Named after the place where it is preserved, the Trier (or Treves) Apocalypse is a Carolingian manuscript illustrating the Book of Revelation. The Latin text is written in a large and elegant Caroline minuscule, with large sections written in a more refined half-uncial. Probably in the eleventh century, the text was partially erased and corrected.
The early date and the extensive illustrate cycle of the Trier Apocalypse make this codex extremely interesting in the history of the book production. Seventy-four full-page miniatures enclosed within red frames illustrate with precision the visions of St. John the Evangelist as described in the last book of the Bible.
Detailed Pen Drawings
The large pictorial decoration of the Trier Apocalypse is significant of the Carolingian imaginary, but it is also relevant because of the references to Classical iconographies. Thus, the miniatures can be considered as interesting reflections and reinterpretations of antique models, while they also worked as original compositions, which became sources for contemporary artists.
Colored pen drawings with an essential design characterize the miniatures of the Trier Apocalypse. The illustrations follow the text that they represent. The miniatures are detailed representations of the content of the book. Although there is no apparent variation to the literal sense contained in the Book of Revelation, the images draw from the Classical tradition, merging Classical myths to Christian imagery.
The Classical Inspiration of the Illuminations
Classical motifs can be discerned throughout the illuminations. The image of Satan with the head of a goat (fols. 66r, 67r), for instance, is taken from the Greek tradition of Pan. Although it is difficult to tell if there was any meaning behind the interpretation of Satan as Pan, the process of referring to Antique models is common practice for the illuminators of the Trier Apocalypse.
The Classical borrowings are visible in many other figures of the manuscript. For example, the antique features of the goddess of Nike, meaning Victory, are to be found in an angel of the Carolingian Apocalypse (fol. 19v). The Book of Revelation is cryptic and complex. Since the early Christianity, it generated debates and controversies about its significance.
In the Churches of Syria and Cappadocia, for instance it was not accepted among the canonical books up to the fifth century. The Trier Apocalypse stands out as the earliest known comprehensive illustration of a difficult biblical text. Thus, it constituted a challenge for the illuminators at work on this exceptional manuscript.