Chludov Psalter

**Ms. D.29] (GIM 86795 - Array (Moscow, Russia)

Alternate Titles:

Khludov Psalter, Chludow-Psalter, Salterio Chludov, Psalterio Chludov, Salterio griego Jlúdov

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Alternate Titles

Khludov Psalter
Salterio Chludov
Psalterio Chludov
Salterio griego Jlúdov

Extent / Format

338 pages / 19.5 x 15.0 cm


Psalms in the arrangement of the Septuagint, with liturgical responses as they would have been sung in Hagia Sophia


209 illuminations surrounding the text

Former owners

Monastery of Mount Athos
Aleksey Khludov
Nikolsky Old Believer Monastery

Short description

Between 829 and 837, an illuminated manuscript was made in Constantinople by anonymous illuminators that completely revolutionized the medium of books at that time. The so-called Chludov Psalter, which takes its modern name from its last owner, Alexei Chludov, is an incomparable masterpiece of Byzantine illumination. A part of the work concerns itself with the iconoclastic struggle within the Byzantine Empire, which raged throughout the 9th century and was of tremendous political and religious significance. A miniature therein shows, for the first time in the history of books, a caricature stylizing the conflict.

Facsimile editions available


Chludov Psalter

Over the millennia, the State and Church have used the power of images to assert their status, teach their doctrine, and to generate belief and devotion. It was for this same reason that countless works of art have been wiped out in times of conflict: buildings razed, statues smashed, and pictures burned. Serious outbreaks of iconoclasm – the intentional destruction of images – have repeatedly occurred throughout the course of history. The so-called Chludov Psalter originates from the time of the iconoclastic controversy within the Byzantine Empire during the first half of the 9th century. The unusually polemic style of the work verifies the passion of the strife between the iconoclasts and the iconodules, those representatives of the veneration of images. This is a unique liturgical work that is adorned with 209 truly revolutionary images.

An Incomparable Literary Creation

The Chludov Psalter is the oldest of the three remaining illuminated psalters that were made in the Byzantine Empire sometime in the middle of the 9th century. Part of the Psalter discusses the Byzantine Iconoclasm and thereby employs a unique device, which has never before been used in a liturgical book. The anonymous illuminators used a caricature in order to stylize the political and religious conflict. The person caricatured was the last iconoclastic Patriarch of Constantinople, John VII Grammatikos. A miniature in the psalter illustrates Psalm 69:21, “They also gave me gall for my food, and for my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.” In the background, the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ at Golgotha is depicted. A soldier reaches Christ with a sponge soaked in vinegar on a pole. In the foreground a depiction of the Patriarch is found, who is erasing an image of Christ with a similar sponge. John Grammatikos is caricatured, both here and on other pages, with crazy hair that sticks out in all directions in order to make him appear laughable to the elegant and refined Byzantines.

The History of a Historically Significant Masterpiece

Research by the Russian historian and expert in Byzantine Art History, Nikodim Kondakow asserts that the Psalter was made in the Monastery of Stoudios in Constantinople. Other academics are of the opinion that the liturgical answers cited in the text would only have been given in the Hagia Sophia, and that the psalter was made in the imperial workshops of Constantinople in the year 843, shortly after the iconodules came back into power. After its creation, it was stored at the Holy Mount Athos, until it was brought to Moscow by the Russian Slavicist in 1847. There it was acquired by the Old Belief seller and art collector Aleksey Ivanovich Khludov, after whom the psalter takes its present title. The psalter was bequeathed along with other parts of his collection to the Nikolai Monastery and has been stored since 1917 in the State Historical Museum in Moscow.

A Revolutionary Picture Program

The astounding miniatures and frame embellishments of the psalter are not only exceptional because of their high-quality design and wide variety of colors. Simultaneously, they are the first pictorial depictions in an illuminated manuscript – worldwide – that were additionally furnished with textual explanations. An additional novelty consists of small arrows, that point from the text to the illustrations. These arrows are meant to indicate what lines correspond to what illustrations. The content of the miniature is not limited to canonical Christian subjects. The frames of the manuscript depict the historical personalities during the time of the Byzantine Iconoclasm, and the miniatures mirror the disputes occurring within society during that epoch. This illumination represents are truly unique and incomparable picture program.

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