The Beatus Cycle refers the nearly 30 surviving illuminated manuscripts based on an 8th century commentary on the Book of the Apocalypse by Saint Beatus of Liebana
. The commentary is primarily composed of excerpts from works by theologians such as Augustine
. While the original manuscript had illustrations interspersed with the text, beginning with Maius in the mid-10th century
, the paintings were moved to more prominent full or double pages with borders. (Here’s an example of the Maius manuscript format.
) As the manuscript was repeatedly copied throughout the Christian portions of the Iberian Peninsula, the original iconography combined with Maius’ layout was preserved mostly intact. In 2007 a new Beatus manuscript came to light – the 11th-century Genevan Beatus.
From the script it appears this was created in 11th century in Italy (to my understanding, the only one not created in Spain), with some rather radical departures from what has been considered the standard iconography and layout, bringing it possibly closer to Beatus’ original design. You can flip through the new Beatus here
. I’d suggest changing the view to thumbnail, and then skipping to about 152r, unless Beneventan script is your thing. (It’s MeFi, it could be. Nothing surprises me about this place anymore.)
For comparison, take a look at the paintings from some of the previously known manuscripts: The Four Horsemen from the Facundus Beatus
of 1047, from the Valladolid Beatus of 970
, the Silos
of 1091 (slightly different, still pretty similar), the Saint-Sever
(1072) and then the Geneva
. Note the lack of background for the figures or border, as well as the placement of the figures on a text page.
Or the Woman Clothed in the Sun: The Las Huelgas
is later than most of the others (1220), but still maintains the basic structure, as does the Silos
, the Gerona
of 975, the Facundus
of 1047 and then the different treatment in the new Geneva.
Want more Beatus? There’s the full Silos
of 1100 here (drop down on the right controls folio) or here
, and an article by John Williams, one of the leading scholars on the topic, here
, with illustrations from the 1047 Facundus (more images
from the Facundus). Images from the 1175 Rylands Beatus are here
and more from the Rylands
from Metafilter’s Own peacay.
Here's the surviving Beatus manuscript with the latest creation date, the Las Huelgas Apocalypse
(be sure to click on the 'about this page' for details on each illumination)
There’s a lovely chapter on the history of the Beatus with illustrations from several manuscripts in Titus Burckhardt’s The Foundations of Christian Art.
And if you’re snowed in and want to spend the rest of the day immersing yourself in Medieval Spanish fabulousness, let me direct you to the catalog for an exhibit that never was: “The Art of Medieval Spain: AD 500 – 1200.
” The exhibit was planned in the mid-90s, postponed and eventually never held.