Winchester Psalter


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.

Full title:
‘Winchester Psalter’ or ‘Psalter of Henry of Blois’
Mid-12th century, Winchester
Latin / Anglo-Norman
Usage terms

Public Domain in most countries other than the UK.

Held by
British Library
Cotton MS Nero C IV

Full catalogue details

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