Thus, the hymn marking the beginning of Matins and also of the first canonical hour, prime, sung or recited at day's break, contains references to the night's darkness having been chased away or the rising sun, of which clear echoes are found in the description of the brigata's beginning of the day.
At the same time, however, the ten young people either do not celebrate the Lord's Day (Day Three) or they do so only perfunctorily (Day Eight); they conduct their daily activities following the pattern of the seven canonical hours, giving them, however, no religious purposes; and they complete their secular pilgrimage by returning to the same church in Florence without ever acknowledging their gratitude to God for their safe return and without invoking divine protection for their future lives in the plague-ridden city.
In the process of this analysis, I will seek to illustrate how the life of the brigata, from early in the morning until late at night, is patterned after, and parodies, the life of monks and nuns--indeed, of all devout Christians--and thus it also parodies the liturgical practice of the seven canonical hours, celebrated in the church liturgy and honored by medieval people.
Accordingly, Boccaccio's re-arrangement of the days of rest and some form of labor, of religious and non-religious activities, of storytelling and non-storytelling, transforms and subverts in many ways the typical Christian manner of employing properly the time, divided according to the sacred temporal rhythm of the week, patterned after God's six days of creation, just as each day is organized according to the seven canonical hours. By transforming and subverting the week, as well as each day of the week, the Decameron transforms and subverts also the notion of time, which Boccaccio does not situate completely outside the sphere of the sacred, but rather beyond or adjacent to the sacred, certainly with equal value and dignity.
Further expanding the parody of medieval Christian life in general and of monastic life in particular, the Narrator marks the brigata's time according to traditional medieval time designators, namely, the seven canonical hours. Prime, tierce, sext, none, vespers, compline, matins and lauds--the latter two being often considered as one canonical hour--were traditionally announced by church bells, were sanctified by the prayers of all believers, especially monks, nuns, and priests, and were also constant reminders to all people of the sacredness of time.
The sequence of the poems is guided by the Canonical Hours beginning with prime (6:00 a.m.), which prepares us for the coming day, and ending with lauds the next day (3:00 a.m.), a jubilant resurrection prayer which celebrates redemption and the wonders of creation.
The sacramental character and temporal rhythm of the Canonical Hours depend on a philosophy of history in which the tasks of time, the cross of the moment, bear the signature of the infinite.
In 1947 he was studying the origin and history of the canonical hours and by then he had read (and admired) Niebuhr's The Nature and Destiny of Man, Tillich's The Interpretation of History and mimeographed copies of the systematic theology (Ursula Niebuhr 106).