Psalter of Blanche of Castile

Psalter of Blanche of Castile

Paris (France) — 1230

From the magnificent Sainte Chapelle in Paris: gilded Gothic miniatures as beautiful and bright as church windows for the mother of King Louis the Saint

  1. Blanche de Castille (1188–1252) was Queen Regent of France twice over and wife to King Louis VIII (1187–1226)

  2. She was also mother of Louis IX (1214–70), known as Saint Louis, remembered for his piety and patronage of the arts

  3. 27 full-page miniatures, 24 medallion miniatures in the calendar section, and 9 gilded initials accompany the text

Psalter of Blanche of Castile

  1. Description
  2. Facsimile Editions (1)
Psalter of Blanche of Castile

This is a fantastic early Gothic manuscript originating from a team of skilled masters in Paris ca. 1230. It is known as the Psalter of Blanche de Castile after its supposed patron, the Queen of France, who was a famous patron of the arts. The work is also called the Psalter of Sainte-Chapelle after its long time repository in the splendid royal chapel in Paris. Although a work of the early Gothic, it is also notable for having one of the only surviving Romanesque bindings, which has survived in excellent condition thanks to its careful preservation. Nearly every page of the manuscript glimmers with gold leaf, giving it a distinctly royal aura.

Psalter of Blanche of Castile

Before the rise of the book of hours, Psalters were the most richly illuminated manuscripts. The splendid Psalter of Blanche de Castile is named for its presumed royal owner, Blanche de Castile (1188–1252), Queen of France and wife to King Louis VIII (1187–1226). She was mother of the famous French monarch Louis IX (1214–70), also known as Saint Louis, who was himself a great patron of the arts. It is obvious from the lavish adornment of this Psalter that he was influenced by his environment. It is also known as the Psalter of Sainte-Chapelle, because it was stored in the famous royal chapel of Sainte-Chapelle from 1335 until the 18th century, when it was brought to the Bibliothèque de l'Arsenal, where it is stored under the shelf mark of MS 1186 to this day. In order to protect the cover, a chemise was made of splendid fabric embroidered with golden fleurs-de-lys, presumably at the behest of King Charles V (1338–80). Thanks to the efforts made to protect the book jewel, it is one of the few testimonies of Romanesque book bindings still preserved today. Although a direct connection to Blanche de Castile cannot be made, it is theorized that she is the woman depicted praying in a historiated initial on folio 190r with the words miserrimam peccatricem, “the very poorest sinner”. It may have either been made for or gifted to her. Nonetheless, the opulent use of gold indicates that the Psalter was made for a lady from the nobility.

An Early Gothic Masterpiece

Although housed in a Romanesque binding, the contents of the book indicate that it is one of the earliest manuscripts to be created in the new Gothic style. Created ca. 1230, this Psalter is distinguished by its rich gold adornment, beautiful ornaments, innovative drolleries, masterly decorated miniatures, and a color palette dominated by red, blue, and green. Aside from the 27 full-page miniatures, there are 24 medallion miniatures in the calendar section with zodiac signs and symbolic scenes. The imagery is strongly reminiscent of the stained glass windows of Gothic French cathedrals that were just then rising across the land. 9 gilded initials accompany the text, as well as countless ornaments and drolleries such as small dragons, dogs, birds and other fantastic creatures, which often romp over the text field on the edge of the folios. Almost every page of the manuscript glimmers with gold leaf. The manuscript stylistically points to a group extremely talented artists, and considering how great a patron of the arts Blanche de Castile, it is entirely plausible that the connection between her and the manuscript is in fact real.


Alternative Titles
Königspsalter der Sainte Chapelle
Sainte-Chapelle Psalter
Royal Psalter of Sainte-Chapelle
27 full-page miniatures, 9 historiated initials, 24 calendar medallions
Previous Owners
Charles V

Available facsimile editions:
Facsimile Editions

#1 Royal Psalter of Sainte-Chapelle

Binding: The original binding is reproduced. The 19th century jewelry case and the 16th century chemise are reproduced.
1 volume: Exact reproduction of the original document (extent, color and size) Reproduction of the entire original document as detailed as possible (scope, format, colors). The binding may not correspond to the original or current document binding.
Price Category: €€€€ (7,000€ - 10,000€)
Edition available
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