Psalter of Eleanor of Aquitaine: description and contents

Description of the manuscript

Den Haag, Koninklijke Bibliotheek, KW 76 F 13.
Fécamp, circa 1180-1185.
Vellum, 176 fol., 232×169 (173×109) mm, 1 column, 22 lines. Brown leather binding ca. 1770.


  • fol. [0]v (paper flyleaf): notes by G.J. Gérard (added)
  • fol. 1v-13r: calendar
  • fol. 14v-28r: images from the life of Christ
  • fol. 28v: donor portrait
  • fol. 29r-160v: psalms
  • fol. 160v-170r: Canticum Ysaie prophete, Canticum Ezechie, Canticum Anne, Canticum Moysi, Canticum Abacue propheta, Canticum Moysi servi Dei, Hymnnus trium puerorum, Canticum Symeonis, Canticum beate Marie, Canticum Zacharie.
  • fol. 170r-171v: Fides catholica (‘Quicumque vult’)
  • fol. 172r-172v: Hymnus Augustini et Ambrosii (‘Te Deum’)
  • fol. 172v-175r: litany.
  • fol. 175r-176r: Collecta de Trinitate and other collects.
  • fol. 176v: notarial deed of 13 June 1369 (added).

The images in the psalter of Eleonora

The psalter of Eleonora is a typical example of richly decorated psalters which were produced from the latter half of the twelfth century in England and Northern France. The images reflect the so-called 'Channel style', a style which probably had its origin in Paris but which spread to both sides of the Channel.

Calendar miniatures

On the back of the calendar pages we find twelve full page miniatures with the so-called 'works of the month'. These depict typical activities suited for the time of year, especially in agriculture. It is rare to find such full-page images in this period. More often the works of the month appear in small miniatures within the calendar. Opposite the works of the month we find 36 smaller miniatures: 12 signs of the zodiac and 24 images of bloodletting. The latter are unique.

  • fol. 1v: January - a two-faced man dining.
  • fol. 2r: two bloodlettings, inbetween Aquarius.
  • fol. 2v: February – a man warming his feet at a fire.
  • fol. 3r: two bloodlettings, inbetween Pisces.
  • fol. 3v: March – men pruning, tying up and planting vines.
  • fol. 4r: two bloodlettings, inbetween Aries.
  • fol. 4v: April – a nobleman holding a flower.
  • fol. 5r: two bloodlettings, inbetween Taurus.
  • fol. 5v: May – a nobleman on a horse, with a falcon.
  • fol. 6r: two bloodlettings, inbetween Gemini.
  • fol. 6v: June – men mowing and turning grass and making haystacks.
  • fol. 7r: two bloodlettings, inbetween Cancer.
  • fol. 7v: July – a man weeding.
  • fol. 8r: two bloodlettings, inbetween Leo.
  • fol. 8v: August – people reaping corn, gleaning, harvesting.
  • fol. 9r: two bloodlettings, inbetween Virgo.
  • fol. 9v: September – men picking and treading grapes.
  • fol. 10r: two bloodlettings, inbetween Libra.
  • fol. 10v: October – men sowing and ploughing, a woman spinning.
  • fol. 11r: two bloodlettings, inbetween Scorpio.
  • fol. 11v: November – a man knocking acorns out of an oak-tree.
  • fol. 12r: two bloodlettings, inbetween Sagittarius.
  • fol. 12v: December – a man slaughtering a pig and singeing off his bristles.
  • fol. 13r: two bloodlettings, inbetween Capricorn.

Images from the life of Christ

Fourteen full page miniatures. It is likely that this section originally included 18 miniatures; 4 have been lost.

  • fol. 14v: The Annunciation: Gabriel announces Christ's birth to Mary.
  • fol. 15r: The Visitation: Mary meets St. Elisabeth.
  • fol. 16v: The Nativity: the Christ-child in the manger, Mary lies in bed, St. Joseph at her feet.
  • fol. 17v: The three Wise Men (from the adoration of the Christ-child by the Magi).
  • fol. 18r: Mary enthroned, holding the Christ-child (from the adoration of the Christ-child by the Magi).
  • fol. 19r: The baptism of Christ by St. John the Baptist, an angel holds Christ's robe.
  • fol. 20r: Caiaphas and the priests conspiring against Christ.
  • fol. 21v: The arrest of Christ: the kiss of Judas.
  • fol. 22r: The tortures of Christ: Christ is flagellated.
  • fol. 23r: The three Maries at the empty tomb.
  • fol. 24v: Harrowing of Hell: Christ leaves hell and liberates the souls.
  • fol. 25r: The Incredulity of St. Thomas.
  • fol. 26v: The Ascension: Christ ascends into heaven above the apostles.
  • fol. 27r: Pentecost: the Holy Spirit descends upon the apostles.

Donor portrait

Full-page miniature

Initials within the psalms

The 150 psalms are subdivided in ten uneven sections, as was customary in English and Northern French manuscripts of the period. Every section begins with a beautifully ornamented letter: nine historiated initials and a decorated initial. Most of them depict scenes from the life of David, the poet of the psalms.

  • fol. 29r (Psalm 1, ‘Beatus vir qui non abiit in consilio inpiorum et in via peccatorum non stetit et in cathedra pestilentie non sedit’): King David plays the harp; David and Goliath.
  • fol. 49v (Psalm 26, ‘Dominus, illuminatio mea, et salus mea quem timebo’): Samuel anoints David.
  • fol. 62v (Psalm 38, ‘Dixi custodiam vias meas, ut non delinquam in lingua mea’): man on a roof (David?) with a banner.
  • fol. 74v (Psalm 51, ‘Quit gloriaris in malitia, qui potens es in iniquitate’): Doeh kills Achimelech en the priests of Nob.
  • fol. 75r (Psalm 52, ‘Dixit insipiens in corde suo, non est deus’): David and Abigail.
  • fol. 88r (Psalm 68, ‘Salvum me fac deus, quoniam intraverunt aque usque ad animam meam’): Jonah and the whale.
  • fol. 103v (links volgen z.s.m.) (Psalm 80, ‘Exultate deo adiutori nostro, iubilate deo Jacob’).
  • fol. 117v (Psalm 97, ‘Cantate domino canticum novum, quia mirabilia fecit’): King David and a woman (Ecclesia?) offering him a chalice.
  • fol. 119v (Psalm 101, ‘Domine exaudi orationem meam, et clamor meus ad te veniat’): Christ and a praying man.
  • fol. 132v (Psalm 109, ‘Dixit dominus dominus meo, sede a dextris meis’): Christ and God.