The Psychomachia (War of the Soul) is a work of allegory in which seven Virtues and seven Vices battle for possession of the human soul. Composed by the late-Antique poet Prudentius (b. 348, d. c. 410), the text was hugely popular and was distributed throughout Christian Europe. This copy was produced in the monastic scriptorium at Christ Church, Canterbury, and includes commentaries (glosses), written in Old English. Such commentaries are often present in the schoolbooks of monastic communities, so their presence here may indicate that this book was used for teaching at the monastery school.
The 83 drawings illustrating the text make it one of the most profusely decorated of Anglo-Saxon books. The seven Virtues are presented as female champions of the Christian faith, paired with seven female pagan idolaters.
This manuscript was digitised with the support of The Polonsky Foundation.
- Full title:
- Prudentius, Psychomachia
- 4th quarter of the 10th century–11th century, Canterbury
- Latin / Old English
- Usage terms
Public Domain in most countries other than the UK.
- Held by
- British Library
- Cotton MS Cleopatra C VIII
- Article by:
- Kathleen Doyle, Eleanor Jackson
- Christian religion and belief, Art and illumination, Making manuscripts
Manuscripts reflect the creativity of artists and scribes, and the resources of their patrons. Kathleen Doyle and Eleanor Jackson outline the development of book art in early medieval England.
- Article by:
- Cillian O’Hogan
- Science and nature, History and learning
Cillian O’Hogan offers an introduction to the range of classical works that shaped medieval thought on literature and scientific learning.