Beatus of Liébana - Escorial Codex

Beatus of Liébana - Escorial Codex Facsimile Edition

Most probably the scriptorium at San Millán de la Cogolla, Rioja (Spain) — ca. 950

Created at the end of the 1st millennium and preserved today in the famous library of El Escorial: perhaps the most valuable of all surviving Beatus manuscripts

  1. A fabulous Beatus manuscript originating ca. 950 from San Millán de la Cogolla

  2. The coveted manuscript resides in the famous library of the royal monastery of San Lorenzo de El Escorial

  3. It is the work of the miniaturist Florentinus, who also completed a copy of Pope Gregory I's Job Commentaries

Beatus of Liébana - Escorial Codex

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  1. Description
  2. Detail Picture
  3. Single Page
  4. Facsimile Editions (1)
Description
Beatus of Liébana - Escorial Codex

Some of the most significant names of Spanish history are tied with the Beatus from Escorial. The manuscript features some iconographic peculiarities that make the reading and study of the marvelous miniatures a true pleasure. The Escorial Codex is presumed to originate before the year 1000 from the famous scriptorium of San Millán de la Cogolla. In the course of its own history though, it reached one of the most significant locations in all of Spanish history: in the famous library of the monastery of San Lorenzo de El Escorial, which king Philipp II, a true friend of fine art, had built in the 16th century. With its 52 preserved miniatures, the Escorial Codex is one of the gems among the Beatus manuscripts!

Beatus of Liébana - Escorial Codex

Some of the most significant names of Spanish history are tied with the Beatus from Escorial. The manuscript features some iconographic peculiarities that make the reading and study of the marvelous miniatures a true pleasure. The Escorial Codex is presumed to originate before the year 1000 from the famous scriptorium of San Millán de la Cogolla. In the course of its own history though, it reached one of the most significant locations in all of Spanish history: the famous library of the monastery of San Lorenzo de El Escorial, which king Philipp II, a true friend of fine art, had built in the 16th century. With its 52 preserved miniatures, the Escorial Codex is one of the gems among the Beatus manuscripts!

Angel, Knight, Monster…

The manuscript from the library of the Escorial contains the famous Apocalypse commentary by Beatus of Liébana in its 304 pages. This text is the magnum opus of the Asturian monk and theologian Beatus of Liébana (deceased sometime after 798), which he completed ca. 800. This commentary to the wonderful Revelation of John comprised the foundation for one of the most significant book genres of the Middle Ages in northern Spain: the so-called Beatus manuscripts. In comprehensive, large-format codices, the biblical text was written down together with the commentary of Beatus and was usually richly illustrated with magnificent miniatures. The text of the Apocalypse with its mysterious, sometimes terrifying, sometimes simply admirable designs and scenes thereby offered the illuminators the best opportunity to exercise the most exceptional pictorial inventions and give their imaginations free range. True masterpieces of illumination of the High Middle Ages originated in this way!

A Beatus in the Royal Monastic-Library

The Escorial Codex belongs among these masterpieces. This famous manuscript was probably made in the scriptorium of the important San Millán de la Cogolla monastery ca. 950. This scriptorium in San Millán is famous for its magnificent Beatus manuscripts, of which other specimens are still in existence. It is probably because of its excellent quality that the codex found its way from this famous site of origin to another important place in Spanish history: El Escorial. Today the Beatus manuscript is found in the library of the monastery of San Lorenzo de El Escorial, which King Philipp II had built in the 16th century.

Original Images of a Great Master

Contained in the 304 pages of the Escorial Codex are a total of 52 miniatures. These distinguish themselves on the one hand through their great artistry and on the other through some iconographic peculiarities. The miniatures are depicted against a monochrome background, usually luminous yellow. Prominent colors of the painting, alongside this yellow, include various tones of green, red, and ocher. The scenes are laid out strictly two-dimensionally. Particularly expressive, for example, is the depiction of Adam and Eve. The full-page miniature presents both figures to the left and right of the tree, around whose trunk the two-colored snake winds. The miniatures were encircled by gorgeous frames, which were frequently overlapped by figures, a marker of great creativity and mastery. The figures of the angels with their great jagged wings are particularly impressive. The miniaturist Florentinus could possibly be identified as the master of these glories. He is known for his copy of the Job Commentaries of Pope Gregory I, which is found today in the Spanish National Library in Madrid.

Codicology

Alternative Titles
Beatus Escorialensis
Escorial Beatus
Beato de Liebana de la Biblioteca Escurialense
Codex Escurialensis
Beato del Escorial
Size / Format
304 pages / 39.5 × 22.5 cm
Origin
Spain
Date
ca. 950
Style
Language
Script
Carolingian minuscule
Illustrations
52 large to full-page miniatures
Content
Commentary on the Book of Revelation by Beatus of Liébana
Artist / School

Available facsimile editions:
Beatus of Liébana - Escorial Codex – Cod. & II. 5 – Real Biblioteca del Monasterio (San Lorenzo de El Escorial, Spain) Facsimile Edition
Testimonio Compañía Editorial – Madrid, 1994
Limited Edition: 980 copies
Detail Picture

Beatus of Liébana - Escorial Codex

The Mighty Angel with the Little Book

Revelation 10 and 11 describes the coming of a “mighty angel” who sets his right foot on the sea and his left foot on the land; his cry unleashes seven thunders and seven secrets that are not to be written down by St. John. The angel then gives John a small book, telling him to eat it and that although it will make his stomach bitter, it will taste sweet in his mouth. John is then given a measuring rod to measure the temple of God, its altar, and those worshipping there.

Beato del Escorial
Single Page

Beatus of Liébana - Escorial Codex

The Fall of Man

This miniature marvelously condenses the events of Genesis 3:1-6, in which Adam and Eve are deceived by the serpent and commit the original sin of eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The roots of the tree are planted in the decorative frame and its branches exceed this border, which makes the tree appear as though Adam and Eve were standing behind it.

Adam and Eve are depicted with thick limbs and wide eyes that stare intently, but it is not the serpent with blue and yellow scales they are gazing at – they are shocked at each other’s nakedness and are depicted with the fig-leaves that they sewed together to cover themselves. Distilled to only the most crucial visual elements, the miniature is wonderfully clear and expressive.

Beato del Escorial
Facsimile Editions

#1 Beato del Escorial

Publisher: Testimonio Compañía Editorial – Madrid, 1994
Limited Edition: 980 copies
Binding: Bound and sewn by hand in brown goatskin, dry embossed with silver hardware faithfully reproduced the original.
Commentary: 1 volume (868 pages) by D. José M. Ruiz Asencio, Joseph A. Fernandez Florez and Marta Herrero
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
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