Try Amazon Music Unlimited Free Trial


Illustrations of Anglo-Saxons in

Prudentius' Psychomachia
“Conflict Of The Soul”
British Library, MS Cotton Cleopatra C VIII, c.1000



ff.7v-10r. Chastity and Lust in Prudentius' Psychomachia, British Library, MS Cotton Cleopatra C VIII, c.1000

Source: British Library, MS Cotton Cleopatra C VIII
Prudentius (born in 348 in northern Spain, died after 405) spent most of his life following worldly pursuits, but later turned to writing, in which he aimed to glorify God and atone for his earlier sins. One of his most popular works is a poem called Psychomachia (Conflict of the Soul), which describes the battles between female personifications of human virtues and vices. Instead of being a dry theological treatise, the poem has the qualities of an exciting narrative filled with high drama, with lots of bloodshed and violence. The descriptions of the women, including their clothes, armour, and details of their conflicts, lend themselves to illustration. This copy was apparently written by a scribe of Christ Church, Canterbury.

04r The Sacrifice Of Abraham
04v The Capture Of Lot / Abraham In Pursuit
05r Abraham returns after freeing Lot and his wife
05v Abraham And Melchisedech Making Offerings at an Altar, and the Three Angels Appearing To Abraham
06v Prudentius praying
07r Faith Confronting Idolatry / Faith Trampling on Idolatry
07v Faith Crowning the Martyrs / Chastity compelled to fight against Lust
08r Chastity hits Lust with a stone / Chastity stabs through Lust with a sword
08v Chastity rebukes the corpse of Lust
09v Chastity washing her sword in the Jordan
10r Chastity Dedicating Her Sword in a Temple / Patience Standing Unmoved Amidst an Enemy Army
10v Wrath prepares to throw a spear at Patience / Wrath rebukes Patience
11r Wrath powerless before Patience / Wrath's missiles lie purposeless on the ground
11v Wrath holding a shield, strikes with a sword at Patience
12r Wrath's sword breaks / Wrath kills herself
12v Patience rebukes the corpse of Wrath / Patience and Job pass through the midst of the array of Vices
13r Patience talking to Job / Patience Addressing the Other Virtues
13v Pride parading among the Vices
14r Pride On Horseback / Pride before Humility and Hope
15v Pride rides towards Humility and Hope / Pride falls headlong into a pit dug by Deceit
16r Pride at the feet of Humility
16v Hope giving her sword to Humility / Humility beheads Pride
17r Humility offers the head of Pride to Hope / Hope pours scorn on Pride's corpse
17v Humility ascending to heaven
18r Indulgence feasting
18v Indulgence making her way to war / Indulgence riding her chariot
19r Indulgence seduces the Virtues
19v Betrayal of the army of the righteous / Sobriety haranguing her troops
22r Sobriety, Indulgence, And Jest
25r Greed
27v Good-Works fights Avarice (Greed)
30r Peace arrives - Fear, Labour and Vigour Flee
36r Wisdom Enthroned





Referenced on p. 314 Scenes and Characters of the Middle Ages by Edward Lewes Cutts
The subjects are chiefly illustrations of Scripture history or of allegorical fable; but, thanks to the custom which prevailed throughout the Middle Ages of representing all such subjects in contemporary costume, and according to contemporary manners and customs, the Jewish patriarchs and their servants afford us perfectly correct representations of Saxon thanes and their cheorls; Goliath, a perfect picture of a Saxon warrior, armed cap-à-pied; and Pharaoh and his nobles of a Saxon Basileus and his witan.



Other Prudentius' Psychomachia manuscripts
Other 11th Century Illustrations of Costume & Soldiers
Index of Illustrations of Costume & Soldiers