most popular devotional book of the late Middle Ages. It was modelled on
the monastic Office of the Virgin, a body of psalms, prayers and other
texts to be read in honour of the Virgin Mary.
Office was divided into eight parts, to be read during the eight canonical
hours of the monastic day: Matins around 2.30 am, Lauds between 3 and 5
am, Prime at 6 am, Terce at 9 am, Sext at noon, None at 3 in the afternoon,
Vespers at sunset and Compline in the late evening. In the busy secular
world outside the monastery, however, it was very difficult to find the
time to recite the entire Office. A shorter version was developed, called
the Little Office, or more commonly the Hours of the Virgin.
Hours of the Virgin formed the heart of, and provided the name for, the
Book of Hours. In addition to the Little Office, most books of hours contain
a Calendar, designating the important feast days, extracts from the Gospels,
a Litany of prayers to the Saints and, finally, the Office of the Dead.
Other texts could be added; the decision about which texts to include would
probably be made by the patron, perhaps in consultation with her chaplain.
Inglis, Commentary to The Hours of Mary of Burgundy.
facsimile. London : Harvey Miller, c1995)
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