The Angelic Psalter

AHHH. Book release for The Glorious Mysteries is tomorrow!

Are you excited? Because I am!

Though, I admit I almost forgot. Last week was busy, today is laundry day (cue: this blog) and, if it weren’t for my brother, I might have forgotten entirely about book release day. What can I say? Having three young kids is a lot of work! Anyway, my brother and I met this past week, and he said, “Um… so, I got The Sorrowful Mysteries to my girlfriend and it arrived fine. But, The Glorious Mysteries hasn’t come yet. I think something’s wrong.”

“That’s because it hasn’t been released yet,” I said.

“Oh.” A long pause. “So… when are you going to release it?”

“Soon.” And then it hit me: soon meant THIS TUESDAY.


Anyway! One of the most exciting parts about completing The Glorious Mysteries is that, by finishing this book, the three original sets of Rosary prayers will be completed!

You see, because I am a young millennial, when I finally learned how to pray the Rosary, I learned how to pray four sets: the Joyful, the Sorrowful, the Luminous, and the Glorious. But, the Luminous is a very, very new addition. And by new, I mean it was formally introduced by St. Pope John Paul II in 2003. And I love the new set of the Luminous Mysteries, quite honestly… I find it to be a beautiful opportunity to meditate on Christ’s life through the Rosary.

But! For centuries past, there were only three sets of prayers for the Rosary, with 150 Hail Marys total. In fact, many people, to this day, only pray these three sets of mysteries.

So, if you look up old artwork displaying the various mysteries of the Rosary, only the Joyful, the Sorrowful, and the Glorious are displayed! Just take a look at this art…

Madonna of the Rosary, by Lorenzo Lotto, c. 1539. Church of San Nicolo, Cingoli, Italy. Via
Madonna of the Rosary, by Lorenzo Lotto, c. 1539. Church of San Nicolo, Cingoli, Italy.

It’s by Lorenzo Lotto, who actually did a lot of beautiful artworks depicting the various mysteries of the Rosary. So, this was definitely something that he, as an artist, was very fond of depicting.

Fundamentally, this is an artwork depicting the handing off of the Rosary to St. Dominic! As the legend goes, St. Dominic was having a really hard time preaching to the heretical group, the Albigensians. Not getting anywhere, he mortified his flesh until he fell into a stupor. While in this stupor, our Lady, with three angels attending to her, appeared to him and told him that the weapon (yes, our Lady described it as a weapon!) that would be most effective to drive out all heresies would be the Angelic Psalter.

What is the Angelic Psalter? Well, there are 150 psalms that were commonly recited as a devotion daily by many monks! And the Hail Mary prayer back then was referenced as the Angelic Salutation, as the words, “Hail Mary” are the first words that the angel Gabriel speaks. And so, the Angelic Psalter is the 150 Hail Mary prayers that made up the Rosary, complete with the meditations of Christ.

And so St. Dominic did exactly this! He preached and spread the devotion of the Rosary. And the rest is history. The Albigensians are no more, but to this day, many of us still pray the Rosary devoutly.

As you can imagine, this pivotal moment of the handing off of the Rosary is a common art subject! At the forefront of the picture, Mary holds the child Jesus on her lap and hands a rosary to St. Dominic, who receives it. Notice the three angels serving Mary and Jesus, just as in the vision! Meanwhile, St. Thomas Aquinas (another Dominican, and one of my favorite saints who led me back to the Church) stands next to him and points to Mary and Jesus. Another saint, St. Mary Magdalene, stands in her finery, which she is commonly depicted in. To the right, a bishop of some sort kneels with an offering. St. Peter the Martyr (yet another Dominican!) holds a red cross next to him and another woman (who is described as St. Clare, though I am not so sure because those are not the robes typically associated with St. Clare) bows her head.

If you haven’t guessed, the Dominican order is very pivotal in the history, the spread, and the popularity of the Rosary!

Above the head of Mary, are the fifteen tiny artworks of the main mysteries of the Rosary! Click on the picture to take a closer look at them, if you would like!

The Joyful Mysteries are the closest to Mary’s head. They are: the Annunciation, the Visitation, the Birth of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Presentation, and the Finding of Christ at the Temple.

The Sorrowful Mysteries are next highest. They are: the Agony in the Garden, the Scourging at the Pillar, the Crowning of Thorns, the Carrying of the Cross, and the Crucifixion.

Finally, the Glorious Mysteries are on top. They are: the Resurrection, the Ascension, the Descent of the Holy Spirit, the Assumption, and the Coronation of Mary.

And those are the fifteen mysteries of the Rosary that were handed down by our Lady to St. Dominic as the Angelic Psalter!

So, while I will be eventually doing the Luminous Mysteries as another devotional book, the fact that I’ve finished the three devotional books of the Rosary that make up the Angelic Psalter, aka the weapon of choice of our Lady, is… amazing. Even just working on these books has been such an honor and privilege, as I’ve really had a chance to really immerse myself into the gospel — which is not an easy task by any means, especially with three young children.

When I first started these books, I was mostly looking for a project to make it easier for myself and my children to be able to pray together. After all, my oldest child was two years old and my youngest was only a couple months old when I first started these. At that time, whenever I gave my then two-year-old a rosary, she used it — literally — as a weapon, and not as our Lady intended, if you know what I mean. Yet, she sat down quietly and loved looking at pictures when we read books together. And so, I started these books as a way to be able to pray the Rosary with her.

And now, it amazes me to see how far this project, which first started on such a simple premise, has grown and transformed into a fledgling ministry combining art and faith.

Anyway, thank you so much for accompanying me on this pilgrimage of mine!

If you want, you can purchase the complete Angelic Psalter now. Just head over to the books section to look at and purchase my books, The Joyful Mysteries, The Sorrowful Mysteries, and The Glorious Mysteries.

Or, if you just need The Glorious Mysteries, you can order it now! Click here for more details.

Karina Tabone

Karina Tabone is a wife, mother of four, author, blogger, and lover of Christian artwork. She's the author of the Illustrated Rosary series, which pairs every prayer of the Rosary with beautiful religious artwork. She likes also milkshakes, sunshine, and mystery novels. Follow her on Twitter at @illustr_prayer.

2 thoughts on “The Angelic Psalter

  • August 15, 2018 at 3:12 am

    Hey, Karina. I’m enjoying your blog tonight. Your pages never fail to delight. 🙂 Is the saint on the far right Catherine of Siena, a lay Dominican?

    • August 15, 2018 at 4:25 pm

      You know! That was my initial hunch. But, the artwork description that I read referred to her, not as St. Catherine of Sienna, but as St. Clare.

      However, I don’t think that’s right… the clothes are all wrong. And St. Clare was very particular about the clothing of the Poor Clares, so I can’t see why anyone would depict her as such. Thus, I think the art description is wrong — which is not the first time art historians have mislabeled our saints!

      So, I think she might be St. Catherine of Sienna, but I can’t confirm it offhand.


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