(active 783-795 in Metz and Aachen)

Dagulf Psalter

Manuscript (Cod. 1861), 191 x 120 mm
Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, Vienna

The Dagulf Psalter (also known as the Golden Psalter of Charlemagne) was named after the scribe who wrote it. It is among the regal manuscripts of the Palace School, i.e. among those jewels of illumination which were produced before the imperial coronation of Charlemagne in the year 800. The Psalter, a collection of 150 psalms of the Old Testament, covers two decisive phases of the Carolingian School of painting. The section carried out between 783 and 789 may be identified as having been made in Worms and Metz, whereas the completion of the codex undoubtedly took place in Aachen between 790 and 795. The Golden Psalter thus constitutes a testimony to the evolution of the Palace School which started in several places, but after restoration of the Palatinate, was to execute masterpieces of unequalled perfection in Aachen.

The Dagulf Psalter was written at the order of Charlemagne as a present for Adrian I (pope 772-795). It has two poetic dedications, from Dagulf, the scribe who wrote it, to Charlemagne, and from Charlemagne to Pope Adrian I. It is the earliest royal gift to a pope to survive, although apparently it was never delivered. Adrian's sudden death in 795 is probably the reason the book never arrived in Rome.

Dagulf used a remarkable wealth of scripts to decorate his Psalter, as was customary in this period. A major portion of the manuscript goes back to Dagulf who signed the book in a dedication poem to Charlemagne. Many pages are written in gold or silver on deep purple grounds, an imperial device presumably chosen by Charlemagne, who hoped that the pope would crown him as emperor.

The picture shows folio s 67v and 68r.