Books of Hours, popular in the Middle Ages, are private prayer books. They are named for the central text, the Hours of the Virgin—readings recited at each of the eight canonical hours of the day. They are often decorated with scenes from the life of the Virgin and Christ, as in this example in Dutch. Below the text at right is a scene of the unicorn and the virgin, a medieval allegory of the Incarnation of Christ. At left the Holy Family flees to Egypt after Herod orders the murder of Bethlehem’s male infants (Matthew 2:13–23).
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