A Mulbarton Treasure

The St. Omer Psalter

This ornate letter B is the first letter of the first word of Psalm 1 in the Book of Psalms in the Bible: Beatus - Blessed. It is from the St. Omer Psalter - a Book of Psalms owned by the St Omer family, Lords of the Manor of Mulbarton in the 14th Century. According to the British Library, where the original is held, it was...

'Probably first commissioned by a knight of the St Omer family of Mulbarton, Norfolk, c.1325, this psalter was decorated in two campaigns about seventy years apart. The original artists finished the paintings but only part of the decoration. In the early 15th century another artist finished most of it, resulting in combinations of 14th- and 15th-century styles on some pages.'

The first Psalm was usually the most highly decorated - and this is no exception. You can trace the branches and leaves of the Tree of Jesse (representing the long line of Kings from David to Jesus) coming from a sleeping ancestor. The rest of the page has roundels with scenes from the Old Testament and beautifully drawn little pictures of animals, plants and everyday life. They are drawn in ink and coloured with pigments onto vellum - made from calf-skin and very long-lasting.

Here is the bottom of the page:

The roundels show from left to right, God the Creator between the cherubim; the creation of Adam and Eve; God appearing to them after the fall; Adam and Eve expelled from Eden; and Adam digging whilst Eve spins. In between are a variety of birds and animals. But of great interest to us are the 2 figures between roundels 2 and 3, and 4 and 5: there is a lady in fine clothes kneeling and a man with a knight's helmet and the heraldic arms of St Omer. These are most probably the people who commissioned the Psalter, Thomas de St Omer (1318 - 1365) and one of the two ladies he married - probably Petronella Malmains. There is more about Sir Thomas under Lords of the Manor