MOV File
Online Collections


Term Type

Art & Architecture Thesaurus

Preferred Term



Refers to books or other document forms containing the Book of Psalms, which is composed of 150 psalms of the Old Testament. A psalter is usually divided into sections to be recited daily at Matins and Sunday Vespers, used as a liturgical book for the clergy in the Divine Office (forming the basis for the Breviary) or by the laity for private devotions. In addition to the psalms, psalters generally contain an ecclesiastical calendar, canticles, creeds, and the litany of the saints. King David and his court musicians were traditionally considered to be the authors of the psalms; the subjects of the psalms have to do with hymns in praise of God and pleas for help and mercy. In the Christian tradition, the psalms were interpreted with the Lord of the Old Testament understood to be Christ the Messiah. Various passages of individual psalms were seen as Christian metaphors and prefigurations. The Hebrew text of the psalms reached the Latin West by way of translations made by St. Jerome in the 4th century AD, two from the Greek version (the Septuagint) and one directly from the original language. The three versions, known respectively as the Roman, Gallican, and Hebrew Psalters. The psalter was one of the most frequently illustrated medieval texts in the West, beginning around 725 and flourishing between the 12th and 14th centuries. The text was often enhanced with precious ornament and images; however, psalms did not readily lend themselves to literal illustration, in contrast to the narrative portions of the bible. Consequently, their illustration was varied, both in format and in iconography. Most illuminated psalters were illustrated with decorated or historiated initials at the main divisions of the text.



books, psalm

psalm books



Related Events
Related People
Related Literature
Related Terms
Related Artworks
IMLS logoNEA logoNEH logo

The Portland Art Museum’s Online Collections site is brought to you thanks to support provided by the State of Oregon through its second Culture, History, Arts, Movies, and Preservation funding program and generous awards from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the National Endowment for the Arts.