St. Alban’s Psalter

St. Alban’s Psalter

St. Alban Abbey, London (United Kingdom) — 1123–1135

A first-rate work of art, splendidly and masterfully illuminated: 46 full-page gold miniatures testifying to the heyday of the English Romanesque

  1. This manuscript is considered to be the indisputable high point of English Romanesque illumination

  2. Few manuscript are so artistically adorned: 42 full-page miniatures and 200+ large initials

  3. Originating from St. Alban's Abbey, it came to Hildesheim Abbey in the 17th century with the exiled English Benedictines

St. Alban’s Psalter

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  1. Description
  2. Detail Picture
  3. Single Page
  4. Facsimile Editions (3)
Description
St. Alban’s Psalter

St. Alban’s Psalter is considered to be the indisputable high point of English Romanesque illumination. With a total of 46 full-page miniatures and over 200 large-format initials, hardly any other manuscript is so artistically adorned. The eminently comprehensive Psalter contains the majority of the beloved Psalms of King David and additionally a liturgical calendar, prayers, hymns, and other unusual texts. It was created at the beginning of the 12th century in the English abbey of St. Alban as a commission of the abbot there, Geoffrey de Gorham, for Christina of Markyate.

St. Alban’s Psalter

St. Alban’s Psalter is considered to be the indisputable high point of English Romanesque illumination. With a total of 46 full-page miniatures and over 200 large-format initials, hardly any other manuscript is so artistically adorned. The eminently comprehensive Psalter contains the majority of the beloved Psalms of King David and additionally a liturgical calendar, prayers, hymns, and other unusual texts. It was created at the beginning of the 12th century in the English abbey of St. Alban as a commission of the abbot there, Geoffrey de Gorham, for Christina of Markyate.

A Personal Attestation of Friendship

A book of such varied content and such extraordinarily creative design usually has an exceptional story. St. Alban’s Psalter tells the story of a friendship between Abbot Geoffrey de Gorham (1119–1149) of the English abbey of St. Alban and the hermit Christina of Markyate (ca. 1096–1155). Christina came from a wealthy family and fled from her arranged marriage in the vicinity of Markyate, where she withdrew into a hermitage. There she met Geoffrey de Gorham, the abbot of the abbey, under whose protection the hermitage stood. They strongly influenced one another in their spirituality and personality and developed a close, friendly relationship, which was given to wild speculation. St. Alban’s Psalter was probably commissioned by Geoffrey for Christina and originates from the first half of the 12th century.

The High Art of Romanesque in England

Along with the Psalms of King David, the magnificent manuscript contains a liturgical calendar, 40 full-page miniatures about the life of Christ, the Old French Vie de Saint Alexis and a letter of Pope Gregory the Great on the informative character of pictures. Additionally, the discourse over good and evil in the Psalms is accompanied by additional miniatures, some concerning the martyrdom of St. Alban or a depiction of the Psalm’s author David. The unbelievably rich and valuable artistic layout of the Psalter makes it unique. A true flood of pictures in countless colors and forms emerges before the eyes of the beholder. The ornamental design makes the figurative scenes even more artistic. Stylistically, Byzantine and Ottonian influences are identifiable, which make this magnificent manuscript a quintessential example of the Romanesque epoch of English illumination. The so-called Alexis Master was responsible as the main artist for the artistic design of the miniatures, the initials are from the hand of three different illuminators. The text of the manuscript is written in an unusual variety of colors, aside from black also in red, blue, and green. Every Psalm begins with an initial, whose figurative design refers to the content of the following text. Furthermore, a description of the content of the respective text is clarified in a small read heading. The months are figuratively personified in medallion on the calendar pages, and are additionally furnished with a depiction of the constellation. All are encircled by a splendid gold frame.

An Insular Treasure in Hildesheim

The Psalter is closely associated with the person of Christina of Markyate. So it contains many interesting personal details, such as a reference to her death or the creation of her portrait in the year 1145. Additionally, the whole codex is female dominated with numerous female saints. The initial for Psalm 105 shows Christina praying before Christ. Also the Alexis letter with close parallels to the life of Markyates demonstrates this personal connection. Today St. Alban’s Psalter is the most important English cultural asset that is stored outside of England. It arrived in Hildesheim (the Benedictine St. Godehard Abbey) in the 17th century with English Benedictines, where it is a part of the collection to this day.

Codicology

Alternative Titles
Albani-Psalter
Salterio di Sant'Albano
Size / Format
422 pages / 27.6 × 18.4 cm
Date
1123–1135
Style
Illustrations
42 miniature pages and 214 historiated initials
12 zodiac signs
12 occupations of the months
Artist / School
Previous Owners
Christina of Markyate
Library of Lamspringe monastery (Lower Saxony, Germany)

Available facsimile editions:
St. Alban’s Psalter – Ms. St. God. 1|Inv. No. M694 – Dombibliothek Hildesheim (Hildesheim, Germany) / Schnütgen Museum Köln (Cologne, Germany)
Limited Edition: 375 copies (of 1125 copies - Coedition with Treccani and Eikon Editores)

Il Salterio di St. Albans
Istituto dell'Enciclopedia Italiana - Treccani – Rome, 2007
Limited Edition: 750 copies (of 1125)

Salterio de San Albans
Eikon Editores – Madrid, 2007
Limited Edition: 375 copies (of 1125 - Coedition with Treccani andMueller & Schindler)
Detail Picture

St. Alban’s Psalter

Psalm 27: Historiated “D” Initial

Flanked by clapping angels, Christ is presented enthroned in a splendidly colored and gilded “D” initial with the incipit for Psalm 27 (Psalm 26 in the Vulgate): Dominus illuminatio mea or “The Lord is my light”. A figure attempts to get Christ’s attention as he emphatically points to the phrase: quem timebo? or “who shall I fear?” This is a recurring device in the Psalter and these figures are used to emphasize phrases from the Psalms aside from the first few words.

Albani-Psalter
Single Page

St. Alban’s Psalter

Harrowing of Hell

According to Christian theology, Christ descended triumphantly into Hell between the Crucifixion and Resurrection. There he proclaimed good tidings to the dead and brought salvation to all the righteous who had died since the beginning of the world. Staff in hand, Christ reaches out to the denizens of Hell, depicted in typical fashion as the mouth of a great monster – the Hellmouth.

Accompanied by two angels, Christ is barefoot and dressed in a blue tunic and a robe of red and green trimmed with gold leaf. Instead of wearing the victorious countenance of a conqueror, Christ has a look of sympathy on his face for those he is about to save. The fantastic scene is contained within a perfectly patterned frame trimmed with gold leaf.

Albani-Psalter
Facsimile Editions

#1 Albani-Psalter

St. Alban’s Psalter – Ms. St. God. 1|Inv. No. M694 – Dombibliothek Hildesheim (Hildesheim, Germany) / Schnütgen Museum Köln (Cologne, Germany)
St. Alban’s Psalter – Ms. St. God. 1|Inv. No. M694 – Dombibliothek Hildesheim (Hildesheim, Germany) / Schnütgen Museum Köln (Cologne, Germany) Copyright Photos: Ziereis Facsimiles

Limited Edition: 375 copies (of 1125 copies - Coedition with Treccani and Eikon Editores)
Binding: Bordeaux red embossed full leather with gold clasps modeled on a contemporary English binding from the 12th century
Commentary: 1 volume by Jochen Bepler, Peter Kidd and Jane Geddes
Languages: German, English
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: €€€ (3,000€ - 7,000€)
Edition available
Price: Login here!

#2 Il Salterio di St. Albans

Limited Edition: 750 copies (of 1125)
Binding: Bordeaux red embossed full leather with gold clasps modeled on a contemporary English binding from the 12th century
Commentary: 1 volume by Jochen Bepler, Peter Kidd and Jane Geddes
Languages: English (abstract), Italian
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.

#3 Salterio de San Albans

Eikon Editores – Madrid, 2007

Publisher: Eikon Editores – Madrid, 2007
Limited Edition: 375 copies (of 1125 - Coedition with Treccani andMueller & Schindler)
Binding: Bordeaux red embossed full leather with gold clasps modeled on a contemporary English binding from the 12th century
Commentary: 1 volume by Jochen Bepler, Peter Kidd and Jane Geddes
Languages: English (abstract), Spanish
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.
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