The Kiev Psalter of 1397: An Analysis

The Kiev Psalter of 1397: An Analysis

By Nadezhda Toranova and Erin-Lee McGuire

Published online (2003)

Introduction: The Kiev Psalter, also called the Spyridon Psalter is unique. It is the only preserved Slavonic manuscript of its kind dating to the period before the fifteenth century. It is also anachronistic, produced in 1397 but illustrated in a style typical of the eleventh century. A marginal Psalter, it must have been a very valuable treasure in the medieval period as “the book of Psalms is of all books, the mother.” The Kiev Psalter has a straightforward past, with no real mysteries, and yet the manuscript itself is a mystery. Why were its illustrations copied from an earlier manuscript? Which manuscript served as the model? Why was it produced in Kiev, when all indications suggest that the scribe, artist and patron came from Moscow? Answers to these questions have been proposed, but they are theories only. Short of time travel, the answers will likely remain theories.

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