Les Tres Riches Heures (6): June

In a week when Paris is under a modest threat of major flooding given the water level in the Seine, it’s interesting to note that in 1689 – so slightly before climate change/extreme weather/global warming etc – the Île de la Cité was flooded by the effects of heavy rain, sweeping through the Palais de la Cité, and destroying the lowest levels of stained glass in the still amazing Sainte Chapelle. That was 327 years ago, and 273 years before that, the Limbourgs produced their detailed depiction of the buildings in the month of June. It’s a wonderful thing that the Saint Chapelle is still there, and really very little changed. You may note that if those figures are correct, this year is about the septcentennial of the Tres Riches Heures.

This is the great Viollet-le-Duc‘s  recreation of the Palais de la Cité


and here is the Limbourg’s view. What’s interesting to speculate is that it was painted from the Duc de Berry’s residence on the river, the Hôtel de Nesle, featured in May.

Juin - La fenaison

…and if you look at the Sainte Chapelle now, it’s pretty much the same. Its real glory though is the stained glass interior. Look it up on Google if you’re interested, but the photosst_chapelle don’t quite convey the extraordinary effect of just being inside it. Shame it’s not used as a church any more.

The rest of the June miniature is basic haymaking. It takes place in spring and early summer, in that window of opportunity when the leaves of the grasses are at their most developed. If you leave it too late, after the seeds and flower heads are evident then you lose a lot of the nutritional value. All this is well documented ‘scientifically’ now, but it’s the kind of country lore that was gained over centuries of experience. This miniature is actually one of many representations of medieval farming that shows this kind of “rhythm of the seasons“. The Tres Riches Heures are a companion of sorts to Virgil’s wonderful Georgics.

©Photo. R.M.N. / R.-G. OjŽda


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