A Psalter-Hours from Liège

Liège, 1255-1265 AD

Office books and calendars were often highly tailored to the community which produced it in both content and form, and, as he have seen, reflect the habits and interests of their users. This Mosan psalter-hours, executed in a formal gothic bookhand and lavishly illustrated, is a good example of this. It was produced in the diocese of Liège in Flanders, most likely for a community of beguines (lay virgins and widows). It shows many features typical of the area, most notably the Lambertum computus, a unique Easter table based on verse. This is just about visible on image f. 2v (April) in the slideshow.

Lambertus Reliquary, Luik © N. Volmering

In the mid-thirteenth century, the Hours began to emerge from the psalter as a separate book. Like many Books of Hours, this (mixed) psalter-hours contains miniatures of the labours of the months and signs of the zodiac in rich and colourful style. The miniatures for October (on f. 3v) are the labour of pigeage (a man stomping grapes) portrayed with a vine, and the sign for Scorpio. The miniatures for November portray a man carrying a boar, with another boar beside him, and a personification of Sagittarius shooting an arrow. The manuscript is believed to have been made in the same scriptorium that produced the Psalter of Lambert Le Bègue (BL Add MS 21114). Compare the two by browsing the images from MS 90 in the slide show and viewing the images from the Le Bègue Psalter here.


On f. 3v (last line) the calendar records the Irish saint Foillán, brother of St. Fursa, who founded the monastery of Fosses under the patronage of St. Gertrude of Nivelles. Gertrude herself was the daughter of King Pippin of Landen (great-grandfather of Charlemagne) and is a widely venerated saint in Belgium.