Try Amazon Prime 30-Day Free Trial

Illustrations from

The 'Melisende Psalter'

Eastern Mediterranean (Kingdom of Jerusalem) between 1131 and 1143

Rest the cursor over a thumb-nail to see the title. Click to see the larger image.

The covers are of ivory panels. Scenes from the life of David are on the upper cover. Six vices and six works of charity are on the lower cover. Possibly made for Melisende (b. 1105, d. 1161), Queen of Jerusalem, wife of Fulk, count of Anjou (d. 1143) between 1131-1143, by Basilius. Source: British Library
Upper Ivory Cover
f7v. Betrayal
f8r. Crucifixion
f10v. The Empty Tomb
f18v. Sagittarius
f23v. Archer And David in a Decorated Letter

The manuscript is referenced as figure 732 in Arms and Armour of the Crusading Era, 1050-1350, Western Europe and the Crusader States by David Nicolle
732A-K Queen Melisende's Psalter, Kingdom of Jerusalem, 1131-43
(British Library. Ms. Egerton 1139, London, England)

A-H The Betrayal, f.7v; I - Guards at the Holy Sepulchre, f.10r; J - Sagittarius f.18v; K - decorated initial, f.23v. Queen Melisende's Psalter was probably one of the earliest products of a school of illumination at Acre (in the Kingdom of Jerusalem) that would subsequently produce many distinctive manuscripts. It is largely Byzantine in style and has some similarity to local Middle Eastern manuscripts plus a small amount of Western European Romanesque influence. The mixture of extraordinary weapons seen in the 'Garden of Gethsemane' (A-H) reflects Byzantine, Armenian and Syriac styles. Seen here are a knife or dagger (A), round-headed and spiked maces (B and E) which were as yet rarely seen in the West, spears (D and F), and a long-bladed axe with a hammer at the back (G). Two very unusual infantry weapons are also illustrated. One appears to be a kind of pointed war-hammer (C), the other a war-flail (H), a weapon which would not become widely popular until the 14th and 15th centuries. It is worth noting the presence of such an infantry weapon, which was most effective against the legs of horses, Crusader Palestine being, of course, an area where the foe consisted primarily of horsemen. The sleeping guards (I) outside the Holy Sepulchre are almost entirely Byzantine in style, partly realistic and partly archaised. The two archers (J and K) use early forms of composite bows with angled grips. Both the bows and one man's quiver (K) on a strap over his shoulder have echoes in Mediterranean Europe rather than in the Middle East.

Other contemporary illustrations:
Soldiers Attack Jerusalem, in the Bury Bible, England, Bury St Edmunds, c.1130-1135
Italian City Militia on the Basilica of San Zeno, Verona, c.1135-38
Lunette showing Saint George from the main portal of the Cathedral of Ferrara, Italy, 12th Century. By Magister Nicholaus
Exultet Roll from Fondi, Campania, Italy, 1136AD, BnF NAL 710
Spanish Knights & Infantry in the Codex Calixtinus, 1135-1139AD
Judas Maccabeus portrayed as a Polish knight in the Plock Bible, second quarter of the 12th century
'Roland', carving, Verona Cathedral, Lombardy, Italy, c.1139
12th century German soldiers in the Admont Bible, Salzburg, c.1140

Other 12th Century Illustrations of Costume & Soldiers
Index of Illustrations of Costume & Soldiers