Authored by Cynthia Turner Camp from data compiled by Hargrett Hours 1.0, Team Suffrages and Team Calendar; and Hargrett Hours 4.0, Team Suffrages and Team Calendar.


If the Virgin Mary and the Hours of the Virgin are the stars of most Books of Hours, saints play a significant supporting role. Every Book of Hours will open with a calendar — a list of important saints’ feasts and other holy days, organized by month — and most also include a sequence of prayers to saints known as suffrages. Saints can appear elsewhere in Books of Hours as well, cameoing in auxiliary prayers and appearing in miniatures. While both calendars and suffrage sequences will include saints of universal importance, they often also include local saints and/or rare saints, which can be used to localize the manuscript and occasionally provide insight into the owner’s spiritual interests.

In the Hargrett Hours, saints appear in the two standard locations, the calendar and the suffrage sequence. The calendar is complicated and highly atypical for Parisian Books of Hours. The saints it includes are standard for a Book of Hours made in Paris with ties to Notre Dame Cathedral. Of more interest are the non-saint feasts present, which associate the book (confusingly and idiosyncratically) with both Notre Dame and the royal chapel of Sainte-Chapelle. The calendar also includes written liturgical grading — directions for how elaborate the day’s church services would be — which is nearly unprecedented in our classroom experience of Parisian Books of Hours.

The Hargrett Hours contains an extensive collection of suffrages to saints. A suffrage is a four-part invocation of a saint’s aid. It typically opens with an antiphon and ends with a prayer, known as an oratio; these two longer sections are connected by a versicle and response. This structure is sometimes abbreviated AVRO. In more extensively decorated Books of Hours, the suffrage will be introduced by a miniature depicting the saint and their attribute. Most Books of Hours include about a dozen suffrages, often to popular saints like John the Evangelist, John the Baptist, Nicholas, Christopher, and Katherine. Beyond these ubiquitous figures, Books of Hours may also include suffrages to saints whom the book’s original owner held in special esteem. The suffrage section is therefore one of the more personalizable parts of a Book of Hours.

Forty-two suffrages to thirty-seven saints and holy figures end the Hargrett Hours in its incomplete state. While popular saints like John the Baptist and James appear, the collection is noteworthy for several novel categories of saints. First, it includes many biblical figures. All of the twelve disciples appear, including rare figures like Mathias. It also includes suffrages for important biblical women: not only Mary Magdalene (who is frequently present in suffrage collections), but also Anne, the mother of Mary, and a group suffrage for Mary Jacobus and Mary Salome, the Virgin Mary’s two half-sisters. Also present are saints of distinctively Parisian interest, confirming the manuscript’s provenance: Saint Germain of Paris; Saint Genevieve, the patron of Paris; and Saint Fiacre, an Irish saint whose relics were housed in the  Île de la Cité. Finally, Mary of Egypt, reformed prostitute and an eremetic “desert mother,” also appears alongside Mary Magdalene, another reformed prostitute and close companion of Christ.