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Lucy Freeman Sandler

Book containing the 150 psalms of the Old Testament. This article is concerned with manuscript Psalters used in the Western Church; for those used in the Orthodox Church see Early Christian and Byzantine art, §V, 2. The Psalter is usually divided into sections to be recited daily at Matins and Sunday Vespers and hence is a liturgical book used by the clergy in the Divine Office (forming the basis for the Breviary), or by the laity for private devotions. In addition to the psalms, Psalters generally contain an ecclesiastical Calendar, canticles, creeds, and the litany of the saints; the calendar and litany frequently provide evidence of the intended destination of a Psalter. Traditionally attributed to King David and his court musicians, the psalms are hymns in praise of God and pleas for his help and mercy. With the advent of Christianity, the psalms were interpreted in specifically Christian terms: the Lord of the Old Testament was understood as Christ the Messiah, and many passages of individual psalms were seen as Christian metaphors and prefigurations. The Hebrew text of the psalms reached the Latin West via the translations made by St Jerome in the 4th century AD, two from the Greek version (the Septuagint) and one directly from the original language. The three versions, known respectively as the Roman, Gallican, and Hebrew Psalters, differ in the numbering of the psalms (the Gallican will be followed here), and there are also many important textual differences. In the West, the Gallican translation became the standard text. Some Psalters, even illustrated examples such as the ...


Leslie Ross

Writings, often of a legendary nature, intended to honour the saints. These have inspired copious literary and artistic productions since the Early Christian period, when churches, shrines and martyria dedicated to saints became popular sites of pilgrimage. Although little evidence survives for the decoration of these monuments, it is clear that early picture cycles existed, depicting the honoured saints and/or episodes from their lives: S Paolo fuori le Mura in Rome appears to have contained a 5th-century fresco cycle with hagiographic scenes; episodes from the Passions of SS Peter and Paul appear on Early Christian sarcophagi and images of saints and apostles are found in catacomb paintings. Also from this period are the first lists of saints, a form of commemoration that developed into the manuscript type known as the Martyrology (an abbreviated listing of saints in order of their feast days). The writing of saintly ‘biography’, or hagiography, provided more information about the commemorated saint, whether apostle, martyr, confessor, virgin or hermit. This could take the form of a ...