St. Alban's Psalter

St. Alban's Psalter
Dombibliothek, Schnütgen Museum
Anglo-Norman, Latin, Old French
HILDESHEIM, Germany [olim Sankt Godehardi Kirche, olim Klosterbibliothek Lamspringe, Hannover, Germany], KÖLN, Germany
Shelf Mark:
HS St. God. 1 (Hildesheim) -- Inv. Nr. M694 (Köln)
Alternate Names:
Psalter of Christina of Markyate -- Albani Psalter
St Albans Abbey, Hertfordshire, England
209 folios (numbered to 418 pages), 276 x 184 mm
Date Description:
ca. 1119-1146
Liturgical calendar and computus material (pp. 1-16) -- Prefatory miniatures illustrating the life of Christ (pp. 17-56) -- Chanson de St. Alexis with prologue (pp. 57-68) -- Letter of St. Gregory to Serenus on the used of images, in Latin and French (p. 68) -- Appearance at Emmaus miniatures w/ abbreviated text of Luke 24:13-31 (pp. 69-71) -- Discourse on Spiritual Battle (pp. 71-72) -- Psalms (pp. 72-372) -- Canticles and hymns (pp. 372-398) -- Nicene and Athanasian creeds (pp. 398-402) -- Litany (pp. 403-411) -- Collects (pp. 411-414 plus Köln leaf) -- Miniatures of martyrdom of St. Alban and of David and musicians (pp. 416-417)
Type of Decoration:
The St. Albans Psalter is an exquisite example of English Romanesque manuscript illumination. Calendar: For each month, there is a medallion at the top of the calendar entries showing the labor of the month and, to the right of the entries, the sign of the zodiac. -- Full-page miniatures: there are 40, mostly from the life of Christ, but also at the beginning there is the Fall and the Expulsion from the Garden, and at the end, an image of David as a musician. All are richly painted with gold embellishment and have decorative frames. -- Chanson: Above the opening words, a miniature of approximately half-page length that shows four episodes in the Alexis narrative. St. Alexis leaves his wife at the marriage bed, she weeps at his departure, he walks through the door, he sets sail. These are painted in lighter lines and washes than life of Christ miniatures; mostly red, blue and green (p. 57). -- Emmaus miniatures: three full-page miniatures with color scheme like Alexis miniature and with decorative frames. First miniature depicts two apostles meeting pilgrim Christ whose staff points to sun in upper right corner (p. 69). Second shows Christ at table with apostles (p. 70). Third is disappearance of Christ, his lower legs hanging below the architectural frame (p. 71). -- Beatus initial, Knights: the Beatus initial is vertically centered on the page and is about half the page length. The edges of the letter form are gold; inside them there are blue and red acanthus leaves and at the top and bottom of the shaft, there are red and blue interlaces and beast heads. David sits enthroned in the bottom half of the letter, playing the psaltery with his right hand, holding an open book with his left. David's head extends into the upper half of the letter where the dove of the Holy Spirit puts its beak to his ear. White foliate capitals of EATUS VIR are arranged along the right side of the B. Above the B, two mounted knights charge at each other, holding up their swords (p. 72). -- Psalm 1 capitals: eight rows of foliate capitals like those on the previous page are arranged in a full-page decorative border with gold edges. EATUS VIR is repeated. The background consists of blue, green, yellow, purple and parchment colored bands. Some letters have green and red filling (p73). -- Historiated Initials: Each of the Psalms begins with an historiated initial. Generally speaking, The edge(s) of the letters are done in gold, the body is some kind of foliate pattern, and letter tails are formed by intertwining acanthus leaves. Almost all of the scenes in the initials are literal depictions of the Psalm text, though the images are not limited to a literal reading. The initial for Psalm 105 (p 285) is pasted in and was not done by either of the two main initial artists. It depicts a woman, likely meant to be Christina of Markyate, standing in front of a group of monks, acting as an intercessor for them before Christ. -- Canticle, hymn, and creed initials: the historiated initials continue in generally the same style and format as that seen with the Psalms. -- Litany: Begins with a rectangular composition a little over half the page length that is divided in three sections. On the left, the Trinity is represented by two standing figures and a bird with a foot on each of the figures' heads. The beginning of the litany text is in the upper right section. In the lower right, two groups of women kneel towards the Trinity, holding books above their heads. Between the groups, a standing monk points to the books and looks toward the Trinity (p 403). Collect initials: Each of the eleven collects begins with an historiated initial showing the interaction between a supplicant and God. The initials for collects 6, 7, and 8 are all As, and they are stacked so that their right-hand stems are joined. The next three initials are also stacked, but they are an H, an A, and a D, so their forms are not as cohesive. -- Martyrdom of St. Alban: Executioner has just decapitated St. Alban, whose soul is borne up to Christ, depicted in bust form in a semicircle extending down from the miniature's frame. A judge and standard-bearer stand on either side of the scene. -- David and musicians: David sits at center playing viol or rebeck between his knees; harpists sit on either side of him. Above a decorative band, two musicians play trumpets and hold cymbals. Below David in a decorative arcade, two musicians strike small bells with hammers.
Musical Notation:
Call Number:
Special Collections, Rare Books Oversize ND 3357 .S12 A43 2007
Commentary Volume:
Nature of Facsimile:
Complete replica of manuscript in Hildesheim with addition of a fragment folio, now in Köln, between pp 414 and 415 -- Full-size -- Color -- Photographic with metallic gold elements -- Red leather binding with blind tooling modeled on a 12th century English binding
Publication Date:
Place of Publication:
Simbach am Inn, Germany
Verlag Müller und Schindler
For several essays and extensive descriptions accompanied by photographs:
Type of Text:
bilingual, calendar, computus, devotional, hagiographical, historical, hymns, letters, literature, mixed, Psalter, religious, vernacular, vernacular literature