Les Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry

The Christmas Mass

Folio 158r

Following the Hours of the Passion, a chronological series of masses devoted to the year's most important celebrations completes the manuscript.
First comes the Christmas Mass, one of the three masses known as "the mass of the day." The subject is indicated by the Nativity painted within the initial letter and by the lines following, which begin the Introit taken from Isaiah IX: 6: "Puer natus est nobis..." ("For a child is born to us, and a son is given to us").
The mass here is noteworthy only for the picturesque details of the officiants and the congregation, and it must be classed among the less important works executed by Jean Colombe's assistants, including Pentecost (folio 79r), the Funeral of Raymond Diocrès (folio 86v), and the Holy Sacrament (folio 129v).
The thin columns of the choir, the slender golden statues between the stained-glass windows, and the vaults suggest that the Limbourgs designed the architecture. Jean Colombe then worked over it, as indicated by the small angel, typical of his style, painted on the keystone, and by the Savoie family's gules escutcheon with a silver cross.
At the altar the officiant stands reading the Gospel, aided by a deacon and a subdeacon; two priests kneel in the stalls. On the right, the head choir has gathered around a lectern to sing the office, while in the foreground two women, one wearing a hennin, the other a simpler headdress, follow the service in their books.
Above them rises an organ whose show pipes are visible, and at the top of the choir three angels before the stained-glass windows join the Christmas celebration.

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