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Prayers and Alphabet, in the 'Shaftesbury Psalter'

Prayers and Alphabet, in the 'Shaftesbury Psalter'

Medium: Ink and pigments on vellum

Date: 1135

Shelfmark: Lansdowne MS 383

Item number: f.144v

Length: 22.3

Width: 12.8

Scale: Centimetres

Genre: Illuminated Manuscript

In the middle ages, there was a nunnery at Shaftesbury, and this psalter appears to have been made there or to have been modelled after a manuscript from Shaftesbury. Its calendar (used to coordinate prayers with saints' days and other feasts) and litany (a prayer appealing to saints for their help) mention saints who were especially venerated at Shaftesbury. The figures in its many pictures resemble a carving found at nearby Milborne St Andrew. Although its origins at Shaftesbury can not be shown beyond a doubt, it is certain that it was made for a female reader, probably an abbess. Recently a scholar suggested that it was made for Queen Adeliza, the widow of Henry I.

Medieval psalters could be used in church services as hymnals, or they could be personal prayerbooks. The Shaftesbury Psalter, with its relatively small dimensions, was in the second category. After the Book of Psalms, it has a series of prayers that the owner would have read from daily in personal devotions. This page has the Gloria, the Lord's Prayer and the Creed. In the lower margin, a later owner has added the alphabet, followed by "Amen." The alphabet may have served as a memory aid for a longer prayer.

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