|Chart for calculating the date of Easter, from the Hours of Charles d'Angouleme, late 15th Century, National Library of France. The artist is Robinet Teslart. Image: Cardena 2 (licensed under CCA).|
During the six weeks of Lent, people were expected to abstain, not only from the consumption of meat, but also from sexual intercourse. Marriages could only be celebrated if a special license were obtained, and, in practice, this privilege was usually extended only to rich and powerful families. Shrove Tuesday, or Carnival, represented a last, riotous farewell to the long nights of winter carousing.
March is often depicted as a month for gardening: for planting crops such as onions, leeks, and greens, that would provide a welcome diversification of the diet in springtime. In wine-producing areas, the vines, not yet showing any leaves, are depicted in the process of being pruned in preparation. Lambing, which would certainly have continued from February into March, is rarely depicted, but ploughing often is - a potent symbol of the beginning of a new cycle of agricultural labours.
|March, from the "Golf Book," workshop of Simon Bening, Bruges, 1520-30, British Library Add.24098, f20v (licensed under CCA). In the foreground, a man tends his garden, whilst a woman looks on; behind them, men are felling a tree.|
|Aries, from the Hours of Jeanne d'Evreux (image is in the Public Domain).|
Mark Patton is a published author of historical fiction and non-fiction, whose books can be purchased from Amazon.