Beatus of Liébana - Saint-Sever Codex

Beatus of Liébana - Saint-Sever Codex

Saint-Sever Monastery, Saint-Sever (France) — ca. 1038

With influences from African, Islamic, Oriental, and Insular art: the only Beatus manuscript created in France

  1. A highlight of 11th century French art and one of the most grandiose works of illumination

  2. The work encompasses 112 miniatures, some double-page, and 1,400 colored initials

  3. The miniatures indicate a knowledge of African, Islamic, Oriental, and Insular art

Beatus of Liébana - Saint-Sever Codex

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

The Beatus of Liébana - Saint-Sever Codex is counted among the highlights of 11th century French illumination and is one of the all-time most grandiose works of illumination. The 112 miniatures, some of them even double-page, and the over 1,400 colored initials of the nearly 600-page text are amazing. The codex contains the Apocalypse commentary by the Asturian monk Beatus of Liébana as well as expositions on the Evangelists and their writing, a genealogy of Christ, and St. Jerome’s commentary of the Book on Daniel. Aside from the overwhelming visual adornment illustrating the fascinating Book of Revelation concerning the end of the world, above all it is the fact the Saint-Sever Beatus represents the only French Beatus manuscript that makes the codex so unique.

Beatus of Liébana - Saint-Sever Codex

The Saint-Sever Codex of the famous Beatus Apocalypse Commentary is counted among the highpoints of 11th century French illumination and the most grandiose works of illumination of all time. The 112 miniatures, some of them even double-sided, and over 1,400 colored initials of the text amaze on nearly 600 pages. The codex contains the famous Apocalypse commentary by the Asturian monk Beatus of Liébana in addition to expositions on the Evangelists and their writing, a genealogy of Christ, and St. Jerome’s commentary on the Book of Daniel. Aside from the overwhelming pictorial adornment illustrating the fascinating Revelation of St. John about the end of the world, above all it is the fact the Saint-Sever Beatus represents the only French Beatus manuscript that makes the codex so unique.

Beatus of Liébana’s Magnum Opus

The primary work of the Asturian monk Beatus of Liébana was popular in the Middle Ages, especially in northern Spain. Beatus of Liébana was a monk and theologian in a monastery in the Kingdom of Asturias in the north of modern Spain. He lived in the 8th century and probably died sometime after 798. He is famous for his magnum opus, the commentary on the Revelation of St. John in twelve books. The text of the Apocalypse was divided into 66 sections, after each of which followed the so-called explanatio, the commentary by Beatus on the verses. The allegorical and symbolic pictures of the Apocalypse were thus meant to be more easily understood. The end of the world was expected in the year 800, causing Beatus to compose his famous Apocalypse commentary. This manuscript from the end of the 8th century was particularly popular in north Spanish illumination during the Middle Ages and survives in 27 richly illuminated manuscripts today.

A Unique French Specimen

Nearly all of these Beatus manuscripts originate from Spain. Thus, the Saint-Sever Codex represents a unique exception, it is nevertheless the only Beatus to originate in France. It was commissioned by Grégoire de Montaner (1028–1072), Abbot of Saint-Sever. The Benedictine monastery was founded as the end of the 10th century and quickly developed into a proud and influential abbey. Under Grégoire de Montaner, Saint-Sever became a center of art and culture, gathering together important sculptors and illuminators. The master of the famous scriptorium of Saint-Sever, Stephanus Gaudus, completed the abbey’s most famous work with the help of a group of copyists and miniaturists from the scriptorium ca. 1038: the Saint-Sever Codex, which is stored today in the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris.

Fantastic Creatures and Heavenly Events

This splendid codex assembles 112 miniatures and over 1,400 colored initials on 592 pages. The most diverse influences are conveyed in the manuscript’s miniatures. Above all, the relationship to the Spanish Beatus manuscripts is clear, e.g. the page with the depiction of Babylon, surrounded by snakes, just like in other Beatus manuscripts. Yet, knowledge of African, Islamic, Oriental, and Insular art and culture are also recognizable. Ancient or Carolingian illumination clearly influenced the author’s picture in the Book of Daniel. The unbelievable visions of St. John were set against a rich gold background in an unbelievable wealth of colors and forms. The picture pages are furnished with rich ornamentation, e.g. the frontispiece with its vegetal and animal décor, as well as numerous additional carpet pages adorning the book. The compositions of the depictions are impressive, e.g. the miniature of the seventh sign on a double page. Presented there in predominantly luminous shades of red against a gold background are two rows of the chosen, who worship the Lamb of God with palm leaves in their hands. Naturally, there are terrifying pictures of angry angels and mythical creatures with the bodies of grasshoppers and awful grimaces. When immersing oneself into the unbelievable visual world of the Beatus commentary on the Apocalypse by John, it quickly becomes clear that the Saint-Sever Beatus is “one of the most important masterpieces of medieval illumination overall”.

Codicology

Alternative Titles
Beatus von Liébana - Codex von Saint-Sever
Beato de Liébana: Códice de Saint-Sever
Beato de Saint-Sever
Saint-Sever Beatus
Apocalypse de Saint-Sever
Size / Format
592 pages / 36.7 × 28.6 cm
Origin
France
Date
ca. 1038
Style
Script
Carolingian minuscule Visigothic
Illustrations
112 miniatures illuminated in gold and more than 1,400 colour initials
Content
Beatus of Liébana's Commentary on the Book of Revelation
Saint Jerome's Commentary on the Book of Daniel
St. Ildefonsus of Toledo's "De Virginitate Beatae Mariae"
Charters of Saint-Sever Abbey
Artist / School
Previous Owners
Mathurin Brin
Guillaume Guerry
François d’Escoubleau de Sourdis
Charles d’Escoubleau de Sourdis Louis-Jean Gaignat
Antoine-René de Voyer de Paulmy d’Argenson
Jacob-Nicolas Moreau

Available facsimile editions:
Beatus of Liébana - Saint-Sever Codex – Ms. Lat. 8878 – Bibliothèque Nationale de France (Paris, France)
Patrimonio Ediciones – Valencia, 2012
Limited Edition: 600 copies

Beato de Saint-Sever
Club Bibliófilo Versol – Madrid, 2010
Limited Edition: 666 copies

El "Beato" de Saint-Sever
Edilan – Madrid, 1984

Beato de Liébana: Códice de Saint-Sever (Gold Edition)
Patrimonio Ediciones – Valencia, 2012
Limited Edition: 66 copies
Detail Picture

Beatus of Liébana - Saint-Sever Codex

The Sixth Seal

Kings and other great men seek shelter in caves as God’s wrath rains down on the earth: “I looked when He opened the sixth seal, and behold, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became like blood. And the stars of heaven fell to the earth, as a fig tree drops its late figs when it is shaken by a mighty wind. Then the sky receded as a scroll when it is rolled up, and every mountain and island was moved out of its place.” (Rev. 6:12-14)

Beato de Liébana: Códice de Saint-Sever ("Pergamenata" Edition)
Single Page

Beatus of Liébana - Saint-Sever Codex

Alpha Page

Aside from the typical Romanesque style, influences from African, Oriental, Insular, and Carolingian art all combine to create the incredible beauty of this Beatus manuscript, the only to originate from France. An unbelievable wealth of colors and forms are presented with gold leaf backgrounds in this 11th century masterpiece.

This monumental Alpha precedes the text of the manuscript. It exemplifies the artistic mix of styles that distinguishes the codex: the letter itself is gold leaf and is adorned of interlace typical of Insular illumination, while the fox, monkey, and shorebirds are harder to pin down stylistically, perhaps a hybrid of styles. The color scheme is typical of the Beatus tradition, mixing dark blue, green, and brown with bright yellow and orange.

Beato de Liébana: Códice de Saint-Sever ("Pergamenata" Edition)
Facsimile Editions

#1 Beato de Liébana: Códice de Saint-Sever ("Pergamenata" Edition)

Patrimonio Ediciones – Valencia, 2012
Beatus of Liébana - Saint-Sever Codex – Ms. Lat. 8878 – Bibliothèque Nationale de France (Paris, France)
Beatus of Liébana - Saint-Sever Codex – Ms. Lat. 8878 – Bibliothèque Nationale de France (Paris, France) Copyright Photos: Ziereis Facsimiles

Publisher: Patrimonio Ediciones – Valencia, 2012
Limited Edition: 600 copies
Binding: Leather with two clasps
Commentary: 1 volume (320 pages) by Peter K. Klein and Otto Karl Werckmeister
Languages: Spanish, Italian, English, German
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 edition with gold leaf and pergamenata paper.
Price Category: €€€€€ (over 10,000€
Edition available
Price: Login here!

#2 Beato de Saint-Sever

Club Bibliófilo Versol – Madrid, 2010

Publisher: Club Bibliófilo Versol – Madrid, 2010
Limited Edition: 666 copies
Commentary: 1 volume
Language: Spanish
1 volume: This facsimile is not complete. The edtion contains all miniatures of the codex. Extention of the facsimile edition: 204 of 584 pages. 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.

#3 El "Beato" de Saint-Sever

Edilan – Madrid, 1984

Publisher: Edilan – Madrid, 1984
Commentary: 1 volume by Xavier Barral i Altet
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.

#4 Beato de Liébana: Códice de Saint-Sever (Gold Edition)

Patrimonio Ediciones – Valencia, 2012
Beato de Liébana: Códice de Saint-Sever (Gold Edition)
Beato de Liébana: Códice de Saint-Sever (Gold Edition) Copyright Photos: Ziereis Facsimiles

Publisher: Patrimonio Ediciones – Valencia, 2012
Limited Edition: 66 copies
Binding: Leather with two clasps and real gold on the binding
Commentary: 1 volume (320 pages) by Peter K. Klein and Otto Karl Werckmeister
Languages: Spanish, Italian, English, German
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 edition with gold leaf and pergamenata paper.
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