The renowned tradition of medieval manuscripts containing the Commentary on the Book of Revelation written by the Asturian monk Beatus of Liébana counts more than thirty exemplars. The codex of Beatus preserved at the John Rylands Library in Manchester stands out among the Beatus exemplars because of its completeness. The manuscript is remarkable as it is one of the largest and most intact copies of the Commentary by Beatus.
The Ryland Beatus: The Making of the Manuscript
Written in a script that shares characteristics with the Caroline and the Gothic, the manuscript is datable to the second half of the twelfth century, probably around the year 1175. The origin of the codex is not documented, but it is almost certain that it was copied in Castile, for it seems it was used as model for the Cardeña Beatus (Museo Arqueologico Nacional, Madrid, Ms.2).
Since the Cardeña Beatus was probably made in the monastery of San Pedro de Cardeña, outside Burgos, it is possible that the Ryland Beatus was produced in the same scriptorium as the Cardeña codex. In the nineteenth century the manuscript passed from Spain to France and was then auctioned in Paris with other codices from the collection of the Marquis of Astorga and Count of Altamira. In 1901, the codex entered the John Ryland Library collection.
The Rich Iconography and Bright Colors of the Manchester Beatus
The Beatus at the Ryland Library contains 123 full-page miniatures painted in a colorful Romanesque style with embellishments in gold. The codex contains highly detailed representations of the scenes described in the Book of Revelation.
Along with the traditional miniatures included in the Beatus manuscripts such as the Map of the World, the Angels playing the Trumpets, and the Adoration of the Lamb, the illuminator of the Manchester Beatus focused on themes quite new for the Beatus.
One of the original scenes is the Ark of Noah, which is painted as an architecture filled with couples of animals that seem to appear from small windows. The illuminator enhanced the salvific role of the Revelation and the theme of the spiritual battle by representing scenes of war and siege along with fighting animals, an instance being the full-page miniature of the bird killing the serpent.
We have 1 facsimile edition of the manuscript "Beatus of Liébana - Manchester Codex": Beato de Liébana, códice de Manchester facsimile edition, published by Patrimonio Ediciones, 2001