Made for Louis IX the Saint, this Picture Bible, also called the Rich Bible of Toledo, is a bible in three volumes, commissioned by Blanche of Castille between 1226 and 1234 for his son king Louis IX of France. The king was still alive when, between 1226 and 1270, the manuscript was brought to the Cathedral of Toledo. In the sixteenth century, eight pages were detached from the codex and provided with a leather binding. Since 1906, these few folios have been kept in the Pierpont Morgan Library in New York as MS M240.
The Picture Bible of Saint Louis: Typological Readings of the Bible
The Bible of Saint Louis is a moralized bible, a kind of book produced in the thirteenth century showing specific features. These manuscripts, large in format, contain selections of the text of the Bible, along with commentaries and illuminations.
It is typical of the moralized bible that the illuminations pair scenes from both the Old and New Testament. The decoration shows the harmony among the events described in the Bible.
The miniatures, framed in medallions as it is common to represent scenes in stained glasses, encourage the beholder to understand the theological and moral meanings of the Bible. The fragment of the Bible of Saint Louis that is now preserved in New York shows eight illuminations on each page.
The miniatures are fashioned with brilliant colors over a gilded background. The paired scenes are enclosed in a block completed with four biblical passages in Latin. The text in the codex in New York contains 56 passages taken from the Book of Revelation.
The Patron of the Manuscript
The last page of the fragment at the Morgan Library presents two scenes. The upper half of the composition features a queen and a young king. The figures do not hold attributes identifying them, but it is probable that they are the queen Blanche of Castille and her son Louis IX.
The female figure is enthroned, wearing her regal cloak and a veil, and she is portrayed in conversation with Louis IX, who listens. According to scholars, the scene works as a visual dedication of the Bible by Blanche of Castille to the young king.
The decoration suggests that the book was made between 1226 and 1234, because the king is featured young and unmarried; thus, the book should be dated to the period between his coronation and his wedding. The lower section of the page depicts two other figures, smaller in size and lower in rank than the queen and the king represented above.
The figure to the left is a cleric, as we can infer from his tonsure. A scribe is featured while working on a moralized bible. What is happening in the scene is that the cleric instructs the scribe and oversees the making of the Bible.
The abundant use of gold along with precious pigments and the high quality of the decoration of the Picture Bible of Saint Louis make it probable that the codex was made for the young king.
We have 2 facsimiles of the manuscript "Picture Bible of Saint Louis":
- Die Bibel Ludwigs des Heiligen (Normal Edition) facsimile edition published by Akademische Druck- u. Verlagsanstalt (ADEVA), 1995-1996
- Die Bibel Ludwigs des Heiligen (Real Gold Edition) facsimile edition published by Akademische Druck- u. Verlagsanstalt (ADEVA), 1995-1996