Beatus of Liébana - Berlin Codex

Beatus of Liébana - Berlin Codex

Italy — Early 12th century

A true rarity as one of the only Italian Beatus manuscript: unique pen drawings with St. John hidden in every miniature

  1. Unlike the majority of the Beatus manuscripts, this codex originates from central Italy

  2. The marvelous pen drawings do not follow the typical iconography of the Beatus illustrations

  3. John, as the author of the biblical tale, is ensconced in every scene

Beatus of Liébana - Berlin Codex

Price Category: €€€ (3,000€ - 7,000€)
Edition available
Price: Login here!
  1. Description
  2. Detail Picture
  3. Single Page
  4. Facsimile Editions (1)
Description
Beatus of Liébana - Berlin Codex

The so-called Berlin Beatus is an exceptional specimen of the Beatus Tradition. With its unusual visual adornment, which does not follow the typical iconography of the Beatus illustrations, the Berlin Codex takes on a special position. Unlike the majority of the Beatus manuscripts, this codex does not originate in northern Spain, but probably in central Italy. The marvelous pen drawings, which illustrate the Apocalypse commentary by Beatus of Liébana in the Berlin Codex, round out the status of the manuscript as an exceptional piece of art history!

Beatus of Liébana - Berlin Codex

The so-called Berlin Beatus is an exceptional specimen of the Beatus Tradition. With its unusual visual adornment, which does not follow the typical iconography of the Beatus illustrations, the Berlin Codex takes on a special position. Unlike the majority of the Beatus manuscripts, this codex does not originate in northern Spain, but probably in central Italy. The marvelous pen drawings, which illustrate the Apocalypse commentary by Beatus of Liébana in the Berlin Codex, round out the status of the manuscript as an exceptional piece of art history!

The Significant Tradition of Beatus

At the end of the 8th century, the monk and theologian Beatus of Liébana laid the cornerstone for an impressive tradition of illumination with his magnum opus: the famous north-Spanish Beatus manuscripts of the 10th – 11th centuries. The twelve-volume explanatory commentary on the Revelation of John provided illuminators with the perfect opportunities to capture their fantasies on vellum. The large-format, exceedingly illustrated Beatus manuscripts number among the primary works of book art in the Early and High Middle Ages!

An Italian Beatus Codex

Ms. Theol. Fol. 561 of the Berlin State Library is known as the so-called Berlin Beatus. The 30 x 19.5 cm codex probably originates from central Italy in the first quarter of the 12th century. The Benedictine Abbey of Farfa has been discussed among researchers as a possible place of origin. This represents an initial special feature of the Berlin Codex: unlike most of the Beatus manuscripts, it does not originate from northern Spain! Presumably, the manuscript remained in Italy for centuries and was finally sold to Berlin from the Milan collection of Carlo Morbio.

The Unique Illustrations

The Berlin Beatus also takes a special place among Beatus manuscripts because of a second idiosyncrasy: the unusual pictorial adornment of the manuscript does not follow the typical tradition of Beatus illustrations. Various miniaturists, who took part in the work, came up with their own visual vocabulary in order to illustrate the wonder and fantasy of the Apocalypse. 55 fine pen drawings, sometimes washed yellow, brown, and red, an interlaced initial and an initial made from an animal, and red text lent the Berlin Codex a special aura. The miniatures show John on the Isle of Patmos, among others, various apocalyptic phenomena, the opening of the seals and the riders of the apocalypse. John, as the author of the biblical tale, is ensconced in every scene.

Codicology

Alternative Titles
Beato de Liébana - Códice de Berlin
Berlin-Codex
Codice de Berlino
Size / Format
196 pages / 30.0 × 19.5 cm
Origin
Italy
Date
Early 12th century
Style
Language
Illustrations
55 pen drawings enriched with pigments of red, ochre and yellow hues
Artist / School
Previous Owners
Library of Carlo Morbio of Milan

Available facsimile editions:
Beatus of Liébana - Berlin Codex – Ms. Theol. lat. fol. 561 – Staatsbibliothek Preussischer Kulturbesitz (Berlin, Germany)
Millennium Liber – Madrid, 2011
Limited Edition: 995 copies
Detail Picture

Beatus of Liébana - Berlin Codex

The Fifth Trumpet

The angel’s trumpet opens a bottomless pit releasing smoke to darken the sun and locusts to plague mankind. “The shape of the locusts was like horses prepared for battle. On their heads were crowns of something like gold, and their faces were like the faces of men. They had hair like women’s hair, and their teeth were like lions’ teeth. And they had breastplates like breastplates of iron, and the sound of their wings was like the sound of chariots with many horses running into battle.” (Rev. 9:7-9)

Beato de Liébana - Códice de Berlin
Single Page

Beatus of Liébana - Burgo de Osma Codex

The Third Trumpet

“Then the third angel sounded: And a great star fell from heaven, burning like a torch, and it fell on a third of the rivers and on the springs of water. The name of the star is Wormwood. A third of the waters became wormwood, and many men died from the water, because it was made bitter.” (Rev 8:10–11)

Aside from the fact that this is one of only three Beatus manuscripts to originate from outside of Spain, this 12th century specimen from Northern Italy also breaks with the Spanish tradition artistically. Rather than an overwhelming palette of rich, vibrant colors, yellow, red, and brown are only used sparingly. Finally, while many Beatus manuscripts present their miniatures in register, here they are inserted into the text.

Beato de Liébana - Códice de Berlin
Facsimile Editions

#1 Beato de Liébana - Códice de Berlin

Millennium Liber – Madrid, 2011
Beatus of Liébana - Berlin Codex – Ms. Theol. lat. fol. 561 – Staatsbibliothek Preussischer Kulturbesitz (Berlin, Germany)
Beatus of Liébana - Berlin Codex – Ms. Theol. lat. fol. 561 – Staatsbibliothek Preussischer Kulturbesitz (Berlin, Germany) Copyright Photos: Ziereis Facsimiles

Publisher: Millennium Liber – Madrid, 2011
Limited Edition: 995 copies
Binding: Leather over wooden boards
Commentary: 1 volume
Language: 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.
Price Category: €€€ (3,000€ - 7,000€)
Edition available
Price: Login here!
You might also be interested in:
Beatus of Liébana - Turin Codex
Beatus of Liébana - Turin Codex
Gerona Cathedral (Gerona, Spain) – 12th century

A woman in the team of illuminators: a Beatus manuscript based on the Girona Codex, but with unique miniatures

Experience More
Apocalypse of Lorraine
Apocalypse of Lorraine
Metz (France) – First half of the 14th century

A Gothic apocalypse in the vernacular: magnificent miniatures in silver and gold against patterned backgrounds

Experience More
Blog articles worth reading
Filter selection
Publisher