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Page 10 Commentary

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Image © Hildesheim, St Godehard

All twelve months of the year are depicted in roundels as Labours of the Month. Below them on the right is the sign of the Zodiac. All the calendrical numbers and letters are explained under Keeping Time, the selection of saints is discussed under Feast Days, and the various scribes under Scribes.

In August, a man holds a sheaf of corn, the harvest. Virgo is disproportionately large compared with the other Zodiac signs. She is emphasised by her purple frame. She has a halo, wings and holds a strange object. It looks like a fruitful branch but was probably intended to be a folded palm frond.
Heslop points out that this is a similar outline to the distaff which Eve carries from Paradise (p18), perhaps referring to the skilled needlework for which Christina was famous. (Heslop, 1988, 166). However, it looks more like a fruiting plant of some sort, a reference to the word play of Virgo/ Virga, Virgin and rod or branch, emphasising the prophesy of Isaiah 11:1 ‘ There shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots’.
In addition, the image relates to the adjacent rubrics: the vigil and the feast of the Assumption of the Virgin. In the Mont-Saint-Michel Sacramentary (c. 1050-1065, New York, Pierpont Morgan Library, M.641, f 142v) the Virgin is shown ascending to heaven in a mandorla, with a halo and holding the palm leaf. Touching her are the wings of the supporting angels. Later examples show the association between Zodiac Virgo and the Assumption. The calendar for the Hours of Henry VIII (c.1500, New York, Pierpont Morgan Library, H.8 f4v) shows Virgo with a palm frond almost adjacent to the haloed Virgin at the Assumption (pers. comm., C.P. Hourihane). The St Albans Virgo thus compresses concepts of the Zodiac, the Virgin Mary (her halo), the Assumption (palm leaf) and the supporting angels (wings). This promotion, from Zodiac to Mary, explains why she is larger than the other Zodiac signs.

On August 2, the added entry for St Alban is incorrectly spelt (Albini).
This page held a special significance as there are stitch holes at the top for holding a fabric curtain to protect it.

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