Beatus of Liébana - Escorial Codex

Cod. & II. 5 - Real Biblioteca del Monasterio (San Lorenzo de El Escorial, Spain)

Alternate Titles:

Beatus Escorialensis, Escorial Beatus, Beato de Liebana de la Biblioteca Escurialense, Codex Escurialensis, Beato del Escorial

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Codiology

Alternate Titles

Beatus Escorialensis
Escorial Beatus
Beato de Liebana de la Biblioteca Escurialense
Codex Escurialensis
Beato del Escorial

Type
Extent / Format

304 pages / 39.5 x 22.5 cm

Origin
Date
Around 950
Style
Genre
Language
Artist / School

Author: Beatus of Liébana (died after 798)
Miniaturists: Florencio and Sancho

Short description

Some of the most significant names of Spanish history are tied with the Beatus from Escorial. The manuscript features some iconographic peculiarities that make the reading and study of the marvelous miniatures a true pleasure. The Escorial Codex is presumed to originate in the year 1000 from the famous scriptorium of San Millán de la Cogolla. In the course of its own history though, it reached one of the most significant locations in all of Spanish history: in the famous library of the monastery of San Lorenzo de El Escorial, which king Philipp II, a true friend of fine art, had built in the 16th century. With its 52 preserved miniatures, the Escorial Codex is one of the gems among the Beatus manuscripts!

Facsimile editions available

Description

Beatus of Liébana - Escorial Codex

Some of the most significant names of Spanish history are tied with the Beatus from Escorial. The manuscript features some iconographic peculiarities that make the reading and study of the marvelous miniatures a true pleasure. The Escorial Codex is presumed to originate in the year 1000 from the famous scriptorium of San Millán de la Cogolla. In the course of its own history though, it reached one of the most significant locations in all of Spanish history: the famous library of the monastery of San Lorenzo de El Escorial, which king Philipp II, a true friend of fine art, had built in the 16th century. With its 52 preserved miniatures, the Escorial Codex is one of the gems among the Beatus manuscripts!

Angel, Knight, Monster…

The manuscript from the library of the Escorial contains the famous Apocalypse commentary by Beatus of Liébana in its 304 pages. This text is the magnum opus of the Asturian monk and theologian Beatus of Liébana (deceased sometime after 798), which he completed ca. 800. This commentary to the wonderful Revelation of John comprised the foundation for one of the most significant book genres of the Middle Ages in northern Spain: the so-called Beatus manuscripts. In comprehensive, large-format codices, the biblical text was written down together with the commentary of Beatus and was usually richly illustrated with magnificent miniatures. The text of the Apocalypse with its mysterious, sometimes terrifying, sometimes simply admirable designs and scenes thereby offered the illuminators the best opportunity to exercise the most exceptional pictorial inventions and give their imaginations free range. True masterpieces of illumination of the High Middle Ages originated in this way!

A Beatus in the Royal Monastic-Library

The Escorial Codex belongs among these masterpieces. This famous manuscript was probably made in the scriptorium of the important San Millán de la Cogolla monastery ca. 1000. This scriptorium in San Millán is famous for its magnificent Beatus manuscripts, of which other specimens are still in existence. It is probably because of its excellent quality that the codex found its way from this famous site of origin to another important place in Spanish history: El Escorial. Today the Beatus manuscript is found in the library of the monastery of San Lorenzo de El Escorial, which King Philipp II had built in the 16th century.

Original Images of a Great Master

Contained in the 304 pages of the Escorial Codex are a total of 52 miniatures. These distinguish themselves on the one hand through their great artistry and on the other through some iconographic peculiarities. The miniatures are depicted against a monochrome background, usually luminous yellow. Prominent colors of the painting, alongside this yellow, include various tones of green, red, and ocher. The scenes are laid out strictly two-dimensionally. Particularly expressive, for example, is the depiction of Adam and Eve. The full-page miniature presents both figures to the left and right of the tree, around whose trunk the two-colored snake winds. The miniatures were encircled by gorgeous frames, which were frequently overlapped by figures, a marker of great creativity and mastery. The figures of the angels with their great jagged wings are particularly impressive. The miniaturist Florentinus could possibly be identified as the master of these glories. He is known for his copy of the Job Commentaries of Pope Gregory I, which is found today in the Spanish National Library in Madrid.

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