Commissioned by a grandson of William the Conqueror: 38 masterful Romanesque miniatures with dramatic depictions of the struggle of good against evil

Winchester Psalter

Winchester Psalter

Winchester Psalter

  1. 38 first class Romanesque miniatures depict the various scenes from the Old and New Testaments

  2. The climax is a dramatic depiction of Hell with macabre demons tormenting the broken bodies of the damned

  3. The masterpiece was probably commissioned by the monk Henry de Blois, grandson of William the Conqueror (ca. 1028–87)

Winchester Psalter

Winchester Psalter – Cotton MS Nero C IV – British Library (London, United Kingdom)
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  1. Short Description
  2. Codicology

Short Description

The Winchester Psalter is counted among the highpoints of Romanesque illumination and impresses its reader with 38 fascinating miniatures, which effectively illustrate the various battles between good and evil. Likely commissioned by the monk Henry de Blois (ca. 1100–1171), the manuscript originated sometime between the mid–12th century and the second half of the 13th century in Winchester, England. The miniatures are placed before the text of the Psalms, thus supporting the moral message of the text as a visual introduction. The climax is a particularly dramatic depiction of Hell with the broken bodies of the damned, who are tormented by macabre demons.

The Winchester Psalter

The monk Henry de Blois (ca. 1100–1171) commissioned a true masterpiece of Romanesque illumination with the Winchester Psalter. The 284-page parchment manuscript originated sometime between the mid–12th century and the second half of the 13th century in Winchester, England and contains the biblical Psalms. These were of great significance for daily religious use, because the practice of devotion outside of church services through daily recitation of the Psalms was also common. The text is prefaced with 38 full-page miniatures, which impressively support the moral message of the text and serve as a visual introduction.

The Battle between Good and Evil

The 38 first class miniatures depict the various scenes from the Old and New Testaments, from the life of Jesus and the Virgin Mary to the Resurrection and Judgement Day, in a particularly dramatic fashion. The artist creatively shows the beholder the various models of good and evil and the resulting punishments. For example, the depiction of Hell is particularly horrific: the small broken bodies of the damned are tortured by big, cruel, grinning demons with tools. The Juda kiss scene is equally expressive. The painter characterizes the soldiers as horrible monsters with great mouths, sharp teeth, and long, beak-like noses. This sight makes one immediately think of the sinister figure of the devil.

Connections to the Famous Cluny Abbey in France

Actually, the patron of this breathtaking Psalter is unknown, but both the calendar, the litany, and the prayer at St. Swithun, whose remains are mentioned in the manuscript, suggest that the book is connected to Winchester **. In addition, the calendar contains many festivals that lead to the influential abbey of Cluny in France. The **most likely patron is Henry de Blois, the grandson of William the Conqueror. He was initially a monk in Cluny and Bishop of Winchester between 1129 and 1171. Considering his great passion for the arts, he could have ordered the fantastic manuscript for his use.

1 available facsimile edition(s) of „Winchester Psalter“

The Winchester Psalter
Winchester Psalter – Cotton MS Nero C IV – British Library (London, United Kingdom)
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The Winchester Psalter

1 volume: This facsimile is not complete.
Publisher
The Folio Society
Limited Edition
980 copies
More Information
The edition contains only the first 39 folios of the manuscript with the cycle of miniature. The proportion of the text (40r-142v) is not represented.
Price Category: € (under 1,000€)
Edition available
Price: Login here!
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