Llanbeblig Book of Hours

Reference: NLW MS 17520A

Books of Hours were amongst the most popular texts of the Middle Ages in Western Europe. They were created in their tens of thousands and many survive in libraries and private collections across the world. Books of Hours enabled pious lay people to observe a private programme of regular daily devotion at home, following the Church's liturgy where the day was divided into eight sections or 'hours'. Prayers were specified for each of these hours, with a calendar noting feast days and celebrations. Many of the manuscripts were highly illuminated with images of the saints, the Virgin Mary, and Christ.

The manuscript

The manuscript probably dates from the period 1390-1400. Evidence to connect the manuscript with Caernarfon can be found in the Calendar, as the celebration of the dedication of the church of St. Peblig is noted. The original owner was possibly Isabella Godynogh (d. 1413) whose obituary has been inserted in the Calendar for April 23rd. The Llanbeblig Hours has a modern binding, although it is partly made up of an earlier 16th century binding. It is written on vellum and contains 138 folios measuring 175mm x 121mm. There are 15 lines to a page, and it is written in a neat liturgical script, although the Calendar is in a different and much smaller hand.

Contents

In addition to the 'Hours of the Virgin,' the Llanbeblig Hours contains a number of remarkable features, such as a very rare 'Lily Crucifixion' illumination and a number of entries of Welsh interest in the Calendar. Seven miniatures are listed below, which may be viewed separately from the main body of the manuscript.

f. 1vThe Annunciation : Gabriel kneeling on one knee
f. 2rThe Annunciation : The Virgin Mary enthroned under a green canopy. On the left is a large silver vase containing a tall lily, with a figure of the crucified Christ on the stalk and leaves.
f. 2vSt. Peter, holding a key and a book
f. 3rA king, possibly Magnus Maximus, holding a sceptre
f. 3vA bishop, possibly St. Peblig, blessing and wearing a mitre, and holding a crosier
f. 4rMadonna and Child
f. 4vGod, The Holy Spirit, and Christ Crucified

The 'Lily crucifixion'

The 'Lily Crucifixion' in the Llanbeblig Hours is unique in manuscripts, but occurs in a variety of other forms, including a ceiling at the church of St. Helen's in Abingdon, Oxfordshire (ca. 1390). The double-page layout used for the miniatures is also unusual. Here's an image of the 'Lily Crucifixion' .

The calendar

The calendar is in black and red and contains several Welsh entries St David (March 1st), the dedication of the church of St. Peblig (June 6th); St. Peblig (July 3rd) and St Deiniol of Bangor (September 11th) are all noted. The calendar follows the Sarum Use, which allows for the inclusion of local feasts.

Further Reading

  • Sir George Warner, Descriptive catalogue of illuminated manuscripts in the library of C. W. Dyson Perrins, (Oxford, 1920)
  • E. J. M. Duggan, 'Notes concerning the 'Lily Crucifixion' in the Llanbeblig Hours, National Library of Wales Journal, Vol xxvii, 1991-1992.

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