Opening the Macclesfield Psalter: Patrons and Priories
Paper by Jennifer Mansfield
Given at the The Cloister and the Gate: the Monks of Lewes Priory and the Laity Conference, held at Lewes Priory on October 1, 2016
In the fourteenth century the power elite, such as patrons and priories, were inextricably allied. Prestige manuscripts were products of this indelible interwoven connection. Sumptuous and costly to produce, manuscripts became a powerful medium of exchange in a marketplace where the redemption of souls was the commodity. One such manuscript which manoeuvred between patron and priory as a power object was the Macclesfield Psalter. It is undeniable that the Macclesfield Psalter is virtually unrivalled for its lavish illustrations. The gilded representations of structural, organic and allegorical elements are alluring and were certainly significant for the medieval recipients.
Despite its beauty and rare pigments it was not just a work of art to simply gaze upon. Manuscripts such as this became powerful tools of currency within an aristocratic elite vying for Royal acknowledgement and personal wealth. Several Dominican associations within the Macclesfield Psalter exist as well as the involvement of such powerful Royal magnates as John de Warenne, eighth Earl of Surrey and Sussex. It is likely the Macclesfield Psalter was intended for a powerful religious institution where the use of the manuscript served more than one patron. The multiple arms originally within the manuscript certainly indicate this. Indeed, it was the power and prestige of manuscripts like this which led them to become caught in a tug-of-war between powerful patrons and priories.
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