The Rhygyfarch (al. Ricemarch) Psalter

TCD MS 50, Llanbadarn Fawr, twelfth century

This small Welsh psalter contains a copy of the Hieronymianum which may be derived from an Irish exemplar. It was written at Llanbadarn Fawr in Ceredigion and belonged to Rhygyfarch ap Sulien (c. 1056-99). Sulien (d. 1091, Rhygyfarch’s father) had spent some ten years studying in Ireland before serving as Bishop of St. Davids. He passed on his learning to his four sons, one of whom, Ieuan (d. 1137), is believed to be responsible for the beautiful illuminated capitals in the psalter, while a scribe called Ithael wrote the regular script. The decorative initials typically form interlace knots with animal heads, often biting into the letter. Animal heads are also used for punctuation between entries.

Given Sulien’s sojourn in Ireland, we may plausibly explain the presence of Irish saints such as Mancheanius, Fursa and Laisrén beside the more commonly celebrated Saints Brigit, Patrick and Columcille. It is noteworthy, however, that S. David is not listed, though a Life of St. David is included elsewhere in the manuscript.

Like Willibrord’s calendar, this martyrology is followed by computistical tables in the manuscript, and the text itself is accompanied (right to left) by the Dominical letters indicating the day of the week (here in letters rather than numerals), the lunar letters indicating the lunations of the moon, as well as the Golden Numbers, which indicate in which years of the 19-year Easter cycle the new moon will fall on that date.