The Hours of the Virgin in Medieval Christian Life and Thought


Rachel Fulton Brown

Forthcoming, Columbia University Press, 2017


Would you like to learn to pray like a medieval Christian? This book is intended as a kind of handbook showing the way medieval Christians prayed to Mary, the Virgin Mother of God.

            Its subject-matter is the complex of psalms, chants, and other prayers known as the Hours of the Virgin with which Christians in medieval Europe served Mary, the Mother of the One whom they recognized as the Lord worshipped in the psalms of the Old Testament.

            Its purpose is to provide a history of this service, while at the same time suggesting what it would have been like for medieval Christians to imagine Mary in this way.

            It is intended to be useful to students of history, devotion, prayer, theology, liturgy, and exegesis who are interested in not only the structures of medieval religious thought but also its experience as an exercise of affect, intellect, and imagination.

            Its author writes as an historian and believing Christian, but she is not a theologian, although she would argue that in writing about the history of devotion to Mary it is impossible not to make certain theological claims, as even the claim that the Scriptures "say very little about Mary" with which most modern histories of devotion to Mary typically begin is itself grounded in particular confessional convictions.

            The book's manner or method of treating its subject is expected to be somewhat challenging, crossing as it does the boundaries that modern scholars typically place between observation and experience, between the Primary World of provable "facts" and the Secondary World of imagination or "fa‘rie." Accordingly, following an introduction to the history of the devotion of saying the Hours or "Little Office" of the Virgin in chapter 1, it then invites its readers in subsequent chapters to imagine themselves as medieval Christians saying this Office, including its invitatory (chapter 2), its antiphons and psalms (chapter 3), its lessons (chapter 4), and prayers (chapter 5).

            It is the author's hope that this exercise will prove intellectually stimulating as well as enjoyable, even if, as with all real adventures, it may feel dangerous at times.


Image: Mary of Burgundy sees herself and Mary in her Book of Hours (Vienna, …sterreichische Nationalbibliothek, Cod. 1857, fols. 14v-15r)




List of plates  000

List of figure and tables  000

Acknowledgements  000

Notes to the Reader  000

Approach to the Work  000


Invitatory  000

            How to Read this Book  000 

            The Virgin Clothed with the Sun  000


Chapter 1 The Hours of the Virgin  000

A Little History of the Office 000

"Seven times a day I have praised you" (Psalm 118:164)  000


Chapter 2  "Ave, Maria"  000

Saluting Mary: Ave  000

Saying the Ave  000                                                                                                                                                                                    

Learning the Ave  000

Naming Mary: Maria  000

Container of the Uncontainable  000

Full of Grace  000

Aves in the Psalms  000

"And the virgin's name was Mary" (Luke 1:27)  000


Chapter 3  Antiphon and Psalm  000

Mary in the Temple 000

The Lord and the Lady of the Temple  000

Miriam, the Mother of the Son of the Most High  000

Mary, the Theotokos, the Living Temple of God  000

Mary in the Psalms  000

The Night Office or Matins  000

First nocturn, on Sunday, Monday, and Thursday  000

Second nocturn, on Tuesday and Friday  000

Third nocturn, on Wednesday and Saturday  000

The Seven Hours of the Day  000

Lauds, sung at sunrise  000

Prime, sung at the first hour of the day  000

Terce, Sext, and None, sung at the third, sixth, and ninth hours  000

Vespers, sung at sunset  000

Compline, sung at bedtime  000


Chapter 4  Lesson and Response  000

Lectio prima. Ars grammatica. Richard of St.-Laurent and the Names of Mary in Scripture   000

Lectio ii. Ars rhetorica. Conrad of Saxony on What the Angel Said to Mary  000

Lectio iii. Ars dialectica. Pseudo-Albert's Questions About What Mary Knew  000


Chapter 5 Prayer   000

How to serve Mary   000

Reasons to serve Mary   000

Mary as intercessor  000

            The miracle of Theophilus  000

                        Mary as bride  000

                                    Beautiful from head to toe  000

Mary as temple  000

            The Lord enters into his Creation  000


Compline: Sor Mar’a de Jesśs de çgreda (d. 1665) and the Mystical City of God  000


Appendix: Handlist of Manuscripts and Printed Editions of Richard of St.-Laurent's De laudibus beatae Mariae virginis libri XII  000


Abbreviations  000

Bibliography  000

Hours of the Virgin: Printed Editions  000

Primary Sources  000

Scholarship  000


Index of Scriptural Citations  000

General Index  000

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