The calendar in this elaborate copy of the Book of Psalms suggests that it was made at Winchester’s Old Minster during the mid-12th century. The Psalter is bilingual. The Latin text of the Psalms and an accompanying translation in Anglo-Norman French are written in parallel columns on the page, so that the two could be read together.
The manuscript has an extensive illustrative programme. 38 pages of narrative illustrations of subjects from the Old and New Testaments preface the Psalms. These include scenes from the Life of the Virgin and the Life of Christ, and a striking representation of the Last Judgement (on f. 39r, digitised image 19), which features an archangel locking the gate of Hell, here represented by a large hell-mouth.
The manuscript may have been commissioned by Henry of Blois (b. c. 1096, d. 1171), younger brother to King Stephen (r. 1135–1154), and Bishop of Winchester from 1129 to 1171. Additions to the Psalter’s calendar suggest that, by the middle of the 13th century, it was in the possession of the Benedictine nunnery of Shaftesbury Abbey.
View images of the entire manuscripts via our Digitised Manuscripts website.
- Article by:
- Kathleen Doyle
- Christianity, Illuminated texts
Dr Kathleen Doyle introduces the characteristics and evolution of medieval biblical illumination, discussing the various functions of images in biblical texts, together with the use of different materials, calligraphic embellishments and stylistic influences.
- 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.