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Psalter from the Hospital of St Giles f.110r

Psalter from the Hospital of St Giles f.110r

Medium: Ink and pigments on vellum

Date: 1465

Shelfmark: Harley MS 1688

Item number: f.110r

Length: 22.7

Width: 15.2

Scale: Centimetres

Genre: Manuscript

The clergy, brothers and nuns who cared for the impoverished or ill chaplains living at the Hospital of St Giles of Norwich cathedral used this psalter in their daily prayers. Possibly it belonged to the almshouse's Master. It has material for determining hours of daylight (essential to a prayer schedule dependent on sunrise) as well as a calendar (to coordinate prayer with saints' days and feasts), prayers, hymns (some with musical notation) and litanies (a prayer of appeal to God and the saints). Its calendar features the dedication day of the parish church of Norwich as well as later (1460s-1490s) notes of births and deaths of members of Derham and Crimplesham (Crumpilsham) families. The lower margin of a page of the calendar has a sketch of four heraldic arms similar to those over the aisle arcades in the chapel. The psalter represents a quite human and personal link to the middle ages for an institution which still serves its community.

A medieval psalter was divided into sections according to one of several traditions. The psalter from St Giles has the eight-part division, the last at Psalm 109 (110, "The Lord said to my Lord"). This psalm was sometimes singled out for special decoration pertaining to the Trinity, as here, with a picture of either the Father or Son portrayed within a six-pointed star. Now associated with Judaism, the Star of David appears in medieval times at least as frequently in Christian and Islamic contexts as an amulet or magical symbol. Perhaps its use here related to the healing profession of the ministers at St Giles: charms and prayers were part of treatment.

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