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The Seven Penitential Psalms, in a Breviary

The Seven Penitential Psalms, in a Breviary

Medium: Ink and pigments on vellum

Date: 1490

Shelfmark: Cotton MS Appendix XIV

Item number: f.24r

Length: 16.5

Width: 10.6

Scale: Centimetres

Genre: Illuminated Manuscript

A breviary is the prayerbook compiled especially for the daily prayer services (divine office or hours) of monks and nuns. Monks and nuns recited psalms and prayers, read aloud excerpts from the Bible and commentaries in a series of services every day at set hours, beginning very early in the small hours until bedtime, which was at nightfall. The prayers for each day of the year were different. The breviary contained all of the texts needed for the divine office. This breviary belonged to the English nuns of St Brigitta (or Brigittines) whose house, Syon, was originally located near Twickenham. After Henry VIII dissolved Syon in 1539, the Brigittines wandered in the Netherlands, France and Spain, eventually settling in Lisbon.

The Seven Penitential Psalms form an essential section of the prayers of the divine office. These seven psalms, beginning with Psalm 6 ('O Lord, rebuke me not in thine anger'), express remorse for sin and hope for forgiveness. This page has Psalm 6, the beginning of the Penitential Psalms. Prayerbooks were usually decorated in some way. This breviary has rather rich decoration in comparison with some of the other manuscripts from Syon but modest next to many contemporary examples.

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