Leaf from a Beatus Manuscript: the Opening of the Fifth Seal


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Illustrated Beatus manuscripts bring to life an extraordinary vision of the end of the world, as recorded by Saint John in the Apocalypse (Book of Revelation) and filtered through the lens of Beatus of Liébana, an eighth-century Asturian monk. These manuscripts are unique to medieval Spain and a testament to the pervasive artistry and intellectual milieu of monastic culture there. The leaf shown here comes from a manuscript disassembled in the 1870s.

The upper register contains an altar, suspended votive offerings, and doves symbolizing the souls of the dead. The middle register depicts the blessing figure of Christ, while the martyrs in their white robes cluster below him. This illustration is based on the text of Apoc. 6.9-11: "I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God…and white robes were given to every one of them…"

Leaf from a Beatus Manuscript: the Opening of the Fifth Seal, Tempera, gold, and ink on parchment, Spanish

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