The St Albans Psalter


It is as if the artists of the St. Alban’s Psalter, both scribe and painter alike, had music still ringing in their ears when they executed the Psalms from 1123 to 1135 in an incredibly lavish luxury manuscript.

The outstanding miniatures and painted initials of the book form such an expressive and lively coloured decoration that one can imagine them moving to the rhythm of music: a fantastic picture gallery from the heyday of English book illumination.

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The English variant of the Romanesque period is frequently considered as the most interesting period of Insular illumination. It was a period of transition and experimentation. The successful marriage of Byzantian and Ottonian influences with Anglo-Saxon elements produced a new, dramatic and expressive style in its own right.


During the Middle Ages, the Psalms belonged to the most widely known and most popular texts of Biblical literature, both in the private and in the ecclesiastical realms. They were recited daily by both clerics and the laity and even used in textbooks, for teaching children to read and write.

In addition to the 150 Latin Psalms (Gallican version), the calendar at the beginning and the litany and prayers at the end of the book, the St. Alban’s Psalter includes two further quite unusual texts: the Life of St. Alexius and a letter of Pope Gregory the Great in which he defends the variety of images as a teaching aid.

The Chanson of Alexius is among the earliest surviving texts of Old French Literature. It was written even before the Chanson de Roland and was added to the volume because of the similarity with the biography of the recipient of the sumptuous Psalter.


The manuscript was presumably commissioned by Geoffrey de Gorham, abbot of St. Alban’s, for Christina of Markyate, a close friend of his, to be executed by the scriptorium of St. Alban’s abbey near London. Christina hailed from a wealthy Angelo-Saxon family and decided at a very early stage to dedicate her life to God – she fled from an arranged marriage and withdrew to a hermitage near Markyate. There she got to know Geoffrey who became her mentor and friend – a very special relationship to which we owe this unique Psalter manuscript.

Weight 2 kg


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