Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Beatus Apocalypse, 8th Century

Many Beatus manuscripts begin with a full-page Cross of Oviedo, so named after Greek-shaped crosses in the treasury of Oviedo Cathedral that were thought to imitate the cross carried by Pelayo of Asturias in his 722 victory over the Moors at the battle of Covadonga. (Pelayo's battle was regarded as the beginning of the Christian Reconquista.)

The term "Beatus" identifies a particular medieval manuscript, of Spanish origin, that contains a collection of textual comments on the apocalypse of Saint John. The aim of the author, Beato of Liébana, was that of indoctrinating and educating the clergy, although, in some cases the manuscript was also used for certain rites and rituals.

The first version of the commentary was successively edited by the very hand of Beatus, as well as by later authors, each of whom contributed in creating different versions. There are 27 illuminated manuscripts that have been identified as having these characteristics and are, therefore, named "Beatus of Liébana" and are conserved in various libraries around the world.

Hell mouth
Lower part represents hell mouth (Boca del infierno)

Destruction of Babylon
Destruction of Babylon: the splendid city of Babylon — engulfed in flames — is a symbol of Satan and of all evil.

"And I saw another angel descending from heaven, saying: "Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great. And she has become the habitation of demons, and the keepsake of every unclean spirit, and the possession of every unclean and hateful flying thing." For this reason her afflictions shall arrive in one day: death and grief and famine. And she shall be burned with fire. And the kings of the earth, who have fornicated with her and lived in luxury, shall weep and mourn for themselves over her, when they see the smoke of her conflagration, standing far away, out of fear of her torments, saying: "Woe! Woe! to Babylon, that great and strong city. For in one hour, your judgement has arrived." And the businessmen of the earth shall weep and mourn over her, because no one will buy their merchandise anymore." [Revelations 18:1–11]

Bird killing serpent a
Bird (symbol of Christ) killing serpent (symbol of satan)

City of Babylon Surrounded by 2 serpents

This miniature of Babylon above functioned as a frontispiece to the Book of Daniel, written between 168 and 165 B.C. in support of Jews persecuted by the Seleucid emperor, Antiochus IV Epiphanes. The book was used as a pattern for later Jewish and Christian apocalypses, including the present Apocalypse of John, which also told of the fall of Babylon and the coming of Christ.

Noah's Ark
The Noah's Ark

Hic populus meus et habitauit deus cum eis
Christ Enthroned Over the River of Life

"He took me up a high mountain and showed me the river of the water of life, shining like crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the midst of its main street, and on both sides of the river, was the Tree of Life, bearing twelve fruits, offering one for each month, and the leaves are for the health of the nations. But the throne of God and the Lamb will be in it, and his servants shall serve him. They shall see his face and his name shall be on their foreheads. Night shall be no more, and they will need neither lamp nor sun because the Lord God will illuminate them. And they shall reign forever and ever." [Revelations 22:1–5]

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