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Christ Enthroned Among the Choirs of Heaven, in the 'Aethelstan Psalter'

Christ Enthroned Among the Choirs of Heaven, in the 'Aethelstan Psalter'

Medium: Ink and pigments on vellum

Date: 925

Shelfmark: Cotton MS Galba A XVIII

Item number: f.2v

Genre: Illuminated manuscript

Made in the 9th century in the region of Liege, the psalter was brought later to England. Possibly during the reign of King Athelstan (924-939) a series of pictures, a calendar and other material were added to it. According to tradition, Aethelstan owned it and gave it to the Old Minster at Winchester, although nothing in the manuscript positively supports this tradition. Aethelstan's involvement with the courts of northern Europe, however, laid part of the foundations for the reform of monasteries which led to, among other things, a stepped-up production of manuscripts and manuscript decoration. The psalter's pictures foretell developments in later Anglo-Saxon art. Made under Continental influence although echoing themes seen in earlier British and Irish manuscript art, this picture shows Christ enthroned in heaven with the instruments of the passion (cross, lance, sponge). The page is filled with ranks of the 'heavenly choirs': angels, prophets and apostles. Grotesque faces gripping the corners represent the four cardinal points, implying a vision of the Second Coming. The instruments of the passion may connect the image with Aethelstan, who acquired the lance in 926, although the Anglo-Saxon additions, including this picture, probably were made before then.

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