Apocalypse of Valenciennes

ms. 0099 - Valenciennes Bibliothèque municipale (Valenciennes, France)

Alternate Titles:

Apocalipsis de Valenciennes, Apokalypse von Valenciennes

Facsimile edition
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Alternate Titles

Apocalipsis de Valenciennes
Apokalypse von Valenciennes

Extent / Format

80 pages / 27.2 x 20.1 cm

First quarter of the 9th century
Artist / School

Scribe: Otoltus


39 coloured miniatures

Former owners

Abbey of St. Amand (Saint-Amand-les-Eaux)

Short description

The Apocalipsis of Valenciennes is an illuminated manuscript that arose in the first quarter of the 9th century. Its exact place of origin is unknown, nonetheless, the work exhibits strong influences from the medieval book art of Flanders and the Rhineland. The miniatures of the manuscript comprise the first complete biblical picture cycle. Its images were the foundation of the illustrations of the famous Spanish Beatus-Apocalypses.

Facsimile editions available


Apocalipsis of Valenciennes

Since the beginning of the Middle Ages, the last book of the Bible, the so-called Apocalypse has been adapted and reworked countless times by Christian writers and book artists. The tale of the vision of John, in which the end of the world and Judgement Day are revealed, is probably the most-reproduced biblical story. Moreover, it is the story, which prompted medieval miniatures to become the most exciting and fantastical of illustrations. The Apocalipsis of Valenciennes is one of the earliest versions of apocalypse manuscripts and impresses with its 39 colored miniatures in the Carolingian style.

European Book Art

Only the first name “Otoltus” is known about the writer of the apocalypse. The miniatures of the work show stylistic influences of Rhineland illumination, but are also markedly characterized by medieval art from Flanders. An exact origin of the codex cannot be said for certain. The manuscript is particularly significant for Spain, where one can gather that this Apocalypse with its illustrations served as a template for the famous Apocalypse commentary of Beatus of Liébana. It is certain that Valenciennes’ excellent illustrations are unusually high-quality miniatures of early medieval European book art.

Historic Painting

The powerful and symbol-rich images of the Apocalipsis of Valenciennes comprise one of the first complete biblical picture cycles. Each of the 39 miniatures fills half a page and includes a passage from the Bible that allows the beholder to participate in the depicted scene. The manuscript opens with a depiction of Saint John, who casts a spell on the attention of the reader with his right hand over his heart. The following pictures show, in naïve charm, the additional events of the biblical story, in which the downfall of humanity and the sinners’ torments of hell are described. Hardly any other text from the Bible fascinates readers of all epochs like the Book of Revelation. The valuable manuscript, which was previously part of the collection of the French monastery of Saint-Amand-les-Eaux, is housed today in the Valenciennes, Musée des Beaux-Arts in France.

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