Vetusta Monumenta: Ancient Monuments, a Digital Edition

Plates 2.15-2.16: Canterbury Cathedral and Priory with a Portrait of Eadwine

Plates: These plates, both signed by George Vertue (1684-1756), reproduce two images from the Eadwine Psalter (now Trinity College, Cambridge R.17.1), and are based upon anonymous eighteenth-century drawings of three leaves from this twelfth-century manuscript. The drawings were commissioned by Charles Mason (1698-1770) of Trinity College in December 1753 and were exhibited at the Society of Antiquaries of London by Charles Lyttelton (1714-1768) on 7 February 1754. A motion to commission the engravings was made at the same meeting (SAL Minutes VII.102v.), and on 21 March Jeremiah Milles (1714-1784) presented his research on the monastery at Canterbury, where the original manuscript was produced (110v.). John Ward (1679?-1758), as director of the Society, took responsibility for supervising the production of the prints and compiling an explanatory text based on research by Lyttelton, Milles, and himself (154r.). Ward read the final draft of this “very learned historical and critical account” after presenting Vertue’s proofs on 13 February 1755 (179v.). The Society’s minutes provide exceptionally full documentation: “Dr Ward laid before the Society, in order to their being Examined and Compared, the Drawings of the Cathedral Church and Monastry at Canterbury, and the Effigies of Eadwin the Monk with the Prints copied and engraved from them by Mr. Vertue; and the same being found to agree, the Society ordered the usual number of the Plates to be printed off for their use” (179v.). As Ward notes in the accompanying “Account,” “there are very few antient drawings of this sort, which have so long escaped the injuries of time” (3).

Objects: Plate 2.15 is a representation of the monastery at Christ Church, Canterbury with its entire precinct, including the cathedral itself, thirty buildings used by the monastic community, the cloisters and courts, water and drainage systems, and a fishpond. A bifolium, the image follows the format of the original which is rendered across two pages (Eadwine Psalter, 284v-285r). Plate 2.16 is a copy of the famous image of the scribe Eadwine (f. 283v). There is now general (rather than universal) agreement that the Eadwine Psalter was produced in the scriptorium at Canterbury Cathedral Priory c. 1155-60 and that both of the images selected for Vetusta Monumenta were additions upon parchment bound into the MS about a decade later. The manuscript is the work of over a dozen artists and scribes, and it contains Jerome’s three Latin translations of the Psalms: the Gallicanum, the standard text employed in the divine office, the Romanum, the original translation, and the Hebraicum, his translation into Latin from the Hebrew. The manuscript is one of the most lavish of its period with over 500 initials in silver and gold; 167 drawings in color featuring figures, buildings, and landscapes; and eight full-page biblical scenes originally prefixed to the Psalter (these were removed in the seventeenth century and are now in libraries in New York and London).


Plate 2.15, Top Line: ECCLESIAE Cathedralis et PRIORATVS Benedictinorum CANTVARIAE facies Borealis, ab EADWINO ejusdem Conventus Monacho inter annos MCXXX et MCLXXIV delineata.

Plate 2.15, The Monastery Precinct:
Fons in cimiterio Laicorum.
Porta Cimiterii.
Hic influit in Piscinam de fonte Cimiterii exterioris.
Purgatorium calami.
Purgatorium fontis.
Stili cidia.
Hostium Cripte.
Hostium Locutorii.
Puteolus ante hostium Locutorii, ad quod confluunt aque pluviales per canalem; qui per circuitum Claustri est a quo puteolo dirigitur ductus per viam, quae ducit ad domum Infirmorum, et deveniens contra hostium Cripte flectitur extra viam ad dextram.
De piscina in fontem Prioris.
Aqua hic exit in Piscinam de eadem ala.
Hic Aqua intrat in alam domus Infirmorum.
Porta cimiterii juxta Capellam.
Nova Camera Prioris.
Capella Infirmorum.
Domus Infirmorum.
Necessarium Infirmorum.
Coquina Infirmorum.
Camera Prioris vetus.
Via que ducit ad Domum infirmorum.
Columna, in quam ductu aque deficiente potest hauriri aqua de Puteo, et administrabitur omnibus officinis.
Fenestra ferrea.
Hostium ferreum.
Balneatorium et Camera.
Camera ubi pisci lavatur.
Fenestra ubi fercula administrantur.
Fenestra per quam ejiciuntur scutelle ad lavandum.
Porta inter Domum Hospitum et coquinam.
Domus Hospitum.
Murus Curie.
Postica juxta Aulam novam.
Via inter murum Civitatis et murum Curiae.
Murus Civitatis.
Aula nova.
Porta Curie.

Plate 2.15, Below, Around the Plan of the Cathedral:
A Plan of the CATHEDRAL CHURCH of CANTERBURY, as represented above in EADWIN’s drawing.
Aquilonalis Plaga.
a. The Nave of the Church.
b.b. The two Western Cross Isles.
c.c. A Pillar in the middle of each of the Cross Isles.
d. The Ascent to the Choir.
e.e. The Descent into the Crypt, and the / Ascent from ye Isles to ye Eastern part of / (the Church.
f. The Choir.
g.g. The Eastern Cross Isles.
h. The Altar of St. Stephen.
i. The Altar of St. Martin.
k. The Altar of St. Gregory.
l. The Altar of St. John.
L. The Presbytery.
m. The Altar of Xt.
n. The Patriarchal Chair.
o. The Chapel & Altar of the Trinity / according to Gervais.
p. The Tower of St. Andrew.
q. The Tower of St. Peter & St. Paul, or of St. Anselm.

Plate 2.15, Bottom Margin:
G. Vertue sculpsit.
Published according to Act of Parliament, Feb.20. 1755.
Sumptu Societ. Ant. Lond. 1755.





Plate 2.16, Bottom Margin:
G. Vertue sculpsit.
EADWINI Monachi effigies ab ipso delineata.
Sumptu Societ. Ant. Lond. 1755.
Published according to Act of Parliament, Feb. 20 1755.


Plate 2.15, Top Line: Benedictine Priory and Cathedral of Canterbury, North Side, by Eadwine, a Monk of the Same Convent, Drawn Between 1130 and 1174.

Plate 2.15, The Monastery Precinct:
Bell tower.
Cistern in the Laics’ cemetery.
Cemetery gate.
Here the water flows into the fishpond from the cistern in the outer cemetery.
Branch of drain
Well drain.
Vestiary or Treasury [substructure of].
Entrance-gates to the Prior’s grounds and Infirmary offices.
Door of the Crypt.
Chapter House.
Door of the Locutory.
Small cistern [under the pavement?] before the door of the Locutory; the rain-water delivered into the gutters which are fixed round the Cloister garth is turned into this cistern, and conducted in a drain-pipe under the passage which leads to the Infirmary Hall. This pipe, when it comes opposite to the crypt door, is turned to the right, and continues its course outside the passage.
From the fishpond to the Prior’s cistern.
Here the water comes out from the same aisle into the fishpond.
Here the water passes into the aisle of the Infirmary Hall.
Cemetery gate near the Chapel.
Prior’s new chamber.
Infirmary Chapel.
Infirmary Hall.
Privy of the Infirmary.
Kitchen of the Infirmary.
Prior’s old chamber.
Passage which leads [from the great cloister] to the Infirmary Hall.
Stand-pipe into which, when the waters of the source fail, water raised from the well may be poured, and it will be distributed to all the offices.
Herb garden.
Iron grated window.
Iron door.
Cellarers Lodging.
Bath House & Chamber.
Second/Third Dormitory.
Chamber in which fish is washed.
Window where the portions are served out.
Window through which the platters are tossed out for washing.
Gate between the Guest Hall and Kitchen.
Guest Hall.
Court Wall.
Postern near the New [North] Hall.
Road between the walls of the court & city.
City Wall.
New [North] Hall.
Court Gate.

Note: Parts of this translation are adapted from Willis 1868, 197-98.

Plate 2.15, Below, Around the Plan of the Cathedral: South Side

Plate 2.15, Bottom Margin:
Engraved by G. Vertue.
Published by the Society of Antiquaries of London, 1755.

Plate 2.16, Top Line and Right Side:: [The scribe:] I am the chief of scribes, and neither my praise nor my fame shall die; shout out, oh my letter, who I may be (Heslop 1992, 180).

Plate 2.16, Left Side and Bottom Line: [The letter:] By its fame your script proclaims you, Eadwine, whom the painted figure represents, alive through the ages, whose genius the beauty of this book demonstrates. Receive, O god, the book and its donor as an acceptable gift (Heslop 1992, 180).

Plate 2.16, Bottom Margin:
Engraved by G. Vertue.
Portrait of Edwin the monk drawn by himself.
Published by the Society of Antiquaries of London, 1755.

Original Explanatory Account: Click here to read the original explanatory account for Plate 2.15-2.16.

Commentary by Matthew M. Reeve: Originating in Canterbury, the Eadwine Psalter was known to exist in the cloister in the fourteenth century (due to the booklist compiled by Prior Henry Eastry around 1320) and then came into the hands of the Archbishops of Canterbury. It was fortunate to end up in the Parker Library at Trinity College, Cambridge in 1612-13 at the bequest of Thomas Nevile, former Master of Trinity College. Its post-medieval history has been carefully explored by T.A. Heslop and David McKitterick (1992) and can be quickly summarized here. Although the manuscript was seemingly displayed in the Trinity College Library for some time, it was not until the seventeenth century that the manuscript’s texts received critical attention. In 1699 the antiquary and bibliophile Humfrey Wanley (1672-1726) brought careful attention to the portrait of Eadwine and the image of the Canterbury Cathedral Priory in a letter to Arthur Charlett of University College, Oxford. He believed the latter image to be of St. Augustine’s, Canterbury, rather than Christchurch, although he would correct this error by 1705 in his published catalogue of Anglo-Saxon manuscripts attached to George Hickes’s Thesaurus (1705). While Wanley played a key role in the early formation of the Society of Antiquaries of London (SAL), it was not his direct intervention but rather the posthumous discovery of his 1699 letter that would bring the Eadwine Psalter to the Society’s attention at mid-century. The explanatory letterpress “Account” printed to accompany these plates cites Wanley extensively.

The publication of the plates in Vetusta Monumenta was the combined effort of Charles Mason, Charles Lyttelton (1714-1768), and Jeremiah Milles. Charlett’s correspondence—which contained Wanley’s letter—was bequeathed to the Bodleian Library by George Ballard (c. 1706-1755) of Magdalen College, Oxford. Ballard was enthusiastic about the discovery and suggested making a facsimile of these images along with the Bodleian Caedmon manuscript (SAL Minutes VII.100v.). He made his suggestion known to Lyttelton, Dean of Exeter and later President of the Society of Antiquaries (1765-1768). On 20 December 1753 Lyttelton reported the “discovery” of the manuscript to the SAL (VII.94v). Although the printed account in Vetusta Monumenta suggests otherwise, Lyttelton then approached Mason, who requested that a draftsman make a full-sized copy of the ground plan. The portrait of Eadwine would be copied shortly thereafter. On 7 February 1754 Lyttelton exhibited the drawings, and a motion was made to commission engravings of the large plan and of the portrait of Eadwine, the scribe, based upon these drawings (VII.102v.). George Vertue’s engravings of the drawings for Vetusta Monumenta bear the date 20 February 1755. The Eadwine Psalter would be only the second illuminated manuscript in Vetusta Monumenta, following the earlier engravings of the Cotton Genesis (Plates 1.66-68).

Notably, the Society’s early dating of the manuscript relied principally on judgments of the style of architecture represented in the drawing rather than paleography or codicology. Noting the absence of what was an established diagnostic feature of the Gothic for eighteenth-century observers—the pointed arch—Mason opined, “I believe it will be difficult to prove any Gothick arches to have been used here before the time of Hen. 2nd or Stephen; if so early” (quoted in Heslop and McKitterick 1992, 203). In the end, the SAL only published two of three drawings: the “Small Waterworks Drawing” (Eadwine Psalter 286r.) was copied but did not get reproduced in Vetusta Monumenta. This more skeletal sketch offered less visual complexity and by 1754 survived only in part. Although the Vetusta Monumenta engravings were the first reproductions of the Eadwine Psalter, neither Mason nor Lyttelton were satisfied with the final result. Mason pointed out that some of the architectural details were copied erroneously, drawing particular attention to the cloister arches and to the fact that the gateway had been “completed” in the Vetusta Monumenta version, when in fact it had been cropped from the original. Ballard also opined that it was unfortunate that the original script had not been replicated; instead, it was replaced by a modern script (Heslop and McKitterick 1992, 204). In the printed account, Milles and Ward note further differences between the plates and the original manuscript, but the SAL as a whole compared the two prior to publication and found them to “agree” (SAL Minutes VII.179v.)

The Monastery Drawing

Plans of monasteries such as this were unusual in medieval art, and this surely signaled the Canterbury plan’s importance for inclusion in Vetusta Monumenta. The plate is a close replication of the original drawing, including its appearance over two sheets of a bifolium as it appears in the Eadwine Psalter; although as we have seen, Mason expressed some dissatisfaction with the engraved version. Included on the recto in the right margin (the bottom portion of the plate) is a ground plan of Canterbury as it was believed to exist before the devastating fire of 1174 that destroyed Conrad’s “Glorious Choir” and demanded the Gothic rebuilding to house the burgeoning cult of Thomas Becket. As the letterpress account confirms, the plan itself was taken from Nicholas Battely’s Antiquities of Canterbury (1703).

This account is, in fact, the second extended commentary to be published as part of Vetusta Monumenta (after Plates 1.66-68 and 1.70) and deserves special mention. Over 3,000 words in length, this account was compiled, like the others, by Ward (then the Society’s director), but the majority of it was taken from a history of Canterbury Cathedral by Milles, who would succeed Lyttelton as Dean of Exeter in 1762 (and as SAL president in 1768).1 Milles, often remembered today for his defense of the authenticity of Thomas Chatterton’s Rowley poems, was a significant figure in the development of the study of architecture and antiquities. Milles’s account carefully synthesizes Gervase of Canterbury’s famous description of the fire in the cathedral, various available chronicles, and the ground plan itself to ascertain the form of the lost fabric of the Romanesque cathedral. Milles’s intimate, forensic account of the evidence anticipates what would become a developed language of formal criticism that would characterize much of the historiography of English medieval architecture. In this tradition (with some notable exceptions), authors cleave their own aesthetic investment in the object from their ekphrastic descriptions to arrive at an apparently depersonalized and “objective” analysis. Consider, for example:

There is indeed a very general conformity between the drawing and the description, except in the instance of the windows. For whereas Gervais speaks only of three windows between the two cross aisles, the drawing represents four in the upper, and five in the lower story. So likewise in the wall between the upper cross aisle and the eastern tower, Gervais says there was but one window, whereas in the drawing there are seven in the upper and nine in the lower story. But here the error is manifestly in the drawing, as well with regard to the distance between the aisle and tower, as in the number of windows. For as the lower part of these towers still remains, and the present aisles are built in the same situation with the old ones; it appears by their position, that there was not room enough between them to admit of more than one large window, much less the number here represented. (“Account” 1755, 3)

Ponderous though his method is, Milles’s description was deemed valuable enough—and probably also sufficiently novel—to warrant an extended account. Indeed, his text offers an early and careful reconstruction of a lost work of medieval architecture in light of visual and textual evidence available in the eighteenth century.

Turning to the original diagram, while we can chart a history of architectural / liturgical maps or diagrams in medieval manuscripts, such as the drawings of Thomas of Elmham of the liturgical heart of St. Augustine’s, Canterbury and the Isle of Thanet (Trinity Hall, Cambridge, MS 1), there is little context for the inclusion of such a diagram in a high medieval psalter. But the Eadwine Psalter was in no sense a conventional manuscript (to judge from our limited surviving evidence of Romanesque books) and so generalizations are difficult to make. Largely proportionally accurate, the diagram presents the cathedral and its monastic precinct from the north, each delineated by inscriptions, with a schematic representation of the hydraulics that connected many of them. It is distinct in style and technique from the rest of the Eadwine Psalter. Francis Woodman has tantalizingly suggested that because it shows the Romanesque monastery prior to its destruction, this plan may itself be by the hand of Gervase of Canterbury, the great chronicler of the late twelfth-century rebuilding (1992, 177). In the letterpress account, Ward credits Milles with being the first to notice the close correspondence between the ground plan as reproduced here and Gervase’s verbal description of the cathedral as it stood before the fire of 1174 (“Account” 1755, 1). Milles, however, sees no reason to doubt the attribution to Eadwine: although “Eadwin [sic] was no master of perspective” (3), the accuracy of his plan is borne out by its correlation with Gervase’s “authentic” account, which in turn enabled Milles to date and otherwise “illustrate” the drawing attributed to Eadwine (2).

To date, there has been no scholarly consensus on the purpose of the diagram. It has been variously seen as a “waterworks drawing,” the practical work of “hydraulic engineers,” by Robert Willis (1868, 158) and by Francis Woodman. More recently, Peter Fergusson (2011), who considers both the Eadwine portrait and the precinct plan to be integral to the manuscript, has suggested that both are completing pendants to the manuscript as a whole. In this interpretation, the precinct is a representation of the renewed late-Romanesque monastery, itself a symbolic representation of the priory of Christ Church as the Heavenly Jerusalem, and the image of Eadwine its scribal archetype. The first of these theories is difficult to accept, as it is not easy to see why a high-status psalter would ever be used by a plumber or contain his materials. Most recently, Conrad Rudolph (2018) has suggested that the plan was likely intended to function within the tourist culture of Christ Church. As noted, the psalter was kept in the Great Cloister where it would have been accessible to the Guestmaster to show it to visitors of Christchurch as a plan of the monastery. Functioning to point out to visitors, via a guide to the monastery and its many wonders (mirabilia), the plan may well have functioned to help viewers interpret the spaces of the monastery.

Eadwine Portrait

The copy of the Eadwine portrait in Vetusta Monumenta is a faithful replication of the original drawing in most respects, with the notable exception that it omits the elaborate foliate border in the original. The engraving necessarily loses all of the beautiful polychromy of the illuminated book. Although painted on vellum, the Eadwine Portrait and the waterworks drawing appear toward the end of the book and are on lower quality vellum. George Zarnecki (1981) was the first to observe that the Eadwine portrait was later in style than the rest of the manuscript, making close comparisons with the English Copenhagen Psalter (Royal Library, MS Thott 143 20), which he dates to c. 1170. Eadwine’s name occurs twice in the manuscript: in the texts circling the portrait and again in the prayer after the collect for Psalm 150 (Eadwine Psalter, 262r.). That Eadwine was indeed involved in the writing of the manuscript (or parts of it, since various scribal hands have been identified) and thus aspects of its design as a whole, seems clear. The laudatory passage on the portrait points to his deep investment, and perhaps his leadership, in the making of the Eadwine Psalter. Assuming Eadwine was a monk at Canterbury when the book was made, then the funds for making the book cannot have been his own but must have come from the Precentor, who was in command of the Library. The inscription nonetheless ascribes the book to Eadwine and states that it was, therefore, his own book to give to God. As T.A. Heslop has shown, there was local precedent for a monk-scribe at Canterbury presenting a Psalter that he had made to the monastery—and for representing himself doing so in its imagery. This is London BL MS Arundel 155 which was created by Eadui Basan (Eadwine’s “almost namesake”) a century and a half earlier and was at Canterbury for Eadwine to see (1992, 181).

The Eadwine portrait has come to represent a “type” of high medieval author portrait, and in that capacity it is perhaps the most famous portrait of its kind in European medieval art. In the letterpress account, Ward traces the convention of the author portrait back to ancient and early medieval sources and offers an interpretation of the writing instruments depicted with Eadwine (“Account” 1755, 4). The form of this portrait is grandiose to say the least, and it echoes the grandiosity of the texts that accompany it. Seated in a lavish late Romanesque seat and working at a draped desk, the body of Eadwine is disproportionately large for the scene, and he necessarily hunches forward to fill the trefoil-headed canopy of the frame. Although such an elevated, even heroic image of authorship seems to run counter to Benedictine prescriptions for monastic life, it finds at least some formal parallels in Benedictine author portraits, such as that of Lawrence of Durham. And yet, we know very little about Eadwine, and his name and career cannot be securely followed in the documentation for Christchurch, Canterbury (Heslop 1992, 184-85). As such, the portrait of Eadwine, like the historical Eadwine, remains elusive.

Note: [1]: Ward’s collaboration with Milles on the Account is documented in the Society’s Minute Book (SAL Minutes VII.110v., 154r.)

Works Cited:

Basan, Eadui. MS Arundel 155. British Library.

Batteley, Nicholas. 1703. Antiquities of Canterbury. London: Printed for R. Knaplock.

Durham, Lawrence of. Illuminated miniature. Bishop Cosin MS V.iii.1, f. 22v. University of Durham Library.

Eadwine Psalter. Trinity College, MS R.17.1. Wren Library, Trinity College, University of Cambridge.

Elmham, Thomas. Speculum Augustinianam. Trinity Hall, Cambridge, MS 1.

Fergusson, Peter. 2011. Canterbury Cathedral Priory in the Age of Becket. London: Paul Mellon Centre.

Gibson, Margaret T., T. A. Heslop, and Richard W. Pfaff, eds. 1992. The Eadwine Psalter: Text, Image and Monastic Culture in Twelfth-Century Canterbury. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press.

Heslop, T. A. 1992. “Eadwine and his Portrait.” In The Eadwine Psalter, edited by Gibson et al., 178-85.

Heslop, T. A. and David McKitterick. 1992. “The History of the Eadwine Psalter.” In The Eadwine Psalter, edited by Gibson et al., 193-208.

Rudolph, Conrad. 2018. “The Tour Guide in the Middle Ages: Guide Culture and the Mediation of Public Art,” Art Bulletin 100, no. 1: 36-67.

Willis, Robert. 1868. “The Architectural History of the Conventual Buildings of the Monastery of Christ Church in Canterbury.” Archaeologia Cantiana 7: 1-206.

Woodman, Francis. 1992. “The Waterworks Drawing of the Eadwine Psalter.” In The Eadwine Psalter, edited by Gibson et al., 168-77.

Zarnecki, George. 1981. “The Eadwine Portrait.” In Études d'art Médiévale offertes à Louis Grodecki, edited by Sumner McKnight Crosby, André Chastel, Anne Prache, and Albert Chatelet, 93-98. Paris: Éditions Ophrys.