The Breslau Psalter

Helen, wife of Henry III, Duke of Breslau


A prayer on fol. 146r, composed for a woman and accompanied by her image on the left, mentions famulum tuum Heinricum (‘your servant Henry’, fol. 146r). This was most probably Henry III, Duke of Breslau (1248-1266), and the woman was the manuscript’s commissioner. She may have been Helen, the daughter of Albert of Saxony, who became Henry’s second wife after the death of his first wife in 1257. The Calendar includes the feast of St Helena (21 May), but it is written in black ink rather than the red ink used for important feasts. Both the Calendar and Litany contain German saints, but few of them are specific to Saxony. If the manuscript was intended for Helen, she could not have enjoyed it for long. Upon her husband’s assassination in 1266, the childless Helen lost her importance at court. Henry’s brother, Vladislav, Archbishop of Salzburg, ruled Breslau as regent and took care of Henry’s son from his first wife, the future Henry IV of Breslau.