The manuscript containing the Commentary on the Book of Revelation written by the Asturian monk Beatus of Liébana kept at the Real Academia de la Historia in Madrid, is one of the most complete versions of the manuscripts of this influential tradition that in medieval times belonged to the Monastery of San Millán de la Cogolla (Rioja).
The other two Beatus manuscripts that were in the late tenth century in the same monastery are now preserved in the Biblioteca Nacional de España in Madrid, Vitr. 14.1, and at El Escorial, Biblioteca Monasterio, Cod. & II. 5.
For more information on the Beatus model, read our blog article by Amy R. Miller (PhD, Medieval Art History, University of Toronto).
San Millán Beatus: The Origin of the Manuscript
Written in Visigothic script in two columns, the manuscript was completed in two phases. In the late tenth-early eleventh century, the main scribe copied the first part of the codex up to folio 228. The average quality of the parchment suggests the lack of resources.
At that time, Rioja carried constant campaigns against Al Mansur who eventually destroyed the monastery of San Millán. In the second half of the eleventh century, the Riojan monastery reached economic prosperity.
Probably because of the richness regained, the monastery could complete the unfinished manuscript and a number of scribes, less skilled than the first one, brought the writing to completion. The text added at this point displays influence from the Carolingian writing and 48 miniatures were added to fill the blank spaces left by the first scribe.
The Mozarabic and Romanesque Features of the Miniatures of the San Millan Beatus
The illuminations of the Beatus of San Millán de la Cogolla are of special interest because they show two different styles. Up to folio 92, the illuminator worked in the style of the Mozarabic Art.
The later section of the manuscript, however, shows Romanesque features. Although the codex is certainly datable to the tenth-eleventh centuries, the owners of the precious book established an antique tradition for the manuscript.
A note on folio 58 explains that Albinus copied the codex in the year 670, the time of Benitus, the eighth abbot of the monastery. It is known that this is a seventeenth-century addition that also appears in other works, and it was meant to enhance the prestige, the antiquity and the authenticity of the book.
We have 2 facsimiles of the manuscript "Beatus of Liébana - San Millán Codex":
- El Beato de San Millán de la Cogolla facsimile edition published by Edilan, 1999
- Beato de San Millán facsimile edition published by Testimonio Compañía Editorial, 2002