Illustration of the damned swallowed by a hellmouth, from the 'Winchester Psalter'


What is the Winchester Psalter?

It is a bilingual psalter was made for use at Winchester Cathedral after 1121 and probably before 1161. Its Latin and French texts are written in parallel columns on vellum and decorated in ink, tempera colours and gold. The manuscript has long been associated with Henry of Blois, younger brother to King Stephen and Bishop of Winchester from 1129 to 1171. However, lavishly illustrated psalters such as this were usually made for female patrons, and it is not clear why Henry would have needed or wanted a bilingual copy of texts he would have known very well.

What is shown in this image?

In this image Hell is personified as a demonic monster who physically tortures and devours damned souls. Images like this one, which showed the consequences of an un-Christian life, were often used to graphically illustrate Christian teachings.

How can I see more of this manuscript?

The manuscript is freely available to view in its entirety via our Digitised Manuscripts website.

Full title:
‘Winchester Psalter’ or ‘Psalter of Henry of Blois’
c. 1220–29, Winchester
Manuscript / Illustration / Illuminated manuscript
Usage terms
Public Domain
Held by
British Library
Cotton MS Nero C IV

Full catalogue details

Related articles

Medieval monsters

Article by:
Alixe Bovey

Men with dogs’ heads, creatures with giant feet, griffins, sirens and hellish demons can all be found in the illustrated pages of medieval manuscripts. Dr Alixe Bovey delves into the symbolic meaning of a variety of monsters to understand what they can teach us about life and belief in the Middle Ages.

Related collection items