Apocalypse of Lambeth Palace

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Facsimile edition
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Extent / Format

112 pages / 27.2 x 19.6 cm


The Revelation of St. John, excerpts from the Berengaudus commentary (late 11th century)


Possibly Eleanor (1274), daughter of William Ill, Earl Ferrers of Derby (1200-1254), and wife of the Earl of Winchester. Or Margaret Ferrers (1281), wife of William Ill, Earl Ferrers of Derby


78 half-page miniatures and 28 full-page colored drawings

Former owners

In the 17th century, the Apocalypse was in the library of the Archbishops of Canterbury. From 1648 to 1664 it was temporarily in the Cambridge university library.

Short description

The 13th century Apocalypse of Lambeth Palace distinguishes itself through its combination of splendid miniatures in the main body and pen drawings in the appendix. The Latin manuscript from London probably originated at the behest of Eleanor de Quincy (d. 1274), the daughter of William de Ferrers, 5th Earl of Derby (1200-1254) or his wife Margaret de Ferrers (d. 1281). The text of the Book of Revelation as well as excerpts from the Berengaudus Commentary are to be found on 112 pages illustrated with 78- full-page miniatures with 23 karat gold backgrounds and 28 pen drawings. With its pedagogical intention, the Apocalypse offers the reader visual support for understanding the Biblical content.

Facsimile editions available


Apocalypse of Lambeth Palace

An exceptionally attractive combination of colored pen drawings and magnificent miniatures is offered by the Apocalypse of Lambeth Palace, which originated in England between 1260 and 1270. On 112 pages, the Latin manuscript from London presents the Book of Revelation as well as excerpts from the late-11th century Berengaudus Commentary. The reader is given visual support for understanding John’s Biblical vision with a total of 78 framed, half-page miniatures with 23 karat gold backgrounds and 28 pen drawings.

A Manuscript with Pedagogical Value

Who it was that commissioned work on the Apocalypse cannot be said for certain. It was either Eleanor de Quncy (d. 1274) the daughter of William de Ferrers, 5th Earl of Derby (1200-1254) or his wife Margaret de Ferrers (d. 1281). The purpose of the manuscript was to be simultaneously pedagogical and entertaining. It was meant to educate the reader and transmit an understanding of the biblical text. The depiction of the Whore of Babylon appears to indicate a female recipient. The aristocratic lady with the devil’s cup in her hands stands on a seven-headed beast and is understood to be a warning against vanity and luxury.

Interesting Page Layout

The rectangular miniatures are always found above the two-columned text, which is almost always framed by ornamental lines in blue and red ink. Golden filigree ornaments join in, decorating the fascinating calligraphic script. This composition was particularly common in English illuminated manuscripts with hagiographic content, but also for the Apocalypses of the 12th century, e.g. the St. Alban’s Psalter or the Winchester Bible.

Red and Blue as Apocalyptic Colors

One is struck by the generous use of the colors red and blue. Together, the luminous tones create an apocalyptic atmosphere in the sometimes gruesome scenes from the story of the end of days. The primarily golden background creates a brilliant contrast to both of the colors and backlights the pictures with its heavenly glory. Additionally, each miniature is invested like a small painting and is surrounded by a simple frame of mostly blue or red.

Artful Appendix

The Apocalypse of Lambeth Palace was furnished between 1265 and 1267 with an artful appendix, which is significantly different from the rest of the décor. The last section does not contain miniatures but rather full-page colored pen drawings illustrating saints and other legends. These are also framed, provided that the depictions do not always abide within the borders and occasionally break free of them. It is likely that this later section was added and adapted with didactic drawings according to the demands and beliefs of the owner.

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