Beatus of Liébana
Las Huelgas Apocalypse
Purchased by Pierpont Morgan, 1910
And I, John, saw the Holy City, the New Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God, prepared like a bride adorned for her husband. And one of the seven angels approached and spoke with me, saying: "Come, and I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb." And he took me up in spirit to a high mountain and showed me the descending Holy City Jerusalem, which was laid out as a square, with three gates on each side. At each gate was an angel with the name of one of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel. The wall of the city had twelve foundations, each with the name of one of the twelve Apostles of the Lamb. And he who was speaking with me was holding a golden measuring reed to measure the city, its gates, and wall. The city was of pure gold, and the foundation walls were adorned with every kind of precious stone. The first foundation was of jasper, and the other eleven were of sapphire, chalcedony, emerald, sardonyx, sardius, chrysolite, beryl, topaz, chrysoprasus, jacinth, and amethyst. And I saw no temple in the city, for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. (Rev. 21:2–22)
Here the gates are filled with apostles, each with a book and a gemstone above his head. At left, for example, are James (chrysoprasus), Matthew (jacinth), and Matthias (amethyst). At center is the Lamb flanked by the angel with the measuring stick and John with his book. The city follows the ideal square city plan of the time.
The Apocalypse, or Book of Revelation, is not only the last Book of the New Testament, but its most difficult, puzzling, and terrifying. It provided challenges to medieval illustrators and was the source for a number of popular images, such as Christ in Majesty, the Adoration of the Lamb, and the Madonna of the Apocalypse and contributed to the widespread use of the Evangelists' symbols.
Selected images from Apocalypse Then: Medieval Illuminations from the Morgan, an exhibition held at the Morgan are presented here. The exhibition celebrates the completion of a facsimile of the Morgan's Las Huelgas Apocalypse—the latest dated (1220) and largest surviving manuscript of a Spanish tradition of illuminated commentaries on the Apocalypse by the monk Beatus of Liébana. The series of manuscripts constitutes Spain's most important contribution to medieval manuscript illumination.
The Las Huelgas Apocalypse contains three sections: the prefatory cycle, the Apocalypse, and the Book of Daniel.
In addition to forty-nine images from the Las Huelgas Apocalypse, six images from other manuscripts in the Morgan's collections, including the earliest Beatus painted by Maius and one by the Master of the Berry Apocalypse, are in this presentation.