Decorated with 164 miniatures of native and exotic animals as well as mythical creatures: one of the most beautifully preserved bestiaries of the Middle Ages

Westminster Abbey Bestiary

York (United Kindgom) — Around 1275–1290

Westminster Abbey Bestiary

Westminster Abbey Bestiary

York (United Kindgom) — Around 1275–1290

  1. This 13th century bestiary is considered to be among the most beautiful specimens of the genre

  2. In the face of its grandiose decoration, the moral-didactic purpose of this manuscript almost fades into the background

  3. The artist created 164 fascinating, grandiose miniatures of animals both real and fantastic

Bestiario de Westminster

Westminster Abbey Bestiary

A Griffin Devouring a Man

A pious man is shown meeting his death as he is eaten by a griffin, a lion-eagle hybrid creature that was also a popular symbol in medieval heraldry because it united the king of the beasts of the field with the king of the birds in the sky. They have been depicted as the guardians of great treasures since antiquity and were regarded as a Christian symbol of divine power in medieval Europe. According to medieval legend, they mated for life and their claws and feathers had medicinal properties.

Westminster Abbey Bestiary

Alternative Titles:
  • Bestiario de Westminster
  • Bestiarium aus Westminster
Westminster Abbey Bestiary – Ms. 22 – Westminster Abbey Library (London, United Kingdom)
Westminster Abbey Bestiary – Ms. 22 – Westminster Abbey Library (London, United Kingdom)
Westminster Abbey Bestiary – Ms. 22 – Westminster Abbey Library (London, United Kingdom)
Westminster Abbey Bestiary – Ms. 22 – Westminster Abbey Library (London, United Kingdom)
Westminster Abbey Bestiary – Ms. 22 – Westminster Abbey Library (London, United Kingdom)
Westminster Abbey Bestiary – Ms. 22 – Westminster Abbey Library (London, United Kingdom)
Westminster Abbey Bestiary – Ms. 22 – Westminster Abbey Library (London, United Kingdom)
Westminster Abbey Bestiary – Ms. 22 – Westminster Abbey Library (London, United Kingdom)
Westminster Abbey Bestiary – Ms. 22 – Westminster Abbey Library (London, United Kingdom)
Westminster Abbey Bestiary – Ms. 22 – Westminster Abbey Library (London, United Kingdom)
Westminster Abbey Bestiary – Ms. 22 – Westminster Abbey Library (London, United Kingdom)
Westminster Abbey Bestiary – Ms. 22 – Westminster Abbey Library (London, United Kingdom)
Westminster Abbey Bestiary – Ms. 22 – Westminster Abbey Library (London, United Kingdom)
Westminster Abbey Bestiary – Ms. 22 – Westminster Abbey Library (London, United Kingdom)
Westminster Abbey Bestiary – Ms. 22 – Westminster Abbey Library (London, United Kingdom)
Westminster Abbey Bestiary – Ms. 22 – Westminster Abbey Library (London, United Kingdom)
Westminster Abbey Bestiary – Ms. 22 – Westminster Abbey Library (London, United Kingdom)
Westminster Abbey Bestiary – Ms. 22 – Westminster Abbey Library (London, United Kingdom)
Westminster Abbey Bestiary – Ms. 22 – Westminster Abbey Library (London, United Kingdom)
Westminster Abbey Bestiary – Ms. 22 – Westminster Abbey Library (London, United Kingdom)
Westminster Abbey Bestiary – Ms. 22 – Westminster Abbey Library (London, United Kingdom)
Westminster Abbey Bestiary – Ms. 22 – Westminster Abbey Library (London, United Kingdom)
Westminster Abbey Bestiary – Ms. 22 – Westminster Abbey Library (London, United Kingdom)
Westminster Abbey Bestiary – Ms. 22 – Westminster Abbey Library (London, United Kingdom)
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  1. Short Description
  2. Codicology

Short Description

The library of London’s significant Westminster Abbey contains a grandiose jewel of medieval illumination: the famous Westminster Abbey Bestiary. Emerging at the end of the 13th century, the Westminster Abbey Bestiary is counted among the most beautiful of its kind. Wonderfully designed, exceedingly entertaining miniatures illustrate the numerous descriptions of animals and creatures both real and fantastical. The moral-didactic agenda of this manuscript fades into the background in the face of its grandiose furnishings, but can be traced in the Latin-French text nonetheless.

Westminster Abbey Bestiary

The library of London’s significant Westminster Abbey contains a grandiose jewel of medieval illumination: the famous Westminster Abbey Bestiary. Emerging at the end of the 13th century, the Westminster Abbey Bestiary is counted among the most beautiful of its kind. Wonderfully designed, exceedingly entertaining miniatures illustrate the numerous descriptions of animals and creatures both real and fantastical. The moral-didactic agenda of this manuscript fades into the background in the face of its grandiose furnishings, but can be traced in the Latin-French text nonetheless.

A Fantastical Encyclopedia of the Animal Kingdom

Bestiaries are collections of short description of all kinds of animals and fantastical creatures, which are supplemented with a moralizing Christian explanation. The origins of the widely disseminated bestiary go back to the so-called Physiologus, a natural history document from the 2nd century. This was repeatedly spread and appended over the centuries, e.g. the Etymologiae by Isidor de Sevilla** from the 7th century, and has been translated into numerous languages. Since the 12th century, this simultaneously educational and entertaining genre has been widely disseminated and was particularly popular in England and northern France. The illustrations accompanying the text of the descriptions of nature and fantasy offered the illuminators the outstanding opportunity to present all of their ability. Thus were they able to fare into the most realistic depictions of the animal kingdom possible, while also being able to give their imaginations free reign in the depiction of three-headed monsters and similarly curious creatures.

Simple Images with Impressive Content

The bestiary, which resides today in the Library of the English Coronation Church, probably originated in York ca. 1275–90. It collects 164 fascinating miniatures on its 130 pages. Sometimes these take up an entire page, at others they are smaller and can be found on a page in greater numbers. Gorgeous, loving depictions of animals populate the pages of the manuscript. Sometimes these are very realistic, at others they are exceedingly fantastical. Whether a huge elephant, a mythical unicorn, a horde of apes, or a flock of birds that have been released from their cage: the artist of the miniatures created images of grandiose impact. These appear at first glance to be very simple and first unfold their effect upon closer inspection. Always depicted in slender frames before a monochromatic background, the miniatures enchant not only through their curious and realistic representations, but also with their luminous colorfulness. The back text is riddled with colorful initials and small ornamental elements in many places.

An Entertaining Picture Book for ‘Grownups’

The pictorial and symbolic presentation of the animal kingdom had no requirement for natural-scientific correctness, according to the perception of the Middle Ages. The spell of the bestiary does not come from its natural and theological design, but rather comes from the artfully and lovingly painted miniatures that supplement the text. These pictures of a huge whale, a fat porcupine, a three-headed dog, or a bizarre human-like creature fascinated the medieval beholder as much as the modern. The specimen from Westminster offers this fascination in exceptional artistic quality. It is not without reason that the Westminster Abbey Bestiary is considered to be one of the most beautiful specimens of this fascinating genre of medieval illumination.

Codicology

Alternative Titles
Bestiario de Westminster
Bestiarium aus Westminster
Size / Format
130 pages / 22.0 × 16.0 cm
Date
Around 1275–1290
Style
Illustrations
164 miniatures
Artist / School
Bestiario de Westminster

Westminster Abbey Bestiary

War Elephant

One of the most iconic aspects of ancient warfare was the war elephant, and even though they were a novelty in medieval Europe – Charlemagne had a pet elephant named Abul-Abbas – this remained the popular image of them. Medieval bestiaries usually depicted elephants in battle and often with a howdah or turret on its back. In this case, the howdah is depicted as a castle.

Both the elephant and the half-dozen soldiers fighting from the howdah/castle on its back have oddly serene looks on their faces. The massive size of the animal is wonderfully conveyed by this miniature, which exceeds its own borders on three sides as though it is marching out onto the page. This wonderful image details both the elephant’s wrinkly skin and the soldiers’ chainmail.

1 available facsimile edition(s) of „Westminster Abbey Bestiary“

Bestiario de Westminster
Westminster Abbey Bestiary – Ms. 22 – Westminster Abbey Library (London, United Kingdom)
Westminster Abbey Bestiary – Ms. 22 – Westminster Abbey Library (London, United Kingdom)
Westminster Abbey Bestiary – Ms. 22 – Westminster Abbey Library (London, United Kingdom)
Westminster Abbey Bestiary – Ms. 22 – Westminster Abbey Library (London, United Kingdom)
Westminster Abbey Bestiary – Ms. 22 – Westminster Abbey Library (London, United Kingdom)
Westminster Abbey Bestiary – Ms. 22 – Westminster Abbey Library (London, United Kingdom)
Westminster Abbey Bestiary – Ms. 22 – Westminster Abbey Library (London, United Kingdom)
Westminster Abbey Bestiary – Ms. 22 – Westminster Abbey Library (London, United Kingdom)
Westminster Abbey Bestiary – Ms. 22 – Westminster Abbey Library (London, United Kingdom)
Westminster Abbey Bestiary – Ms. 22 – Westminster Abbey Library (London, United Kingdom)
Westminster Abbey Bestiary – Ms. 22 – Westminster Abbey Library (London, United Kingdom)
Westminster Abbey Bestiary – Ms. 22 – Westminster Abbey Library (London, United Kingdom)
Westminster Abbey Bestiary – Ms. 22 – Westminster Abbey Library (London, United Kingdom)
Westminster Abbey Bestiary – Ms. 22 – Westminster Abbey Library (London, United Kingdom)
Westminster Abbey Bestiary – Ms. 22 – Westminster Abbey Library (London, United Kingdom)
Westminster Abbey Bestiary – Ms. 22 – Westminster Abbey Library (London, United Kingdom)
Westminster Abbey Bestiary – Ms. 22 – Westminster Abbey Library (London, United Kingdom)
Westminster Abbey Bestiary – Ms. 22 – Westminster Abbey Library (London, United Kingdom)
Westminster Abbey Bestiary – Ms. 22 – Westminster Abbey Library (London, United Kingdom)
Westminster Abbey Bestiary – Ms. 22 – Westminster Abbey Library (London, United Kingdom)
Westminster Abbey Bestiary – Ms. 22 – Westminster Abbey Library (London, United Kingdom)
Westminster Abbey Bestiary – Ms. 22 – Westminster Abbey Library (London, United Kingdom)
Westminster Abbey Bestiary – Ms. 22 – Westminster Abbey Library (London, United Kingdom)
Westminster Abbey Bestiary – Ms. 22 – Westminster Abbey Library (London, United Kingdom)
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Bestiario de Westminster

1 volume: Exact reproduction of the original document (extent, color and size)
Publisher
Siloé, arte y bibliofilia – Burgos, 2014
Limited Edition
898 copies
Commentary
1 volume
More Information
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!
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