Kalends refers to the first day of the month, nones to the 5th day of the month in January, February, April, June, August, September, November, and December, but to the 7th day of the month in March, May, July and October. The ides refer to the 8th day after the nones, so the 13th for the months in which nones fell on the 5th, and the 15th in the months in which nones fell on the 7th. The last term is widely known thanks to the famous Ides Martiae (Ides of March), the date of Julius Cesar's assassination, which refers to the 15th of March. The date is calculated backwards from one of these three fixed points, meaning that the 25th of December is VIII Kalendas Ianuarias, that is eight days before the first of January.

Images accompanying the medieval calendars often depict the labours of the months. In AM 249 a fol. there is a small image depicting typical activities associated with each month by the decorated "KL," for kalends. In december we see a man getting ready to slaughter an ox. If you like to see the miniatures for the other months, you can leaf through the manuscript on handrit.org

The calendar lists list of saints’ feast days and other religious holidays which occur during that month. Some of the days listed are still holidays such as Christmas Day (Nativitas domini) and Boxing Day/St Stephen's Day (sancti Stephan prothomartyris), while others are ono longer marked like the feast of St Lucy on the 13th of December (or ides Decembris) or are days of local importance. One such day, the 29th of December for St. Thomas of Canterbury has been erased from the calendar in compliance with a proclamation issued by King Henry VIII in 1538.