Apocalypse of Valenciennes

Apocalypse of Valenciennes – Orbis Mediaevalis – ms. 0099 – Valenciennes Bibliothèque municipale (Valenciennes, France)

France or Germany — First quarter of the 9th century

Magnificently illuminated and a model for the famous Beatus manuscripts: one of the few surviving Apocalypse manuscripts from the Carolingian period

  1. This 9th century manuscript is one of the few Carolingian Apocalypse manuscript to survive today

  2. It also contains one of the first complete biblical picture cycles

  3. These 39 miniatures served as a template for the famous imagery of the Beatus manuscripts

Apocalypse of Valenciennes

Facsimile Copy Available!
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  1. Description
  2. Detail Picture
  3. Single Page
  4. Facsimile Editions (1)
Apocalypse of Valenciennes

The Apocalypse of Valenciennes was written in the first quarter of the ninth century, although the exact origin of the magnificently illuminated manuscript is not known. However, the work shows strong influences of early medieval book art from Flanders and the Rhineland, which at least allows a stylistic localisation in West-Central Europe. This enigmatic history of its origin does not detract from the significance of the Carolingian manuscript: its large and expressive miniatures form the oldest known complete biblical picture cycle. The images depict the fascinating as well as terrifying events of the Revelation of John and were probably the basis for the amazing picture programs of the first copies of the famous Spanish Beatus apocalypses.

Apocalipsis of Valenciennes

Since the beginning of the Middle Ages, the last book of the Bible, the so-called Apocalypse has been adapted and reworked countless times by Christian writers and book artists. The tale of the vision of John, in which the end of the world and Judgement Day are revealed, is probably the most-reproduced biblical story. Moreover, it is the story, which prompted medieval miniatures to become the most exciting and fantastical of illustrations. The Apocalipsis of Valenciennes is one of the earliest versions of apocalypse manuscripts and impresses with its 39 colored miniatures in the Carolingian style.

European Book Art

Only the first name “Otoltus” is known about the writer of the apocalypse. The miniatures of the work show stylistic influences of Rhineland illumination, but are also markedly characterized by medieval art from Flanders. An exact origin of the codex cannot be said for certain. The manuscript is particularly significant for Spain, where one can gather that this Apocalypse with its illustrations served as a template for the famous Apocalypse commentary of Beatus of Liébana. It is certain that Valenciennes’ excellent illustrations are unusually high-quality miniatures of early medieval European book art.

Historic Painting

The powerful and symbol-rich images of the Apocalipsis of Valenciennes comprise one of the first complete biblical picture cycles. Each of the 39 miniatures fills half a page and includes a passage from the Bible that allows the beholder to participate in the depicted scene. The manuscript opens with a depiction of Saint John, who casts a spell on the attention of the reader with his right hand over his heart. The following pictures show, in naïve charm, the additional events of the biblical story, in which the downfall of humanity and the sinners’ torments of hell are described. Hardly any other text from the Bible fascinates readers of all epochs like the Book of Revelation. The valuable manuscript, which was previously part of the collection of the French monastery of Saint-Amand-les-Eaux, is housed today in the Valenciennes, Musée des Beaux-Arts in France.


Alternative Titles
Apocalipsis de Valenciennes
Apokalypse von Valenciennes
Apocalipsis Carolingio de Valenciennes
Size / Format
80 pages / 27.2 × 20.1 cm
First quarter of the 9th century
39 vivid, mostly full-page miniatures in ornamental frames
Artist / School
Previous Owners
Abbey of St. Amand (Saint-Amand-les-Eaux)

Available facsimile editions:
Apocalypse of Valenciennes – Orbis Mediaevalis – ms. 0099 – Valenciennes Bibliothèque municipale (Valenciennes, France)
Orbis Mediaevalis – Madrid, 2009
Limited Edition: 995 copies
Detail Picture

Apocalypse of Valenciennes

John Receives a Vision from God

Contained within a splendid frame of Insular interlace, this Hibernian miniature exhibits stylistic influences from Beatus manuscripts as well, particularly the clear, heavy lines that give the figure clear features and gestures. John’s vision is represented by a scroll being handed down to him from above, which is affixed with seven seals for the seven churches of Asia to whom he is instructed to share this vision. He is depicted as a beardless youth wearing his long hair tied behind his head.

Apocalypse of Valenciennes – Orbis Mediaevalis – ms. 0099 – Valenciennes Bibliothèque municipale (Valenciennes, France)
Single Page

Apocalypse of Valenciennes

The Third and Fourth Trumpets

Many of the calamities of the Apocalypse are announced by angels blowing trumpets. The upper angel in this brightly-colored full-page miniature blows the third horn, the result of which is depicted in the upper left cell: the fall of the star called Wormwood, which poisons a third of the world’s freshwater.

The lower angel blows the Fourth Trumpet, and in the middle-left cell, the lights of heaven – Sun, Moon, and stars – are darkened by a third, and the two figures in the cell, one before a red sun and the other a crescent moon, look positively stunned. The cell in the lower-left corner depicts an eagle. It represents an angel who appears before the sounding of the Fifth Trumpet and warns those dwelling on the Earth of the woe to come – an army of locusts.

Apocalypse of Valenciennes – Orbis Mediaevalis – ms. 0099 – Valenciennes Bibliothèque municipale (Valenciennes, France)
Facsimile Editions

#1 Apocalipsis de Valenciennes

Orbis Mediaevalis – Madrid, 2009

Publisher: Orbis Mediaevalis – Madrid, 2009
Limited Edition: 995 copies
Binding: Leather with embossings
Commentary: 1 volume by Peter Klein
Languages: English, Spanish
1 volume: Exact reproduction of the original document (extent, color and size) Reproduction of the entire original document as detailed as possible (scope, format, colors). The binding may not correspond to the original or current document binding.
Facsimile Copy Available!
Price Category: €€
(1,000€ - 3,000€)
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