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Athos Holy Mount

Illuminated Manuscripts
5.1 Psalter
9th c.
Pantokrator Cod. 61
Parchment, 16.5 x 14.5 cm, ff. 226


The Original New Testament

This manuscript is one of the best known and thoroughly studied codices of the Byzantine age. Its rich illumination, which dates to the iconoclast period, is of the greatest iconographic and stylistic interest.

The manuscript contains the 150 Psalms of David and the nine Odes, but there are omissions, lacunae and reversals in the order of the text. It is a palimpsest, with the present minuscule script written over an erased majuscule ninth century script. The original majuscule script has been retained from fol. 206 on, in the titles of the Psalms and the miniature inscriptions. Only the back cover of the binding, consisting of a wooden board, has survived.

The codex contains ninety-seven miniatures, all done in the margins, depicting scenes from the Life of Christ, the Virgin and many saints, as well as events from the Old and New Testament and Church history. Many of the miniatures are in poor condition, but the better preserved ones enable us to evaluate the manuscript both stylistically and from the point of view of freedom in the composition of iconographical subjects. One of the scenes depicts the Synod of 815 with the Emperor Leo V and the Patriarch Theodotos. The Patriarch Nikephoros, who did not participate in the Synod, is shown outside the representation of the Synod.

The illumination belongs to the original ninth-century text, as can be seen from the majuscule inscriptions by the miniatures, from the later minuscule script covering certain figures (e.g. fol. 206, Miriam, Moses and Israel, and fol. 138r, the Vision of St Eustathios) as well as from the miniatures related to original text (e.g. fol. 222r, the Three Youths in the Fiery Furnace). The smallness of the figures did not permit a more detailed treatment. The artist chose a limited palette, and although they are simply sketched, their foreshortened bodies express movement and intense emotion, especially in the eyes.

Bibliography: Brockhaus 1891, p. 177 and passim. Lambros 1895, p. 99. Tikkanen 1895, p. 11 and passim. Weitzmann 1935, 1, p. 24 and passim. Dufrenne 1966, pp. 13-37. Huber 1969, pp. 148-66 and passim. Illuminated Manuscripts 1973, cat. 1, p. 54. Thesauroi 1979, pp. 265-80 (with earlier bibliography), figs. 180-237. Galavaris 1995 (2), pp. 19, 215-6, 239, figs. 11-14.

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