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See also: Latin Psalters Dedicated psalters, as distinct from copies of the Psalms in other formats, e. The extensively illustrated Utrecht Psalter is one of the most important surviving Carolingian manuscripts and exercised a major influence on the later development of Anglo-Saxon art.

From the late 11th century onwards they became particularly widespread - Psalms were recited by the clergy at various points in the liturgy , so psalters were a key part of the liturgical equipment in major churches. Various different schemes existed for the arrangement of the Psalms into groups see Latin Psalters.

As well as the Psalms, medieval psalters often included a calendar, a litany of saints, canticles from the Old and New Testaments , and other devotional texts.

The selection of saints mentioned in the calendar and litany varied greatly and can often give clues as to the original ownership of the manuscript, since monasteries and private patrons alike would choose those saints that had particular significance for them.

Many psalters were lavishly illuminated with full-page miniatures as well as decorated initials. Of the initials the most important is normally the so-called " Beatus initial ", based on the "B" of the words Beatus vir This was usually given the most elaborate decoration in an illuminated psalter, often taking a whole page for the initial letter or first two words.

Historiated initials or full-page illuminations were also used to mark the beginnings of the three major divisions of the Psalms, or the various daily readings, and may have helped users navigate to the relevant part of the text medieval books almost never had page numbers. Many psalters, particularly from the 12th century onwards, included a richly decorated "prefatory cycle" — a series of full-page illuminations preceding the Psalms, usually illustrating the Passion story, though some also featured Old Testament narratives.

The psalter is also a part of either the Horologion or the breviary , used to say the Liturgy of the Hours in the Eastern and Western Christian worlds respectively. Non-illuminated psalters written in Coptic include some of the earliest surviving codices bound books altogether; the earliest Coptic psalter predates the earliest Western Irish one by more than a century.

The Mudil Psalter , the oldest complete Coptic psalter, dates to the 5th century. The codex was in the grave of a young girl, open, with her head resting on it. In Eastern Christianity Eastern Orthodox , and in modern times also Byzantine Catholic , the Book of Psalms for liturgical purposes is divided into 20 kathismata or "sittings", for reading at Vespers and Matins. Kathisma means sitting, since the people normally sit during the reading of the psalms. Each kathisma is divided into three stases , from stasis, to stand, because each stasis ends with Glory to the Father The reading of the kathismata are so arranged that the entire psalter is read through in the course of a week during Great Lent it is read through twice in a week.

Orthodox psalters usually also contain the Biblical canticles , which are read at the canon of Matins during Great Lent. The established Orthodox tradition of Christian burial has included reading the Psalms in the church throughout the vigil , where the deceased remains the night before the funeral a reflection of the vigil of Holy Friday. Some Orthodox psalters also contain special prayers for the departed for this purpose. While the full tradition is showing signs of diminishing in practice, the psalter is still sometimes used during a wake.

Albans Psalter. Page from the Chludov Psalter 9th century. The Sofia Psalter


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