Illuminated Apocalypse of Lyon

Illuminated Apocalypse of Lyon – Orbis Mediaevalis – ms. 0439 – Bibliothèque municipale (Lyon, France)

Cambraisis or Artois (France) — 1445–1450

Illuminated and framed in gold by the Master of the Missal of Paul Beye: the wonders and horrors of the Apocalypse in gorgeous, full-page images

  1. The creation of the so-called Master of the Missal of Paul Beye, a gifted 15th century French miniaturist

  2. The manuscript distinguishes itself by rather focusing on the wonders and not the terrors of the Apocalypse

  3. Nearly every page is illuminated with full-page miniatures, 48 in all, accompanied by biblical verses

Illuminated Apocalypse of Lyon

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  1. Description
  2. Detail Picture
  3. Single Page
  4. Facsimile Editions (1)
Illuminated Apocalypse of Lyon

A truly amazing Apocalypse that is somewhat less terrifying than graceful! The so-called Illuminated Apocalypse of Lyon demonstrates exceedingly rich pictorial adornment that fascinates with the delicacy of its depictions. The so-called Master of the Missal of Paul Beye, a gifted 15th century French miniaturist, can be identified as the creator of these glories. The biblical text of the Revelation of John is presented in 230 Latin verses, while the text of the Apocalypse is always clarified by a corresponding verse and illustrated by a miniature. A unique arrangement of imagery and text that underscores the exceptional significance of this valuable manuscript!

Illuminated Apocalypse of Lyon

Manuscript 0439 of the Bibliothèque municipale of Lyon is known as the Illuminated Apocalypse of Lyon. The manuscript arose shortly before the middle of the 15th century in northern France, in Picardy or Artois (more specifically in either Arras or Cambrai). The outstanding position of the Apocalypsis Figurata of Lyon within the significant series of medieval Apocalypse manuscripts is thanks to its excessive visual adornment.

An Apocalypse Text with Commentary

The apocalypse’s 52 pages measuring barely 30 x 22 cm contains 48 full-page miniatures altogether, so nearly every page is illuminated. The text of the manuscript consists of 230 Latin verses, whereof the first and last 8 verses serve as an explanation or rather a synopsis. Following this synopsis are 48 pages, each with a miniature and four verses, of which two verses above the picture reflect the biblical text of the Revelation of John and two verses below clarify the respective miniature. This arrangement and structure is carefully thought out and unique for an Apocalypse manuscript!

Carefully Thought Out Compositions of Great Mastery

Golden frames surround the grandiose, multi-colored miniatures. John, as the author of the Apocalypse, appears on every page with a blue tunic and a luminous red cloak. In addition, gorgeous, light figures that sometimes appear to be floating populate the illustrations. Also the method of representing landscapes as a background of the scene is noteworthy: this was not only done schematically, but on the contrary, was illustrated in excessive detail with green fields, trees, and bushes, and rippling water. The tale of the Apocalypse was imbedded in the lifeworld of the 15th century. It also appears that the miniatures were not focused on the terrors, but rather the wonders of the Revelation of John. Even though the typical multi-headed monsters and gruesome scenes naturally appear here, their terrors are mitigated by the delicate illustration.

The Master of the Miniatures

The Master of the Missal of Paul Beye was the artist responsible for this wonderful world of images. This miniaturist earned his name from a manuscript that is stored in Cambrai. It is believed among researchers with some certainty that this master can be identified as Barthélemy Poignare. The manuscript remained in the area of Arras in the 16th and 17th centuries. The book treasure finally reached its current residence in Lyon’s Bibliothèque municipale after being in the collection of Alexander le Blancq – a significant manuscript collector from Lille – and Maximillien Charles de Coupigny.


Alternative Titles
Apocalipsis Iluminado de Lyon
Apocalipsis figurado de Lyon
Illustrierte Apokalypse von Lyon
Size / Format
52 pages / 29.5 × 22.0 cm
48 full-page miniatures with golden frames
Artist / School
Previous Owners
Alexander le Blancq
Maximilien Charles de Coupigny

Available facsimile editions:
Illuminated Apocalypse of Lyon – Orbis Mediaevalis – ms. 0439 – Bibliothèque municipale (Lyon, France)
Orbis Mediaevalis – Madrid, 2009
Limited Edition: 995 copies
Detail Picture

Illuminated Apocalypse of Lyon

The Great White Throne Judgment

Sitting upon a white throne, God delivers the Last Judgement to the souls of all humanity: “And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works.” (Rev 20:12-13)

Apocalipsis Iluminado de Lyon
Single Page

Illuminated Apocalypse of Lyon

The Pale Horseman

In his red cloak, the author John appears at the top of the page to relate the breaking of the Fourth Seal. “And I looked, and behold, a pale horse, and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him. And power was given unto them over a fourth part of the earth to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth.” (Rev 6:8)

Armed with a sword with a gilded hilt and cross-guard, Death is personified as a skeleton, even though his steed appears healthy, and not all that pale. As he rides outs, a fissure opens in the ground revealing Hell and releasing smoke into the air. The flaming chasm is filled with screaming figures being tormented by grotesque horned demons with webbed fingers.

Apocalipsis Iluminado de Lyon
Facsimile Editions

#1 Apocalipsis Iluminado de Lyon

Orbis Mediaevalis – Madrid, 2009

Publisher: Orbis Mediaevalis – Madrid, 2009
Limited Edition: 995 copies
Binding: Embossed brown cowhide leather
Commentary: 1 volume by Michèle Lefebvre, Pierre Guinard, and Gregorio Solera
Languages: French, 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: €€ (1,000€ - 3,000€)
Edition available
Price: Log in here!
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