Psalter with the Hours of the Virgin Mary


The 20 full-page illuminations at the beginning of this Psalter form one of the most outstanding prefatory cycles to survive from late 12th-century England. The manuscript was probably made in Oxford, as its calendar includes a reference to the translation (or reburial) of St Frideswide, the patron saint of Oxford, in 1180. 

The absence of an important event, the translation of St Thomas Becket of Canterbury into a new shrine in 1220, suggests that this manuscript was made before that occurred. Each lavishly illuminated page contains two scenes that illustrate events from the life of Christ. 

Several scenes feature scrolls with biblical quotations that supplement and interpret the paintings. This suggests that the original owner of the book may have been able to read Latin or would have viewed the images and read the text with someone who could. 

This manuscript was digitised with the support of The Polonsky Foundation.

Full title:
Psalter with the Hours of the Virgin Mary
1st quarter of the 13th century, Oxford
Latin / Anglo Norman
Usage terms

Public Domain in most countries other than the UK.

Held by
British Library
Arundel MS 157

Full catalogue details

Related articles

The origins of the British Library’s collections of manuscripts

Article by:
Kathleen Doyle
Medieval manuscript collections today

The manuscript collections of the British Library are rich resources for understanding the literary and historical culture of the Middle Ages. Kathleen Doyle highlights the works digitised through The Polonsky Foundation England and France Project.

Medieval calendars

Article by:
Kathleen Doyle, Cristian Ispir
Christian religion and belief, Art and illumination, Science and nature

Calendars provided one of the most important means of time keeping for the medieval world. Cristian Ispir and Kathleen Doyle explain how they were used.