Thursday, September 27, 2012


October - my favorite month.  My son was born in October; my wedding anniversary is in October.  It's the one month of the year when I'm not eager to travel to someplace that's new to me, because everything is so heart-stoppingly gorgeous right where I am. 

Because I need another quick-and-easy blog post, and because medieval illustrations of the labors of the months (or at least of the seasons) abound, I'm bringing you today a few examples of how October looked to some of our medieval forebears.

It differed, from place to place.  In some of the northern areas, October scenes feature butchering hogs, whereas in Italy it's all about the wine, and they don't get around to the hogs for another month or two.

Let's look first at an early illustration of all of the months:

This one's 9th century German, but as you can see, October is still all about the wine.  Wine, usually putting it up in barrels but sometimes the grape harvest itself, is the most typical theme in Italian pictures, such as this carving on the Fontana Maggiore in Perugia:

Fontana Maggiore, Perugia, by Nicola and Giovanni Pisano, ca. 1275
Simone Bening Book of Hours - moving wine barrels (Flemish)

 Sometimes, October is devoted to scenes of sowing.  Certain crops needed to be sown then, and we see that reflected in some of the images:

From the Tres Riches Heures du duc de Berry
From the Grimani Breviary (15th c. Flemish)
German psalter
 In this last, the psalter, we can see a man with a plough in the upper right roundel.  I am not quite sure what is going on in the other one; it looks suspiciously like a floating turtle to me.

Although harvest scenes are more typical in September or August, we do find some linked to October.  In this next picture, something is being harvested, and my best guess would be chestnuts:

Cristoforo and Nicolas Seregno, Switzerland
In Britain, apparently they got around to the pigs fairly early:

British Library manuscript
And Pieter Brueghel the Elder, 1526/7-1569, shows us cattle in October (or possibly November):

Just to come full circle, let's finish with the full year from the Crescenzi calendar, a 15th century illustration of an agricultural treatise by Pietro Crescenzi, writing around 1306.  You'll note, it's wine again for October.  (I guess that would be another reason it's my favorite month.)

Images in this post are in the public domain, with the exception of the Fontana Maggiore photo, by G. dallorto, which is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Generic license (Wikimedia Commons).

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