(active around 945 in León)

Beatus of Liébana: Commentary on the Revelation of St. John

c. 945
Manuscript (M. 644), 387 x 285 mm
The Morgan Library and Museum, New York

Spanish book art in the early Middle Ages was of a singular order. Its unmistakable look derived principally from the Islamic conquest : in the 8th century, the highly advanced culture of the Arab world was disseminated over more than half of the Iberian peninsula., and, through contact with the native aesthetic elements of West Gothic early Christianity, a distinctive cross-over Mozarabic style evolved. The illustrated commentaries on the Revelation of St. John by Beatus Liébana clearly signifies Spain's role as a fascinating crucible of the most diverse of influences. Oriental, Mozarabic and West Gothic influences can be detected.

Twenty-three richly illustrated codices survived between the 10th and 13th centuries, the one in the Morgan Library is perhaps the oldest.

The manuscript of 303 folios contains the commentary by Beatus Liébana (died not before 798), illustrated with 131 miniatures, written around 785, in anticipation of the end of the world, predicted for the year 800. It was commissioned by the abbot of the Abbey of San Miguel de Escalada (León).

The picture shows the miniature on folio 222v, representing the New Jerusalem, though here it is not seen from above in the form of a plan, as was usual. Here there are twelve gateways, with one of the disciples in each, below a disc, each disc containing a different precious stone.