Deluxe Devotion: Four Late Medieval Manuscripts and Their Owners


The Oxford Experience is a residential summer programme providing one-week courses in a variety of subjects aimed at non-specialists. It offers a choice of seminars each week over a period of six weeks.

Illuminated manuscripts of the later Middle Ages are much more than just a collection of texts and images. They reflect the artistic and commercial culture that produced them and in many cases the networks of patronage that brought them into being. They can tell us much about the taste of their owners and their practices of private devotion as well as the importance of national narratives.

We will immerse ourselves in manuscripts which can be described as deluxe in terms of their production, their pictorial innovation, and their ownership: the Tres Riches Heures of the Duke of Berry, the Hours of Mary of Burgundy, the Sforza Hours, and the great chronicles produced for the French kings.

Programme details

Seminars meet each weekday morning, 09.15-10.45 and 11.15-12.45, with afternoons free for course-related field trips, individual study or exploring the many beautiful places in and around the city.

This session will introduce the culture of commercial book production in the later Middle Ages (fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries). We’ll consider the nature of workshop practice in France and the Low Countries and the innovations in painting. We’ll conclude by considering the growing importance of private patronage to the book trade at this time.

We’ll look at the first of our chosen manuscripts, the Tres Riches Heures of the Duke of Berry after exploring the processes of manuscript production. We locate the manuscript within the context of aristocratic patronage and bibliophilia. We’ll consider the manuscript’s pictorial content and the ways in which the Limbourg brothers’ illustrations for the calendar pages were innovative to the extent that they influenced later generations of artists.

This session will concentrate on the Hours of Mary of Burgundy. It will approach the manuscript as a work of private devotion, considering the purpose and meaning of a Book of Hours to an individual. At the same time we acknowledge the importance of the book as the product of significant aristocratic patronage through the work of the named artists and scribe.

Today we look at the tradition of producing illustrated chronicles for the French kings. These secular books are also products of aristocratic patronage but exist to create and present a national narrative. We will consider the relationship between text and image and the ways in which these books could be consumed. We also visit the Old Library at Christ Church College.

In the final session we will look at the Sforza Hours as a product of both the later Middle Ages and the Renaissance. We’ll consider this book for what it can tell us about female patronage and usage, and also for the ways in which the two named artists engage creatively with new and older painting styles.


Field Trip

Destination:     Christ Church Old Library

Excursion Rating: Easy
Up to an hour's walk on even ground or less than half an hour's walk on rough ground.


Description Costs
Programme fee (no accom–incl.lunch and dinner) £1070.00
Programme fee (with single en-suite accom and meals) £1565.00
Programme fee (with single standard accom and meals) £1380.00


Dr Victoria Condie

Victoria Condie has taught courses in medieval and Old English literature for OUDCE and currently teaches medieval language and literature at the University of Cambridge.

Assessment methods

There are no assessments for this course.


Online registration closes on Friday, 1 May 2020 but please note that this course may be fully booked very quickly so early registration is recommended.


During your course, you will stay in typical Oxford student accommodation at Christ Church in buildings which range from the 18th to the 20th century.

The fee stated includes a bedroom with private bathroom facilities (shower, washbasin and toilet). Most are single but a few twins are available*.

There is also a limited number of standard rooms available, which all have their own washbasin and shaver point but shared bath and toilet facilities. Most standard rooms are single but there are a few ‘twin sets’ (two single rooms opening off a sitting room)*.

*If you wish to book a twin en-suite room or a standard twin set room each person should complete an application form and email it to us at as these rooms cannot be booked online. (Forms may also be posted to us at: The Oxford Experience, OUDCE, 1 Wellington Square, Oxford, OX1 2JA, UK)

Please indicate your accommodation preferences (either online or on your application form) together with a note of any mobility problems. Students should note that bedrooms are modestly-furnished, do not have air-conditioning and are arranged on a staircase of four or five floors.

We regret that we are unable to offer you accommodation at Christ Church prior to or following your course. Additionally, family or friends who are not enrolled in the programme cannot be accommodated in college.


If accommodation is unavailable in a particular week, we also offer places on a non-residential basis whereby participants can take classes and have meals at the college, having arranged their own accommodation elsewhere.

If you wish to enrol on a non-residential basis please complete an application form and email it to us at as this option cannot be booked online. (Forms may also be posted to us at: The Oxford Experience, OUDCE, 1 Wellington Square, Oxford, OX1 2JA, UK)