The Macclesfield Psalter

Office of the Dead

Texts and Images

The first two of its three liturgical hours, Vespers and Matins, open with large historiated initials containing scenes related to mortality, complete with full bar borders. Lesser text divisions are signalled by smaller ornamental initials, most with foliate motifs.

Death is represented by a skeleton with a long spear, poised on top of a bed covered with a patterned coverlet. The macabre figure strikes the prostrate man in the chest, causing his blood to spurt out, as his wife wrings her hands in grief. The initial extends into a full bar border incorporating foliate and knotwork motifs, heads within medallions, a vignette of the blessing Christ, and another of an armed man conversing with a youth. In the bas-de-page, a rider topples from his horse. The fallen rider is an allegory of the sin of Pride.