Medieval Calendars – Observing the Round of the Seasons

Observing the round of seasons, both natural and liturgical, is very much ingrained in Catholic tradition. In about 1020 a scribe at Canterbury Cathedral in England created an illuminated calendar known today as the Julius Work Calendar. The calendar has twelve pages, one for each month of the year. Remarkably, this calendar still exists today and is kept in the British Library. In Latin verse the high days and holy days are listed that the monks are to observe. For each month there is an ink drawing of some activity – sowing seed, harvesting, hunting – associated with that month.

In a book entitled The Year 1000: What Life Was Like At The Turn Of The First Millenium, authors Robert Lacey and Danny Danziger use the Julius Work Calendar as a framework to discuss the life of ordinary Anglo-Saxon people as they live through the months and seasons of the year. The deep religious spirit of these times and how it suffused daily life is very apparent. The J. Paul Getty Museum has produced a video that discusses several medieval calendars that are also richly illuminated.

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