The Silos Beatus is a richly illustrated late eleventh-century copy of Beatus of Liébana's Commentary on the Book of Apocalypse. It was produced at the monastery of Santo Domingo de Silos in Spain, and is a marvelous example of the Mozarabic style. Like many Beatus manuscripts, the book records information about the makers, in this case two scribes named Domingo and Muño, and an illuminator, the prior Pedro. The sizeable book is Latin written in two columns of thirty-nine lines. It includes fifty-three brightly colored full-page illuminations, some of which unusually extend onto the opposite page, and an additional seventy-seven smaller pictures.
In addition to the main Beatus text, this manuscript also contains an unrelated musical antiphoner, Jerome's commentary on the Book of Daniel, and a few miscellaneous writings including the division of duties for the year 1158. The excellent condition of the book suggests that it was not heavily used. The inclusion of later ancillary materials indicates it remained within the monastic community. Its large format, numerous lively pictures, and excellent condition make the Silos Codex one of the most important of the surviving Spanish Beatus manuscripts.
A Traditional Beatus with Uncommon Characteristics
The Silos Beatus is one of the most extensively illuminated Beatus manuscripts with a total of 114 pages with illustrations, most of them occupying more than half the page. The book also has six separate colophons which allow for a strict dating of the manuscript's artwork to between 1090 and 1109.
Although only one illuminator is named – a prior named Pedro – there are two distinct artistic hands. The main and more skilled hand produces a fair copy of the style of the Valcavado Beatus and the Urgell Beatus with small, square heads, spiky wings on thin stalks, and detailed feet and hands.
The second has a softer style with rounded heads and lumpy "intestine-like" wings. Although it was made in the late eleventh and early twelfth century, it is often included as the end of the pictorial tradition of illuminated Beatus that began in the early tenth century.
Six Colophons Record Details of Production
An important feature of the Silos Beatus is the inclusion of six colophons that record the circumstances of the manuscript's production. These state that the book was written and illustrated at the Benedictine monastery of Santo Domingo de Silos.
It was initiated by Abbot Fortunio, continued under Abbot Nunnus, and completed under Abbot John. Also identified are the scribes, Munnio and Domenico, and the illuminator, Prior Petrus. The scribes completed their work on 18 April 1091 and the illustrations were completed eighteen years later on 1 July 1109.
Removed from Spain by Joseph Bonaparte
The Silos Beatus remained at the monastery of Santo Domingo de Silos until the fourteenth century. By 1650 it had come into the possession of Cardinal Antonio of Aragon. Inherited by his brother, Pascal, it was then bequeathed to the Colegio Viejo de San Bartolomé in Salamanca in 1677, listed in their 1770 catalog. In 1799 it entered the royal collection under Carlos IV. Purchased by the British Museum on 9 May 1840 from Joseph Bonaparte, who had been King of Spain between 1808 and 1813.
For more information on the Beatus model, read our blog article by Amy R. Miller (PhD, Medieval Art History, University of Toronto).
We have 1 facsimile edition of the manuscript "Beatus of Liébana - Silos Codex": Beato de Liébana, Códice de Santo Domingo de Silos facsimile edition, published by M. Moleiro Editor, 2003Request Info / Price