Military Review

The source of information is the psalter!

The source of information for the historian is a variety of "things." These are artifacts that have come down to us from the depths of the centuries and have been preserved in private collections and museum collections, archaeologists' finds they got in the dust and dirt of the excavations, including ancient manuscripts - torn papyrus from Egypt, silk scrolls from China, parchment manuscripts of Europe. And they tell a lot about things, although not always. Unfortunately, in school textbooks on stories the historiographic side of the matter does not pay attention at all. That is, what is taken and from where it is not indicated in the captions under the photographs and drawings. And this is wrong, however, history textbooks for the school are a special conversation. And today we are interested in "pictures" of medieval illuminated, that is, illustrated books. And we will tell only about one such book, and the book seems to be not very interesting - the psalter, that is, a book of religious content.

The source of information is the psalter!

Khludovskaya Psalter (IX century). On miniatures (XIII century. We note that at this time the miniatures of the psalter were completely rewritten) King David is depicted playing the psaltery on the left, on the right he is conquering enemies and wild animals. Stored in the collection of handwritten documents of the State Historical Museum in Moscow, number 129d.

The Psalter of Latrell is kept in the British Library, where many famous medieval illuminated manuscripts are located. All those who saw her say that this book is not only very beautiful, but that it is fascinating. And it is famous primarily for its funny and colorful images of rural England, the grotesque figures of the world of demons and the information available in it about the equipment of the knights of medieval England!

This is what the Psalter of Latrell looks like.

This illustrious manuscript (and you can't say differently!) Was written and decorated by unknown book masters around 1320 - 1340, and today it is one of the most striking among the surviving manuscripts of this era. Suffice it to say that the psalter is painted with bright colors, decorated with silver and gilding, and therefore very beautiful. No less important is the fact that, by its nature, by its bizarre artistic design, it is not similar to any other hymnal among all existing ones.

Very popular in the Middle Ages theme: "The assault of the knights of the castle of love." "Psalter Latrell."

"Storm of the castle of love" close-up. The plates are very clearly visible - knight shoulder plates and drawings on them, as well as gold-plated helmets bascinetts with visor, mail armor with gold-plated patch plates on the legs (the figure on the left).

Now it is necessary to tell a little about that, and what is this hymnal, since the word is rather ancient and is hardly used today.

There is a biblical text - “Psalms” –150 of ancient songs, which together are included in one of the books of the Old Testament. In the era of the Middle Ages (as indeed now), they became the basis of Christian dogma for both clergy and their flock. Many in the past have learned to read precisely the Psalms. These psalms were often recorded separately from the Bible itself, a calendar of church holidays was printed (or handwritten) with them, and various corresponding prayer times were added to them. Such a “book for religious reading” was called the Psalter.

Knightly duel from the Psalms of Latrell. European knight on the left, Saracen on the right.

The same image close up.

This manuscript received its name for a reason; it was already called that day by the name of its customer, whose image is on its pages. He was Jeffrey Luttrell (1276 - 1345) - the owner of the estate Irnham (Lincolnshire, England) - one of the many belonging to his feudal possessions. His ancestors faithfully served King John (John Landless - the rebellious brother of King Richard I the Lionheart, whose valor tirelessly sang Walter Scott), for which they were awarded land property. Jeffrey Luttrell himself very successfully married. The dowry of his wife also constituted the land, which further increased his wealth.

For the first time, the Psalter of Latrell was shown to the public in 1794, but it was only in 1929 that the British Museum acquired its property from Mary Angela Noyes, the wife of poet Alfred Noyes, for £ 31500. The manuscript has the following dimensions: leather cover - 370 x 270 mm, page - 350 x 245 mm. Dimensions of written text - 255 x 170 mm. The psalter was illustrated by several artists at once, which is noticeable by the small difference in their styles. The first artist is called "Decorator". He used a linear drawing style instead of a two-dimensional approach to drawings. The second artist is called “Colorist,” and in the text belong to him images of such figures as Christ and the saints. The third artist, “Illustrator,” is characterized by a flatter and more two-dimensional style of writing than the first artist. The fourth artist is called the “Master” and he showed himself to be a specialist in rural themes and outlandish grotesques. He also portrayed the Latrell family. Moreover, it is noted that he used paints with great skill to show the effect of shadow and texture. This technique is very similar to the style of manuscripts from eastern England of the time. In general, the iconographic analysis of illustrations provides a lot of information about the life of Sir Geoffrey Latrell. The facsimile edition of the Psalter was implemented by the British Library in 2006.

Ship 1335 - 1345's.

What unusual can be found in Latrell's Psalter?
Medieval tradition was such that, as usual, luxuriously illustrated medieval hymns should depict King David, the supposed author of the Psalms, the faces of saints, and some biblical scenes, so to speak, "related to the topic." It was possible to insert images of scenes of peasant labor and life into them, but this hymn is different from others in their number and in the set of absolutely charming details. These very lively and sometimes even humorous pictures are in fact a very real documentary about how peasants worked and spent time on the Jeffrey Manor throughout the year. And they show that he was obviously very humane towards them and that they even had time to play.

Sir Jeffrey Latrell is having lunch surrounded by households and two Dominican monks.

Turning page by page, we see women harvesting wheat and rye (in the Middle Ages, harvest was considered not feminine - remember Charles Pérette’s Puss in Boots, which mentions reapers and mowers, but the harvest should be gathered as soon as possible so that not a grain was lost, so everyone was involved in the harvest, peasant women who feed the chickens, scenes of cooking and its use. Warriors, merchants, bear hunters, dancers, musicians, a false bishop along with a dog who jumps through a hoop and even a wife that whips her husband (the scene is truly amazing!) - all these pictures were depicted on the lower, upper and even lateral the fields of the psalter pages.

Reaper women.

Peasants thresh bread.

All these “pictures” played a big role in shaping the romantic image of “good old England” in which rich and virtuous lords lived, peasants who had a rest with the same zeal with which they were, were, in fact, his children. Today, scientists believe that everyday scenes from the life in “Psalms of Latrell” are quite strongly idealized. But, on the other hand, they were created after all for the pleasure of Jeffrey's sulfur, and by no means its employees. On the other hand, too much “lying in front of the eyes of the Lord” was a terrible sin, especially in the pages of the “eternal book.” That is, most likely, the author of all these illustrations was justified by the fact that he considered “and I see it that way”, “this may well be”, “I heard about it somewhere”, “the godfather told me about it”, and so further, that is, he seemed to lay out his guilt for the distortion of reality on many others.

On the windmill they carry grain in bags.

A farmer with a sling drives the birds away.

Who was the one who created this manuscript?
It is known that medieval manuscripts were a collective creation, which is why they do not have an author. That is, several people participated in their creation. One or several scribes wrote the text itself, and some only capital letters, and as many as four artists drew ornaments and illustrations. So the "Psalter of Latrell" is the work of one scribe and as a whole "brigade" of artists whose names did not reach us, and could not reach in light of the circumstances known to us. Perhaps this book was created in Lincoln, but this is nothing more than an assumption. It is based on the fact that the customer had to live nearby and was interested in periodically visiting the masters and watching how the work was going. After all, at that time there was little entertainment among the feudal lords, and so - “I'm going to go to Lincoln, see how my hymnal is spelled!” - this is his all day entertainment!

What kind of strange animals are shown in this book?
An impressive decoration created by a very gifted artist, informally called the “Master”, are miniatures in the middle of the book in the so-called “arabesques”: these are hybrid monsters that have a human head, a body taken from an animal, fish or bird, and the tail is ... plant. In them we see the author’s utmost observation and attention to trifles, as well as a clear ability to be creative and subtle humor. It seems that they have nothing to do with the text that they accompany. Interestingly, their foliage is depicted as limbs, as in the Jewish manuscript of the Duke of Sussex, the German Pentateuch. All of these monsters contrast sharply with the religious figure of a man praying at the beginning of the manuscript.

"Fishman". Monsters each other whimsical and fun. And they do not look scary, although very unusual. That is, a person with a rich imagination drew them, but it is not known what this could mean!

"The dragon lion in a hat"

"Dragon Man"


Since we are on the VO website, we, of course, should be interested in the military aspect of the images in this psalter, and it is really present in it. These are images of Sir Latrell in full knightly gear. It is very well shown that he has a helmet with a bascinet on his head, which plays the role of a balaclava, and a “big helmet” was also worn above. The top of it, however, is not flat, but of a pointed form and, moreover, it is also equipped with a visor. The shield is very small, in the form of an iron. A triangular pennant pennon on his spear indicates that he is “a knight of one shield”. Experts have calculated that his stamped image on a miniature - clothing and armor is repeated 17 times, that is, Jeffrey Latrell was really proud of his coat of arms! It is also interesting that the “birds” on the right side of the blanket (and decorations) look from left to right, although following the image on the shield (which can be clearly seen on the miniature!), They should look right to left. But this was not accepted, since in this case they would be called the "cowardly", as their backs turned to the enemy. Therefore, the image on the coat of arms was changed when applied to the blanket and ammunition knight!

This is what the images of Sir Latrell and his family look like on the page of this hymnals.

Interestingly, for some reason, a monster with a jagged flipper, which crosses a page from right to left, is above Sir Jeffrey's horse figure. And below, in the graceful and lush style of calligraphy of this era, adopted at that time, the inscription was made: “Lord Jeffrey Luttrell told me to do it.”

Interestingly, Sir Jeffrey Luttrell himself did not belong to the very top of the 14th century English society. He was just lucky that he found an unknown genius for himself, who painted his family hymn in such a bizarre way and immortalized the name of this, in general, not a very noble knight from Lincolnshire. Where this artist came from and why we don’t know anything at all about the other works he has done remains a mystery. The only name that is associated with this masterpiece of medieval manuscripts is the name of Sir Jeffrey himself, the customer of this unique work. But it should be noted that this artist had an excellent sense of humor and a rich imagination, which many other illustrators of medieval manuscripts were deprived of. Interestingly, by tradition, at the beginning, after compulsory praise to the Lord, a miniature directly dedicated to the customer was placed. On it, Sir Geoffrey, with a characteristic Norman profile, sits majestically on a huge warhorse and takes the helmet from the hands of his no less aristocratic Norman wife. The daughter-in-law is right there waiting for the opportunity to hand him a shield. On both women heraldic dresses, from the drawings on which it is not difficult to establish the existence of kinship ties between the Luttrell family and the Suttons and Scrotalts from Masham. All these three families were linked by marriage, and on each figure you can see the coats of arms of these families.


A little rogue rips other people's cherries.

And of course, the illustrations of "Psalms of Latrell" are unusual primarily because they tell in great detail about the work of ordinary English peasants. For example, this is where women in a close pen are engaged in milking sheep. Collected milk is carried away in jugs and containers, putting them on the head, just like in the East. And then make cheese out of it!

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  1. Reptiloid
    Reptiloid 28 September 2017 07: 39
    Thank you very much, Vyacheslav Olegovich! Cool!!! I especially liked the images of Angels, demons and beasts. So called then grotesque, fantastic animals and monsters --- "" human fish "", "" dragon dragons "
    ", only the third one had to be called" "pig-haired pig" "--- he has donkey hooves on his front legs! Actually, beasts are classified, described.
    But the assault on the Castle of Love --- it's interesting! Is that --- children's logic (boys offend girls)? Or the hopes of women? Please explain!
    And one more question. So you signed that on one of the pictures on the right is Saracen. But why does Saracen have a blue face ??? To emphasize his abomination? Or does it mean that he WILL be killed? Or complex medieval symbolism?
    1. kalibr
      28 September 2017 07: 57
      Good morning, Dmitriy! These are the questions I like. About the description of beast (bestiary), I heard, but this is not the topic of work - the theme of "Source". In this regard, I seem to have coped with the task?
      Storming the Castle of Love ... That is why the Lattrell Psalter is interesting because it ... has this! And how to explain? Realization of children's fears? Reflection of courtly literature of those years. I do not know. I did not meet the explanation. But this topic was being circulated at that time with enviable constancy. There are carved casket of bone (one in my opinion in the Hermitage), where this scene is.
      As for the Saracens ... they were often depicted with either black or blue faces. That is all I can tell you. Why so - I do not know. And no one to ask. We don’t even know the names of the miniaturists of that time. "why, they say. you drew.
      Sorry, Dmitry, that I could not satisfy your interest. As you yourself understand, I was most interested in the images of armor in this. The Psalter of Luttrell is constantly referenced by both D. Nicole and C. Gravett. But to write only about this is not enough. Therefore, I collected everything that could somehow arouse the interest of the VO audience. Including yours!
      1. Reptiloid
        Reptiloid 28 September 2017 08: 12
        Thanks for the answer, Vyacheslav. In Europe, beasts can be seen in architecture.
      2. Curious
        Curious 28 September 2017 10: 04
        The very expression “storming the castle of love” came from the novel “The Rose”. In any case, there definitely is a story about the "storm of the castle of love", in which the long-awaited Rose was strengthened. How the assault ended for Rosa, I think, writing is not worth it.
        As for the illustration, I think this is an overlay of the literary plot on the image of one of the amusing sieges that were popular at that time along with knightly tournaments. While the noble Ivanews pounded each other in earnest, the ladies with baskets of flowers expressed enthusiasm.
        1. 3x3zsave
          3x3zsave 28 September 2017 20: 01
          Viktor Nikolaevich, you said “like”?!?!?! Everything, paragraph, my universe will collapse now! Well, you can’t do this, I’ll go and drink vodka. smile And besides jokes, does anyone know what paints for miniatures were made of in the Middle Ages? I mean the base, not the dyes. Sorry, professional deformation, I, damn it, a hereditary builder.
          1. Curious
            Curious 28 September 2017 20: 25
            Artistic and painting paints are somewhat different things, although they have a lot in common, but, as Vasily Ivanovich said, there are nuances.
            As for the “like”, excuse me, a thousand years have passed since the moment of writing, I could forget some small details during this time.
            1. 3x3zsave
              3x3zsave 28 September 2017 21: 05
              And what were the murals painted, artistic or painting? And the technology of "scraping", and painting on raw plaster, where is the art, and where is the craft?
              1. Curious
                Curious 28 September 2017 22: 19
                Here is what the raw mural is and is a fresco (affresco - raw mural plaster painting). And on dry plaster it is a classic mural painting, but not a mural.
                And with what I wrote - I recommend A. Lentovsky. Technology of pictorial materials M .: Art, 1949.
                Well, if you can find it, then, of course, Ernst Berger's “Mural Technique and Sgraffito Technique”.
                1. 3x3zsave
                  3x3zsave 29 September 2017 18: 57
                  Thanks for the information. In general, the forgotten old technology is a very interesting thing. Pory they are not very forgotten, just recycled with new materials. But, “this is a completely different story” not for Topwar, but sorry, I have something to say.
  2. parusnik
    parusnik 28 September 2017 07: 54
    Handwritten books, works of art .. This is the material from which the book is made and the work of a bookbinder and the one who wrote the text and the artists making the books ... Hard work ... Thank you, Vyacheslav ..
  3. XII Legion
    XII Legion 28 September 2017 08: 07
    Cognitively, and, what is important, clearly hi
  4. 3x3zsave
    3x3zsave 28 September 2017 09: 15
    Thank you for the article! But interestingly, pale copies of other pages are superimposed on the images, what is it? Is the sheet material so thin that the back is visible, or a print of another part of the spread?
    1. kalibr
      28 September 2017 10: 47
      Very interesting question. But ... to answer it, you need to find the text of the whole Psatiri and see. I found when I was writing material. Leafing through the pages. But I forgot how it is. I forgot everything. I wrote for a long time. But it’s very troublesome to search all over again, for example, “to climb the wilds of the Internet” ...
    2. Mikado
      Mikado 28 September 2017 14: 32
      The sheet material is so thin that the back is visible

      probably yes. The design of the books was then treated with particular care, and probably they hardly allowed a print. what
      Good topic for the article, non-trivial. I bow, Vyacheslav Olegovich! hi
  5. Alexey-74
    Alexey-74 28 September 2017 10: 18
    Thanks to the author for the historical excursion. Who else would Russian chronicles and Christian sources about Russia would describe in detail.
    1. kalibr
      28 September 2017 10: 41
      And they are described! Although not all. Danilevsky, for example, has this. There is a complete edition of the annals of PSRL. There are articles where they are analyzed, for example, texts about the same Battle of the Ice. There is even material about the number seven in the annals, the expression of Gogi and Magogi ... there are many things. But this is a huge and very complex topic. She needs to do years!
  6. Barcid
    Barcid 28 September 2017 10: 22
    To my shame I did not know. Thank. Interesting
  7. Karen
    Karen 29 September 2017 21: 43
    Vyacheslav, I recommend looking at the thumbnails of the Cilician school ... Toros Roslin