Majesty of the Letter
The Book of Psalms was perhaps the most widely-read book in the early medieval West. Psalters, that is, volumes containing the Psalms, were often high-status objects. In Psalters we find different colours, scripts and precious metals, including gold and silver.
GOD ON THE PAGE
In the Psalms individual letters and words were sometimes singled out for special attention. Here the D of Domine (O Lord) is highlighted, as are the words Domine exaudi orationem meam et clamor meus ad te ueniat (Hear, O Lord, my prayer, and let my cry come to thee). The initial D and the words of the Psalm are written in gold against a purple background. An animal head appears at the base and crown of the initial D.
MAN AS BLESSED
The opening Psalm regularly received a lot of attention. Here the initial B and some of the words of the first Psalm are highlighted: Beatus uir qui non abiit in consilio impiorum (Blessed is the man who hath not walked in the counsel of the ungodly). This page is found in the famous Golden Psalter of St. Gall which has many illustrations often showing scenes from the life of David, regarded as the prefiguration of Christ.
GOLD ON THE PAGE
The monumentality of individual letters was enhanced by the use of gold. Some Psalters were entirely written in gold letters. As a precious metal, gold was used for coinage, jewellery and manuscript decoration. In the early medieval world, the Psalms were used to contemplate the power of God. In Psalters gold serves as an invitation to meditate upon the divine.
THE GLOSSED PAGE
The opening page of this Psalter transmits marginal notes. The initial B of Beatus uir is decorated with an animal’s head. Written at the famous abbey of St. Gall, this Psalter brings us into the heart of one of the most famous centres of intellectual life in the early medieval West.
THE GLOSSED PAGE
This manuscript, linked with Salzburg and Vercelli, is closely related to the St. Gall glossed Psalter in figure 4. The comments are part of a tradition that made its way to northern Italy. They attest to the participation of northern Italy in the cultural revival that spread across western Europe in the ninth century.