Beatus of Liébana - Huelga Codex

M. 429 - Morgan Library & Museum (New York, USA)

Alternate Titles:

Las Huelgas Apocalypse, Beatus Las Huelgas, Apocalipsis de San Juan, Beato de Liebana - Monasterio de Las Huelgas

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Codiology

Alternate Titles

Las Huelgas Apocalypse
Beatus Las Huelgas
Apocalipsis de San Juan
Beato de Liebana - Monasterio de Las Huelgas

Type
Extent / Format

368 pages / 52.0 x 36.4 cm

Origin
Date
1220
Style
Genre
Language
Patron

Berenguela, mother of Fernando III and sister of Alphose VIII

Artist / School

Author: Beatus of Liébana (died after 798)

Illustrations

116 miniatures

Short description

In the Royal Abbey of Las Huelgas, the last and simultaneously the greatest of the magnificent Beatus manuscripts arose from northern Spain in the year 1220. At the behest of Berenguela de Castilla, the daughter of King Alfonso VIII, true masters of their craft completed an impressive work of art. The well over 100 miniatures, which sometimes even stretch across a double page, firstly allow the tradition of the Beatus manuscripts to be wonderfully understood. However, the miniatures likewise present innovative reinventions to the illustration of the famous Apocalypse commentary of Beatus of Liébana. The splendidly colorful miniatures overwhelm in their unmediated force allow the fantastical world of the Book of Revelation to come to life before the eyes of the beholder. It simultaneously offers a glimpse into the grandiose tradition of illumination in medieval Spain.

Facsimile editions available

Description

Beatus of Liébana - Huelga Codex

In the Royal Abbey of Las Huelgas, the last and simultaneously the greatest of the magnificent Beatus manuscripts arose from northern Spain in the year 1220. At the behest of Berenguela de Castilla, the daughter of King Alfonso VIII, true masters of their craft completed an impressive work of art. The well over 100 miniatures, which sometimes even stretch across a double page, firstly allow the tradition of the Beatus manuscripts to be wonderfully understood. However, the miniatures likewise present innovative reinventions to the illustration of the famous Apocalypse commentary of Beatus of Liébana. The splendidly colorful miniatures overwhelm in their unmediated force allow the fantastical world of the Book of Revelation to come to life before the eyes of the beholder. It simultaneously offers a glimpse into the grandiose tradition of illumination in medieval Spain.

A Royal Monastery

The gem of the final phase of the Beatus manuscript is found today in the Morgan Library in New York. An exciting history is wrapped around the so-called Beatus of Las Huelgas. The manuscript originated in the year 1220 in the Las Huelgas Abbey near Burgos. The Abbey of Los Huelgas was a royal cloister, founded by the Castilian King Alfonso VIII. The great significance of Las Huelgas is evidenced among other things by an outstanding collection of codices. It was precisely in this abbey that Berenguela de Castilla died on November 8, 1246.

The Important Commissioner

Berenguela de Castilla (1180-1246) is presumed to be the commissioner of the Huelga Codex. She was the daughter of King Alfonso VIII of Castile and Eleanor Plantagenet, as well as the mother of King Fernando III. In the year 1217, Berenguela, as the only child of the king at the time, was the Queen of Castile, albeit briefly. The splendid manuscript of the Huelga Codex is worthy all-around of such an important commissioner. The grandiose format of 52 x 36.4 cm already makes the codex something special. Yet the greatest and last manuscript of the Apocalypse commentaries of Beatus of Liébana unfolds a splendor from within, which can probably overwhelm any beholder.

The Exciting Apocalypse, the Genealogy of Christ, and More.

On 368 pages, the Huelga Codex presents 116 miniatures, which sometimes stretch across a double page. As to content, the manuscript begins with a cycle of Christological miniatures. An impressive Maiestas Domini and representations of the four Evangelists present the outstanding style of the miniatures. The eight miniatures of the prefacing cycle originate from a master, who was probably located in Toledo. An extensive genealogy of Christ familiarizes the reader with the biblical background. Thereafter follows the actual Apocalypse and lastly the Book of Daniel with the accompanying commentary by St. Jerome.

The Last Great Beatus

Originating in the year 1220, the Beatus of Los Huelgas presents miniatures in the Gothic style. This is especially perceptible in the figures, which appear exceedingly slender and graceful. The miniaturists oriented themselves on numerous examples, e.g. the arrangement of the miniatures on monochrome, bright backgrounds and in narrow, simple frames. The miniatures are sometimes subdivided into several registers and show symbolic scenes from the Book of Revelation. Colorful crowds of people, gruesome denizens of hell, the Horsemen of the Apocalypse, and magnificent angels populate the depictions. Sometimes the events play out before impressive city architectures, with embellishing columns, artful capitals, and grandiose archways. The intensively luminous colors lend the miniatures their vividness and their impressive pull on the beholder. As simultaneously the last and most comprehensive Beatus manuscript, the Huelga Codex offers therewith a wonderful overview of the tradition of Beatus manuscripts, which the miniaturists could substantially draw from. Nevertheless, the artists likewise presented themselves as exceptionally innovative by expanding traditional iconography to new representations.

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