Psalters were devotional books that contained the one hundred-fifty sacred songs of the Old Testament’s Book of Psalms. These songs, hymns, and chants were a central component of the Christian liturgy during the Middle Ages and thus central to medieval religious practice. The convenience of having the psalms gathered together in a single volume that was separate from the other books of the Bible made them exceptionally popular among both lay elite and monastic communities.
The centrality of the Psalms to medieval Chrisitan worship meant that Psalters were among the first Latin texts introduced to many medieval children. For this reason, Psalters also had an important educational function. They were frequently used to teach children Latin; this fact is demonstrated by the presence of certain annotations on the folios of many surviving psalters that would have been added by those studying the texts. The thirteenth-century German psalter within the University of Guelph's collection displays such annotations: for example, an alphabet has been added on folio fourteen. The Psalms also provided important moral instruction to medieval children, as they were centred around messages of righteousness and virtue. These lessons were often emphasized by the presence of lavish illustrations. The illustrated scene of St. Michael slaying the dragon from the Book of Revelations that can be found within the University's psalter is a vision of virtuous heroism that would have served as an inspirational model for the Psalter’s reader.
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