Russian (Kholuj, near Vladimir)
Annual Religious Calendar
mid-late nineteenth century
tempera and gold on panel
Vatican Pinacoteca, Inv. 44382


This icon is a liturgical calendar. It consists of three distinct parts organized in concentric squares and covers the whole liturgical year.

1. At the center, we have the icon of the Resurrection, the Anastasis.

2. The Resurrection icon is surrounded by twelve scenes covering Jesus’ Passion and death, highlighting, e.g., the resurrection of Lazarus and the descent of Christ into Hell.

3. The next field is reflective of the twelve monthly liturgical calendars which represent the saints for each month of the year. Proceeding from left to right, the list of months begins with the beginning of the Orthodox liturgical year in September. It includes the central panel of Passion and Resurrection.

4. The outer circle consists of the gallery of most important Marian icons. The number may vary according to calendar. Our calendar includes eighty-four icons, other calendars count 144 or even 238 icons. Here, among the most important ones we have, the “Coronation of the Virgin” (top, center), “Mother of God of the Burning Bush” (bottom, center), “Mother of God, Unexpected Joy” (center, right), and “Mother of God, Joy of all Believers” (center, left).

Though the representation of the icon-month has been known since medieval times, the inclusion of all twelve months in a single icon occurred only in the second half of the nineteenth century. It took its origin from the iconographic school of Kholuj (near Vladimir) and was inspired by the Old Believers who consider themselves guardians of the classical icon-tradition of the Christian East. They were guided in their endeavor by the idea of a single icon representing the whole mystery of salvation, and based on the central event and truths of Christ’s Resurrection. The many Marian icons attempt to make visible the first fruits of Christ’s redemption. The “real time” of salvation is highlighted in the twelve liturgical months situated between reason for (Christ) and result of redemption (Mary).


The Book of Hours is, or better was, for the West what the liturgical icon is for the East. Commissioned by the noble and wealthy, the Books of Hours were the prayer books used by lay people in medieval times. Books of Hours contrast sharply with the Religious Calendar from the East (Russia). Devotional rather than liturgical, a book not an icon, the Book of Hours contains art and spirituality, sacred features as well as secular ones.

The basic components of the Book of Hours are:

1. Calendar (the months of the year)
2. Extracts from the Gospels
3. The prayer Obsecro
4. The prayer O intermerata
5. Hours of the Virgin (The Little Office of the Virgin)
6. Hours of the Cross
8. Penitential Psalms
9. Litany
10. Office of the Dead
11. Prayers to various Saints
The Calendar, Hours of the Virgin, the Penitential Psalms, Litany, Office of the Dead, and Prayers to the Saints were taken from the books used by the clergy. The other parts listed here are secondary texts. To these were added a variety of other prayers. The result of all this:  no two Books of Hours are exactly alike.

The Books of Hours were decorated with illuminations. The basic elements in illumination are the initial, the miniature, and the border. We would like to highlight two kinds of illuminations: the illuminations illustrating the Hours of the Virgin, and the Calendar decorations.

llustrations of the Hours of the Virgin

Matins – The Annunciation
Lauds – The Visitation
Prime – The Nativity of Jesus
Tierce – The Angel’s announcement to the shepherds
Sext – The Adoration of the Magi
None – The Presentation in the Temple
Vespers – The Flight to Egypt and/or the Slaughter of the Innocents
Compline – The Coronation of Mary

Decorations of the monthly Calendar
January - Feasting
– Sitting by the fire
March – Pruning vines
April – Garden scene
May – Hawking or boating
June – The hay harvest
Reaping the wheat
August – Threshing
September – Harvesting grapes
October – Ploughing and sowing
November – Gathering acorns for pigs
December – Killing the pig or baking bread
For more information:

Consult the exhibit catalog: The Mother of God: Art Celebrates Mary,  pp. 92-94.

Return to Vatican Gallery


This page, maintained by The Marian Library/International Marian Research Institute, Dayton, Ohio 45469-1390, and created by Kris Sommers , was last modified Wednesday, 06/08/2011 14:01:31 EDT by Ajay Kumar . Please send any comments to jroten1@udayton.edu.

URL for this page is http://campus.udayton.edu