Publication Date



Medieval Thought and Practice, Modern Art, Spirituality and Society, Social Issues of the 21st Century, Catherine of Cleves, Book of Hours


This ‘Book of Hours’ project begins on the Monday hours of the Dead all the way to the Sunday Hours of the Trinity and is inspired almost entirely by the 1440 Book of Hours of the Dutchess Catherine of Cleeves. This project is the sum product of a semester’s worth of instruction from my Medieval Religious Thought and Practice class taught by Professor Anna Harrison. The main purpose of this art installment is to show that even though they originate from a society highly unlike ours today, facing issues that medieval people couldn’t even begin to imagine, they can be still be used to give a brand new perspective on how to tackle problems plaguing 21st century society, such as war and mental health. In the original illuminated manuscript pieced together by the Master Catherine of Cleves, and contained elaborate depictions of biblical imagery intertwined with the offices, prayers, and litanies relevant to each hour of each day. Catherine of Cleves’ Book of Hours is often regarded as a masterpiece of Northern European illumination and religious artwork and is one of the best preserved artistic expressions of its time. This modern book of hours does not specifically cite prayers or litanies so as to make it more accessible to the multicultural and increasingly secular society of today. The emphasis lies purely on the emotion invoked by each drawing. While the old book of hours sought to visualize important messages and prayers, this modern book seeks to use art to express those same teachings but in a way that intersects faith and spirituality with current culture and politics. The grand social statement of these drawings make this book stand out from traditional books of hours. The book of hours is split up into seven drawings, one for each day of the week, and paragraphs will follow each drawing thoroughly explaining the message and subtext of each drawing. Through this lens, this project hopes to reveal how traditional christian teachings can be applied to both an increasingly secular society and among non-christians. The drawings adhere to reality by depicting current social issues however they are also given a dose of surrealism to depict the often surreal feelings or punishments that were commonly taught and dispersed in medieval literature. Though some are more complex in style than others, the natural gravitation is toward simplicity so as to allow for even inexperienced art audiences to clearly understand the emotion and message that the drawings wish to convey. While it may seem like this book of hours and Duchess Catherine’s book may have nothing in common, the thread that ties them together is that both of them are statements of their time. Both these books seek to immortalize the messages of their time and depict the world as it is seen in each respective culture and society. Though each experience is vastly different, it is a testament to how flexible religious teachings can be in serving the needs of the world no matter what kind of world it may be.