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December, in an Anglo-Saxon Calendar for a Prayerbook

December, in an Anglo-Saxon Calendar for a Prayerbook

Medium: Ink and pigments on vellum

Date: 1030

Shelfmark: Cotton MS Nero A II

Item number: f.8v

Length: 15.7

Width: 10.5

Scale: Centimetres

Genre: Illuminated manuscript

Prayerbooks generally had calendars to help the user organise his or her prayers, like a modern diary. Each month would be set out, according to the Roman system of kalends (abbreviated 'Kl' at the top of the page), nones and ides, and would show the feast days, saints' days, and usually the zodiacal signs. The most important days were written in red ('red-letter days'). A prayerbook's calendar would often be custom-made, listing saints important to a particular person, church or region, a helpful feature in determining for whom or for what place a prayerbook was made. No one knows for certain where the calendar was made, but educated guesses include Leominster and Nunnaminster, Winchester. The page for December has only two red letter days: when the sun moves into Capricorn and the winter solstice. The vigil of the nativity (Christmas Eve) and Nativity (Christmas Day) are noted, and the latter is marked with a cross to the right, as are the feasts of Stephen and John the Evangelist. At the bottom of the page, another saint's name was added later.

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