Extra-apocalyptic iconography in the tenth- century Beatus Commentaries on the Apocalypse as indicators of Christian-Muslim relations in medieval Iberia
Goetsch, Emily Baldwin
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This thesis is an iconographic study of the four earliest and relatively complete tenth-century manuscripts of Beatus’ Commentary on the Apocalypse: New York, Pierpont Morgan Library MS M. 644 (the Morgan Beatus); Valladolid, Biblioteca de la Universidad de Valladolid MS 433 (the Valladolid Beatus); Girona, Museu de la Catedral de Girona MS 7(11) (the Girona Beatus) and La Seu d’Urgell, Museu Diocesá de La Seu d’Urgell MS 501 (the Urgell Beatus). As a part of the tenth-century revival of Beatus’ text that initially was penned in the eighth-century, these works were created in monastic centres during a period when conflict between the Christian kingdoms in the north and Islamic rulers in the south was at a peak, the manuscripts’ iconographic innovations reflect the social, political and religious circumstances of their patrons, creators and audiences. While these manuscripts offer the possibility of furthering scholastic understanding of Iberia prior to the year 1000 the majority of past scholarship has been devoted to defining dates, stemma and the physical characteristics of the works. Debates over descriptions of style, labels and influence have overshadowed discussions of iconographic significance, which have begun to emerge only in the last few decades. Therefore, this thesis provides iconographic analysis of five under-studied scenes, which include the Mappamundi, the Four Beasts and the Statue, Noah’s Ark, the Palm Tree and the Fox and the Cock. While these images are just five of up to 120 included in the illustrative programmes of these manuscripts, they are the only scenes that illustrate the text of Beatus’ Commentary, rather than the narrative of Revelation. This is significant because these extra-apocalyptic scenes were selected and created specifically because of the messages within the Commentary that they enhance; the ideas promoted through these images are not restricted by the narrative of Revelation and therefore reveal much about the political, religious and social situation in the northern Iberian Christian communities that created them. By discussing the visual elements of these five images in conjunction with iconographic traditions from other parts of western Europe, the Byzantine world, the Mediterranean and the Islamic world, this thesis will examine the Beatus illustrations and, on a larger scale, the production of these manuscripts, in relation to the historical struggles of the time. Informed by postcolonial theory, it will not only diverge from the standard ways of approaching these works, but also will bring new insight into the Christian perspective of Muslim occupation in medieval Iberia, suggesting that monastic communities were attempting to combat the Muslim threat by encouraging participation in and dispersal of the Christian faith in order to maintain Christian practices and beliefs on the Iberian Peninsula and furthermore to assert Christian dominance at the Judgment.