The Illustrated Psalms of Alfred the Great: The Old English Paris Psalter

Dutch Anglo-Saxonist

The Psalter was perhaps the best-known text among the Anglo-Saxons. As a result, many Psalters have survived from early medieval England. This blog post focuses on the Paris Psalter, which has been associated with Alfred the Great and features some beautiful illustrations.

The prose Psalm translations of Alfred the Great in the Paris Psalter

blog-parispsalter000-alfred-psalter Left: The Old English Paris Psalter. © Paris, BnF, Lat. 8824. Right: Alfred disguised as a harper in the Viking camp (source)

Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, lat. 8824 (the ‘Paris Psalter’) is a unique manuscript dating to around 1050. The main texts of the manuscript are the 150 Latin Psalms with facing Old English translations: the first fifty Psalms are translated into Old English prose and another translator rendered the last hundred Psalms in Old English verse. Although the Paris Psalter does not mention the author of the Old English Psalm translations, the translator of the first fifty Psalms…

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“The Vikings” Breakdown #2: Athelstan’s Dilemma

Midgard to Middle Earth


An image showing King David with his harp from the Vespasian Psalter, an Anglo-Saxon book of Psalms written in the eight century – around the same time as the setting of “Vikings”

In a show dominated mostly by Norse Pagans, the one character who is used to bridge the gap between the two disparate faiths in the History Channel’s Vikings is Athelstan, the poor monk who is captured during Ragnar’s raid on Lindisfarne. I find this character interesting because he is used by the writers of the show to illustrate the process of conversion. He struggles throughout the show whether to believe in Christianity or the Norse Gods. One of the things that has actually impressed me about the Vikings show on the History Channel is its portrayal of religion, especially Medieval Christianity. That being said, Athelstan’s character is the one aspect I have mixed feelings about. So, as I…

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Kalf’s Grave – Vikings Season 4 part 1


I’m writing up for publication some of my reflections on the fascinating and varied scenes of funerals in Seasons 1-4 of the popular television drama series Vikings for publication. While many ideas for the funerals are derived from later saga literature and some contemporary written sources, the varied archaeological evidence from cemeteries and graves found across Scandinavia from the 7th-11th centuries have had manifold influences on the portrayed funerals.

Seasons 1, 2, 3 and 4 part 1 have depicted varied dimensions of mortuary practice. These include cremations on land and water, furnished and unfurnished inhumation graves. These have involved individual and mass funerals, funerary processions, human sacrifice, grave-robbing, infanticide and private (anti-funeral) burials. Throughout are the ever-present media of fire and water in the disposal of the dead and archaeological influences are evident but rarely specific.

kalf3However, it is only in Episode 6 of Season 4 that we encounter a

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Anglo-Saxon palace complexes

A H Gray

After the initial migration period of Angles and Saxons in the 5th and 6th centuries there was a shift from chieftainships and petty kingships with small territories to larger kingdoms (such as the kingdoms of Deira and Bernicia which themselves joined to make the larger Kingdom of Northumbria). The larger the kingdom became the more the king found that he had to move about this vast territory in order to keep law and order. Palatial estates like Yeavering in Northumberland were established for the royal families and their courts to stay at and the food and drink that the royal court consumed during these visits were provided by the locals as part of their rent. These royal centres also acted as centres of administration and for Christianity, especially during the 7th and 8th centuries when the new faith was being encouraged amongst the pagan Anglo-Saxons.

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On the Feast of Blessed Karl of Austria

liturgy guy

Karl of Austria was born August 17, 1887, in the Castle of Persenbeug in the region of Lower Austria. His parents were the Archduke Otto and Princess Maria Josephine of Saxony, daughter of the last King of Saxony. Emperor Francis Joseph I was Karl’s Great Uncle.

Karl was given an expressly Catholic education and the prayers of a group of persons accompanied him from childhood, since a stigmatic nun prophesied that he would undergo great suffering and attacks would be made against him. That is how the “League of prayer of the Emperor Karl for the peace of the peoples” originated after his death. In 1963 it became a prayer community ecclesiastically recognized.

A deep devotion to the Holy Eucharist and to the Sacred Heart of Jesus began to grow in Karl. He turned to prayer before making any important decisions.

On the 21st of October, 1911, he married Princess…

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Vikings Season 3: Walking with the Dead


Ragnar funeral22

Scholars of ‘the Vikings’ anticipate, and sometimes find stark archaeological evidence for, the drama and spectacle of movement in mortuary ritual. Perhaps most famously we have whole or fragments of boats deployed in funerals and boats under sail depicted on Gotlandic picture stones. These and other images of horse-riding reveal conveyance in life, travel to the grave and maybe also aspirations to afterlife journeys converging in the commemoration of the dead. I’ve published on the geographies of Viking funerals twice, in 2010 and 2014 and a brief summary of my thoughts are presented here.

Ragnar funeral21
One criticism that might be levelled at the mortuary rituals portrayed in Seasons 1 and 2 of the popular History Channel drama ‘Vikings’ is that they are too static. Funerals happen at places, rather than between places. For while the funerals in the series attempt to convey pre-Christian cultic and ceremonial elements, and they also portray the range of material…

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