This codex is a highlight of Gothic book art from the middle of the 13th century. It is unique due to the French script and the exuberant gold and silver decorations. Large format miniatures in harmonious colors are a trademark of this Apocalypse manuscript of the Gothic era.
A Magnificently Illuminated Manuscript From the Early Gothic Period
The most splendid manuscript of the Revelation to John that Gothic art brought forth has been preserved for centuries in the library of Trinity College, Cambridge. Since 1660 the Trinity Apocalypse, which originated in the mid-thirteenth century, has belonged to this valuable collection.
Its richly colored miniatures embellished with finely tooled gold are unparalleled among English apocalypses. But not only the rich decoration is exceptional: the French version of the Revelation with an exegesis of John's visions adapted especially to this manuscript is one of a kind.
A Book of Inspiration
Apocalypses are prophecies about the end of time and the Last Judgement made known in wondrous ways. Divination of this kind occurred again and again, but the Revelation to John is the only one included in the New Testament.
Using mysterious images and striking language, John describes the end of the world and the Last Judgement. Yet terror is not the focus of this vision: the Revelation to John is a book of consolation and inspiration.
Lavish Splendor With Finely Tooled Gold
Even amongst the splendid English apocalypses, the magnificent Trinity Apocalypse stands out as the culmination of manuscript illumination in the Early Gothic period.
The rich decoration of this codex is unique. Seventy-one large-format miniatures with over one hundred individual pictures on sixty-two pages and lavish use of tooled gold leaf contribute to the splendor and beauty of this manuscript.
The intense effect that radiates from the miniatures is achieved by the harmonious combination of colors. The expert use of a wide variety of colors, such as ultramarine and indigo in the blue tones, at times soft and then again brilliant, creates the impression of movement and liveliness.
The use of silver, now oxidized, and the rich application of gold contribute to the magical splendor of the Trinity Apocalypse.
A Picture Book of the Revelation to John
Each of the over one hundred pictures of the Trinity Apocalypse was painted with the greatest attention to detail. Since all of John's visions are portrayed in the miniatures, it is as if the reader is paging through a picture book of the Book of Revelations.
The artists have succeeded to an unusual degree in creating an individualistic portrayal of all the figures in the miniatures. The expressive faces of the figures inevitably invite the viewer to pause and reflect.
As Dramatic as Knights' Adventures
In many of the miniatures illustrating John's visions, kings, knights, and noblewomen, all splendidly armed and attired, appear. Portrayed with great dramatic power, they could be part of a romance of chivalry.
The richly embellished illuminations and the depiction of the chivalric ideal underpin the hypothesis that the codex was intended for the highest aristocratic circles. The courtly lady who is frequently depicted in the miniatures is thought to be the patron of the Trinity Apocalypse.
Scholars assume that it is Eleanore of Provence, the wife of King Henry III. Perhaps it was she who had the splendid manuscript embellished with gold leaf.
John's Vita: An Innovative Idea Becomes a Model
The Trinity Apocalypse begins and ends with a picture gallery, framed with resplendent gold borders, illustrating the story of John's life. The idea of framing the Revelation to John with the vita of the author was an absolute innovation in the history of book illumination.
The idea became so popular that all English Apocalypse manuscripts of the late thirteenth century followed this new form. In no other version, however, is the description of John's wondrous deeds as enthralling and, with its eleven pages, as detailed as in the Trinity Apocalypse.