Credit: ©The Royal Society
    Image number: RS.21078

    September liturgical calendar

    Object type
    Archive reference number
    height (sheet): 194mm
    width (sheet): 1488mm
    height (compartment): 97mm
    width (compartment): 62mm
    Content object
    Liturgical calendar for September from a medeival almanac, marking important festivals in the Christian calendar, with a sideways portrait head of the saint against their feast day, along with an attribute identifying them. Ruled and illustrated in red, green, blue and black- brown inks.

    The liturgical calendar for September marks the following holy days:

    1 September, Feast of Saint Egidio ‘Egidii Abbis’ also known as Giles the Hermit. Illustrated by the saint with his hair shaven into the tonsure of an abbot, and the symbol of a crozier also representing his position as Abbot of a monastery in St-Giles- du-Gard.

    5 September, the end of the slaughter ‘Finurt caeidares’.

    8 September, The Nativity of the Blessed Virgin ‘Natiuiti De marie’. Commemorating the day of Mary’s birth. Illustrated by the crowned head of the Virgin Mary, Queen of Heaven, and a green fleur-de-lis representing the lily for her purity and virginity.

    14 September, Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross ‘Exaltaco De crucis’. Illustrated by a golden, mounted crucifix commemorating the dedication of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the site of Christ’s tomb in Jerusalem.

    17 September, Feast of Saint Lambert Bishop of Maastricht ‘Lambertii epi. a mr.’ [Episcopal and martyr]. Illustrated with a mitre a crozier of his office as bishop.

    21 September, Feast of Saint Matthew the Apostle and Evangelist ‘Mathei aptl a ewte’. Illustrated as a bearded man with a wing atop his head. Each of the four evangelists (authors of the Gospels) is represented by a one of four winged animals that collectively represent the four elements. Matthew’s symbol is a winged man.

    29 September, Michaelmas or Feast of Michael and All Angels ‘Michis archangli’. Illustrated by a clean-shaven head surmounted by a pair of wings. It used to be said that harvest had to be completed by Michaelmas, it marked the end of the productive season and the beginning of the new cycle of farming and was a ‘quarter day’ when much business was transacted and the changing of the seasons was marked.

    The preceding columns of data for each day are populated with the dominical letter (by which the day of the week could be identified for a given year, relative to one known day) and by numbers written in a cipher formed of a circle (10), bracket (5) and dot (1). Arabic number 30 in red at the top of the calendar indicates the number of days in the month.
    Object history
    Robert Moray FRS donated the manuscript to the Royal Society library in 1668 (JBO/3/104: Journal Book, vol. 3 p.232). The provenance of the manuscript, before it came into the hands of Moray, is unknown.

    The presence of the feast day ‘Translacio Edwardi Regis’ (13 October) entered on the calendar as a red letter day shows an importance being attached to Edward the Confessor great patron of Westminster Abbey where his relics were a popular site for pilgrimage, this may suggest a London origin. While the inclusion of ‘Translacio Mildride’ (13 July) honouring the Anglo-Saxon princess Mildred, suggests Kent. Mildred was Abbess of Minster-in-Thanet, where she was first buried and her relics were later moved to Canterbury. Four Archbishops of Canterbury also feature in the liturgical calendar, strengthening the connection with Kent as a possible place of origin. The inclusion of cultivation activities early in the annual calendar of labours (digging/planting in February), a later hay harvest (July rather than June) and viticulture (March and September) suggests a temperate southern English climate in support of one of these locations rather than a warmer Mediterranean location or a cooler northern one.

    The calendar has been dated to the late 14th century based on the textual content and analysis of the pigments used. Saint George’s feast (23 April) written into the calendar in brown-black ink demarcating it as a lesser feast, indicates the calendar was produced before the elevation of the feast to a red letter day after the battle of Agincourt in 1415. Whilst the presence of the feast of St. Anne, which was not promulgated until 1383 suggests this as the earliest likely date. The presence of the yellow pigment orpiment supports a date in the late 14th century as it was widely replaced by use of lead-tin Yellow around 1400.

    An example of a mid-quality almanac. The range of pigments used demonstrate it was produced economically but not with the cheapest available materials. No gold leaf is present and indigo dyes are used for blue rather than more expensive minerals, however vermilion red is employed over cheaper organic sources. The uniformity and selection of pigments (gallo-tannic black rather than carbon-based) suggests that there was a single creator, rather than a scribe and an illustrator as would be expected for a finer document. This is borne out by the fairly crude rendering of the illustrative material and mistakes or omissions in the layout of information, see for example figures missing feet where these would have extended below a ground line and numbers missing from zodiac headings.

    Conserved in 2021 with the support of the National Manuscripts Conservation Trust.

    Video demonstrating the format of the almanack and relationship of the calendars available here:

    See P Robinson, 'A 'very curious Almanack'; the gift of Sir Robert Moray FRS, 1688', Notes and Records, 2008 vol 62 pp 301-314.
    Related fellows
    Robert Moray (1608 - 1673, British) , Natural Philosopher
    Associated place
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