The “People” in the Psalter of Saint Louis and the Leadership of Moses

  • William Chester Jordan
Part of the The New Middle Ages book series (TNMA)


The inscriptions for the seventy-eight full-page Old Testament illustrations of the Psalter of Saint Louis (Louis IX of France), a Parisian luxury manuscript usually dated around the year 1260, refer repeatedly to the acts of the children and people of Israel.1 These references are not distributed randomly. Many appear in the contemporary captions to the pictures depicting the life and leadership of Moses (folios 29–37, figures 2.1–2.9).2 Scholars, including myself, have frequently tried to demonstrate that certain of the leading biblical figures in the scenes illustrated in the Psalter, by the nature of their representation, evoke the self-conscious mission of Louis IX as a just king, a warrior prince, and a penitential ruler.3 I would argue that the employment of the Moses story in the Psalter reflects the king’s understanding or the more pervasive understanding within the royal circle of a Christian ruler’s ideal relationship to his people.4


Kind Permission Possessive Pronoun Catholic Faithful Golden Calf Embalm Body 
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  1. 1.
    Robert Branner’s, Manuscript Painting in Paris during the Reign of Saint Louis: A Study of Styles (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1977), p. 133.Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    Gerald Guest, “The People Demand a King: Visualizing Monarchy in the Psalter of Louis IX” Studies in Iconography 23 (2002): 1–27.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 4.
    Philippe Bue, L’Ambiguïté du Livre: Prince, pouvoir, et peuple dans les commentaires de la bible au moyen âge (Paris: Beauchesne, 1994).Google Scholar
  4. 6.
    Colette Beaune, Naissance de la nation France (Paris: Gallimard, 1985), pp. 311–312.Google Scholar
  5. 7.
    Paul Lehugeur, Histoire de Philippe le Long, roi de France (1316–1322), 1: Le Règne (Paris: Hachette, 1897), p. 395.Google Scholar
  6. 8.
    see, for example, Peter Lombard, Sententiae in IV Libris Distinctae, 2 vols. (Rome: Collegium Sancti Bonaventurae ad Claras Aquas, 1971–1981), 2:404 (Bk. 4, Distinctio 24, Capitulum 11.4).Google Scholar
  7. 13.
    William Jordan, Louis IX and the Challenge of the Crusade: A Study in Rulership (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1979), pp. 135–213.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Stephanie Hayes-Healy 2005

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  • William Chester Jordan

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