anne brittany book of hours

madonna and child

The little office of the blessed Virgin Mary

Matins (The annunciation)

Lauds (The visitation)

Prime (The nativity)

Terce (The annunciation to the shepherds)

Sext (The adoration of the Magi)

Nones (The presentation in the temple)

Vespers (The massacre of the innocents)

Compline (The flight into Egypt)


The annunciation. Fra Angelico. 1430. Museo Diocesano, Cortona. The annunciation, artist unknown, Petites heures d'Anne de Bretagne (Little Book of Hours of Anne of Brittany), 1503. The annunciation, Limbourg Brothers, The Belles Heures of Jean of France, Duke of Berry*. Ink, tempera, and gold leaf on vellum; The Cloisters Collection. Metropolitan Museum of Art. ca. 1406-09. *Item, une belles Heures, tres bien et richement historiees (Item, a beautiful hours, very well and richly illuminated). In the Middle Ages books were usually displayed on ornate stands [detail above from The Belles Heures]. Since books were scarce and quite valuable it was not unusual for books to be chained to their stands as a measure against theft.. The annunciation. Jan van Eyck. 1434. National Gallery, Washington, DC.

Matins [Latin matutinus, of the morning] is the longest and most complex of the daily services. It is traditionally observed before sunrise and is the last of the four night watches [Compline, Vespers, Midnight Office].

And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.
And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be.
And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God.
 And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS.
Luke 1:28 - 32 [KJV]

The story of the annunciation describes the visitation of the angel Gabriel to the Virgin Mary. In this story, the angel is sent by God to Nazareth to give Mary the news of the impending virgin birth. The annunciation is a popular motif in Christian art and is associated with the office of Matins in The little office of the blessed Virgin Mary.