Beatus of Liébana - Codex Urgellensis

Num. Inv. 501 - Museu Diocesà d'Urgell (La Seu d'Urgell, Spain)

Alternate Titles:

Urgell Beatus, Beatus Urgellensis, Beatus of La Seu d'Urgell, Seu de Urgell Beatus, Beato de La Seu de Urgell, Beato de la Seo de Urgell

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Codiology

Alternate Titles

Urgell Beatus
Beatus Urgellensis
Beatus of La Seu d'Urgell
Seu de Urgell Beatus
Beato de La Seu de Urgell
Beato de la Seo de Urgell

Type
Extent / Format

478 pages / 39.8 x 27.0 cm

Date
Last quarter of the 10th century
Style
Genre
Language
Patron

Armengol V (1092 - 1102)

Artist / School

Author: Beatus of Liébana (died after 798)

Illustrations

79 miniatures, some of which extend over two folios, with a number of others in the medallions of the genealogical trees which appear at the beginning

Former owners

St. Otto, Bishop of Urgell

Short description

One of the most beautiful Beatus manuscripts of the 10th century is stored in the diocese museum of the Cathedral of La Seu d’Urgell in northernmost Spain. The codex contains the famous apocalypse commentary of Beatus of Liébana concerning the Book of Revelation, which has been transmitted in numerous wonderful and richly illustrated manuscripts. The miniatures of the Codex Urgellensis with their exceptional creativity and outstanding quality identify the anonymous artist as a true master of illumination. Thus, in the combination of the haunting and mysterious biblical text and the commentary of the Asturian monk with the marvelous miniatures, the codex constitutes one of the most beautiful specimens among the consistently high-quality northern Spanish manuscripts.

Facsimile editions available

Description

Beatus of Liébana - Codex Urgellensis

One of the most beautiful Beatus manuscripts of the 10th century is stored in the diocese museum of the Cathedral of La Seu d’Urgell in northernmost Spain. The codex contains the famous apocalypse commentary of Beatus of Liébana concerning the Book of Revelation, which has been transmitted in numerous wonderful and richly illustrated manuscripts. The miniatures of the Codex Urgellensis with their exceptional creativity and outstanding quality identify the anonymous artist as a true master of illumination. Thus, in the combination of the haunting and mysterious biblical text and the commentary of the Asturian monk with the marvelous miniatures, the codex constitutes one of the most beautiful specimens among the consistently high-quality northern Spanish manuscripts.

A Richly Illustrated Manuscript

The Codex Urgellensis collects a total of 90 miniatures on its 478 large-format pages. Twelve illustrations for the preface, 67 miniatures for the actual apocalypse commentary, and eleven depictions for the Daniel commentary. Unlike most of the other known Beatus manuscripts, the Codex Urgellensis has no indication of the copyist or miniaturist and neither the place nor time of its creation. Yet the outstanding artist manifested himself in such wonderful pictorial inventions as the Hand of God, which emerges as the visualization of the actual immaterial voice of heaven and heralded the vision of John.

Groundbreaking Text of the 8th Century

The text, written in west Gothic miniscule, contains the biblical tale of John’s vision of the end of the world, which is known and renowned by the term Apocalypse. Throughout the entire Middle Ages especially, the Apocalypse has been well-received and was a common theme of the visual arts. The Asturian monk Beatus of Liébana was the one who wrote the most famous commentary to this mysterious, difficult to understand text. This influential commentary in twelve books enjoyed great popularity and was recorded in large-format manuscripts with rich pictorial furnishings in northern Spain in particular**. These codices, known as Beatus for short, constituted the most important book genre of the Middle Ages in northern Spain!

Grandiose Pictorial Inventions of a Great Master

Marvelous miniatures in gorgeous frames adorn the Codex Ugellensis, which originates from the last quarter of the 10th century. Spectacular insular influences can be clearly seen with fine, multi-colored ornamentation. The elaborate frames were sometimes additionally adorned at the corners. The brightly colored miniatures stand firstly in the tradition of Beatus-illustrations, are sometimes divided into several registers. Secondly, it is clear time and again what a talented, innovative master was involved in the work. The most exceptionally creative and colorful design and the special, pronounced styling of the figures with every wonderfully designed page made clear overall, what creative desire was felt by the miniaturist in the painting of the magnificent codex. In this way he created an outstanding masterwork of late- 10th century illumination and a special gem among Beatus codices.

A Coveted Work of Art

The origin of the Codex Urgellensis is believed to be the area around Rioja in the last quarter of the 10th century. The Beatus could potentially be from the same scriptorium as the Valcavado Codex, and smaller stylistic similarities to the Morgan Beatus can also be discerned. The manuscript has been traceable to Urgell, a city in the Pyrenees of northern Spain, since 1147. It probably reached there through the Count of Urgell, Armengol V (1092-1102), who enjoyed close relations with Pedro Ansúrez, the Count of Liébana. In September 1996, the Codex Urgellensis was the victim of a spectacular burglary, but was nevertheless recovered in the following year and since then has been back in the diocese museum as a source of wonder.

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