THE ONLY BEATUS OF LIÉBANA COMMISSIONED BY KINGS
This Beatus is named after its promoters, the monarchs Ferdinand I and Doña Sancha. Their names are mentioned in the Labyrinth (f. 7r.) and in the colophon (f. 316 r) – where the date of the Beatus (1047) is also given. Beatus of Liébana’s Commentaries on the Apocalypse were copied and illuminated for most of the monasteries in the north of the Iberian Peninsula between the 10th, 11th and 12th centuries. However, the Facundo Beatus is the only one (with the possible exception of the Beatus of Las Huelgas) that was copied for the kings of Castile and León.
It contains a frame of six portraits, which has led some authors to claim that this manuscript is based on Central European artistic trends, especially those of Reicheneau. Others, however, place it within the group of Magius, by whom it is clearly influenced, and the Mozarabic Bible of Leon (Williams).
Facundo signed the manuscript only as scriptor, but no other name appears that refers to illumination, so that the term scriptor may here also encompass the superb task of illuminating the codex. Its lavish images are the beginning of one of the most prodigious iconographic traditions in the history of Western art. The violent colours of the Beatus of Facundus, its strange drawings and dreamlike atmosphere exert a veritable tyranny over the imagination: those who have seen them once will never forget them.
Overall, the codex is one of the most beautiful of the Hispanic miniatures and, of course, of the beati, both for the rigour of the drawing, its syncretism between maintaining the past and opening up to the present, the almost classical care for order and compositional structure and the use of colour, capable of creating chromatic effects with the appearance of different atmospheres, always of great elegance and endowed with a severe solemnity, different from anything early medieval. Moreover, in none of the beati is gold more abundant than in the Beatus of Ferdinand I. For Professor John Williams, the Beatus of Facundo is perhaps the most elegant of the Commentaries. It is also one of the best preserved, as it remained in the collegiate church of San Isidoro de León until Philip V, during the War of the Spanish Succession, requisitioned it and sent it to the Royal Library and, finally, it became part of the collections of the National Library.
IN MAJOR HOLLYWOOD PRODUCTIONS
The Beatus of Liébana and especially the Codex of Ferdinand and Sancha have frequently appeared in numerous novels, series or films, such as The Name of the Rose (1986), based on the novel of the same name by Umberto Eco, in which the actors Sean Connery and Christian Slater, playing respectively the roles of the Franciscan friar William of Baskervillle and the Benedictine novice Adlo of Melk, contemplate the central page, the central page of the Codex of Ferdinand and Sancha, playing respectively the roles of the Franciscan friar William of Baskervillle and the Benedictine novice Adlo of Melk, contemplate the central page, illuminated on both sides, where the seven-headed beast with ten horns is depicted. Directors such as Ridley Scott in The Kingdom of Heaven (2005), or more recently the Amazon Prime series El Cid (2020) have used images from the Beatus to set various period scenes, highlighting the importance of this impressive and unique manuscript.
THE MOST ELEGANT BEATUS OF LIÉBANA
In June 1572 it is documented that the codex was still in San Isidoro de León, but shortly afterwards it began to pass from hand to hand.
In the second half of the 17th century, the Marquis of Mondéjar had it in his possession. During the War of Succession, the Marquis’s library was seized by Philip V and the manuscript passed to the Royal Library in the first decade of the 18th century. Once there, it was bound with steezed leather in the 19th century and is now kept at the BNE.
During the Spanish Civil War, much of the art treasure was evacuated from museums and libraries to protect it from bombing.
The then director of the Biblioteca Nacional de España, Tomás Navarro Tomás, chose the works to be evacuated. A total of 5,439 volumes were evacuated. At the end of the war, in 1939, the works were returned to the BNE.
This Beatus of the Biblioteca Nacional is illustrated by an extensive iconographic programme characteristic of the Beatus codices, with some 100 illustrations in the Mozarabic style, but with notable Romanesque influences. The titles and epigraphs are in red ink. It stands out for its range of bright colours, which is not seen in any other, and for the perfection of the compositions, where the stylised figures have lost their hieratic style and introduce movements that dynamise the image, which, according to Williams, make it the most elegant of the Beatus.
IS THE LAST OF THE OF THE VISIGOTHIC MOZARABIC BEATI
The Beatus of Ferdinand and Sancha is the last of the Visigothic beati. On the other hand, the Beatus of Saint-Sever is the first of the Romanesque ones. It belongs to Branch II, the tradition of the Commentary of the Beatus of 785-786.
WHO WAS THE COPYIST?
The Beatus of Liébana of Ferdinand I and Doña Sancha is also known as the Beatus of Facundus (Facundus scripsit) after the name of its author and painter. His name appears in the colophon (f.316). It is very likely that it was made in a highly specialised scriptorium, possibly Sahagún. The coincidence of the name of the copyist (formerly Arab) and the name of this monastery (Saints Facundo and Primitivo), gives rise to debate. Authors who maintain that the codex was composed in San Isidoro de León may have taken into account that the Basilica was inaugurated in 1063, after being built on the site of the Church of San Juan and San Pelayo. Therefore, the dating written by the author would be called into question.
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