Beatus of Liébana - Emilianense Codex

Vit. 14-1 - Biblioteca Nacional de España (Madrid, Spain)

Alternate Titles:

Beatus Emilianense de la Biblioteca Nacional, Beato Antiguo, Beato Primero

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Codiology

Alternate Titles

Beatus Emilianense de la Biblioteca Nacional
Beato Antiguo
Beato Primero

Type
Extent / Format

288 pages / 35.0 x 25.0 cm

Origin
Date
Around 930
Style
Genre
Language
Artist / School

Author: Beatus of Liébana (died after 798)

Illustrations

27 miniatures

Former owners

Monastery of San Millán de la Cogolla (La Rioja)
Monastery of Burgos
Serafín Estébanez Calderón

Short description

The Emilianense Codex is an illustrated Beatus manuscript that counts among the earliest specimens of these codices, which were universally popular in the Middle Ages. Originating ca. 930 in the north of Spain, the codex contains the Apocalypse Commentary of Beatus of Liébana in its original form and is almost unique in that way. This historically valuable content was completed with the 27 miniatures that lead the apocalyptic events before one’s eyes in powerfully colorful pictures.

Facsimile editions available

Description

Beatus of Liébana - Emilianense Codex

The Emilianense Codex is an illustrated Beatus manuscript that counts among the earliest specimens of these codices, which were universally popular in the Middle Ages. Originating ca. 930 in the north of Spain, the codex contains the Apocalypse Commentary of Beatus of Liébana in its original form and is almost unique in that way. This historically valuable content was completed with the 27 miniatures that lead the apocalyptic events before one’s eyes in powerfully colorful pictures.

A Splendid Contemporary Witness

The so-called Emilianense Codex originated ca. 930 in the scriptorium of the Sahagún Monastery in northern Spain. Beatus of Liébana composed his famous main work only 150 years before the scribes and miniaturists set to work on this Romanesque book treasure. This commentary on the Apocalypse of John in 12 books (ca. 776) found wide distribution in the Middle Ages and was recorded in Spain in particularly splendid manuscripts. 27 illustrated specimens of these identified Beatus Codices are still known today. The Emilianense Codex counts among the oldest, along with the Beatus of San Miguel de Escalada, of those stored in the Morgan Library in New York.

The Original Text of Beatus

The exterior of the codex already allows the exciting content of the book to be unlocked. The leather binding with brass clasps were adorned with star-shaped fittings. The 288 large-format vellum pages also lend a noble air to the manuscript. The Beatus text is divided into two columns and is continuously broken up by admittedly simply colored, yet artfully contoured initials. Additionally, 27 surviving, brightly-colored miniatures adorn the text (originally the codex contained more than 60). Sometimes these show only one or two figures, which illustrated the text, at other times they show group depictions with the hosts of angels.

Captivating Miniatures

Puffy garments and naively depicted bodies characterize the style of the figures, whose faces are artfully designed with big eyes and expressive gestures. Yet these figures practically disappear in the all over ornamentally well-structured background. The fine and detailed configurations of the miniatures are reminiscent of Arabic ornamentation. In parts the miniatures are framed by organic decorative borders, in other parts architectural elements make up the background. Yet this design, gorgeous at first glance, is fractured on closer inspection through the often gruesome pictures, such as (by the opening of the Fifth Seal) bleeding heads lying next to their naked corpses, or the unvarnished scene of a beheading. The great number of angels, who populate the miniatures, many with beautiful wings, is striking. Also the depictions of animals amaze in their creative naivety, sometimes the tiger or the lion, frogs, or the artfully embellished snake.
The manuscript was stored in the San Millán de la Cogolla Monastery and came to Burgo in the 19th century. Serafín Estébanez Calderón, a famous politician and great lover of books, acquired the codex for his collection. Through him the so-called Emilianese Codex finally reached the Spanish National Library in Madrid, where it is housed today.

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