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St Michael Holds Souls For the Last Judgement, in the 'Shaftesbury Psalter'

St Michael Holds Souls For the Last Judgement, in the 'Shaftesbury Psalter'

Medium: Ink and pigments on vellum

Date: 1135

Shelfmark: Lansdowne MS 383

Item number: f.168v

Length: 22.1

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.

Following the psalms, the Shaftesbury Psalter has a series of prayers, some of which are decorated with pictures. The prayer to St Michael has a full-page picture of the archangel, who was to weigh the souls at the Last Judgement. He looks up to a half length figure of Christ as he holds, in a cloth, souls who in turn look at him with a mixture of hope and fear. St Michael is shown as intercessor: he approaches God on their behalf, which is what the prayer is asking of him.

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