The Seven Penitential Psalms are seven prayers of repentance that are found throughout the book of Psalms. They were traditionally considered to have been written by King David, who repented of the sin of adultery and was therefore viewed as a model penitent.
In the medieval Church in particular, the Seven Penitential Psalms were often used as prayers of repentance. They were included in a wildly popular prayer book called the Book of Hours and used in both private and public devotion. Two of the most significant were the Miserére (Mercy) prayer of Psalm 51 and the De Profúndis (“Out of the depths”) prayer of Psalm 130, which was often prayed for the dead.
This late nineteenth century sculpture of King David at prayer is found within the Sacred Heart chapel of the church of the English Martyrs, Tower Hill. King David looks towards a statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, kneeling in prayer and singing a psalm on his harp. He is surrounded by three angels. King David is described in Scripture as “a man after God’s own heart” (Acts 13:22), which may explain his presence in the Sacred Heart chapel. The sculptor of the relief is not known for sure, although it may have been an artist who worked for the ecclesiastical furnishers Boulton of Cheltenham.
See the full image:
Where to find this work of art
English Martyrs, Tower Hill
Read the relevant passage
The Seven Penitential Psalms
On a similar theme
- From the Old Testament: Psalm 51 in particular is thought to relate to King David’s repentance over his affair with Bathsheba.
- From the New Testament: Traditionally, the woman who anointed Christ’s feet was also held up as a role model of repentance.