Girona Beatus

Girona Beatus f. 161v, Tale of the powerful angel. St. John receives the rod and measures the temple


f. 161v, Tale of the powerful angel. St. John receives the rod and measures the temple

This full-folio illustration does not depict the lengthy account given in the storia but three moments concerning basically the arrival and oath of the angel, the handing over of the book and the rod, and the measuring of the temple. Shown in the upper part is the angel – as always, in a hierarchical perspective although no Beatus depicts the angel’s characteristics described in the storia – with a cloud behind him in allusion to the one that covered him (although in the other stemma II Beatus, the emissary is set inside the cloud), with one foot upon the sea which is depicted as a bluish strip bending towards the right, with large fish and a trireme, and the word “MARE” upon it.

His other foot is upon the earth, identified by the legend “TERRAM”, with a few, small plants. His right hand raised to take the oath not is depicted very clearly but almost mistakenly for it seems to be holding the canopy of heaven aloft, which is shown at the top like a fragment of a circle with a star-filled surround and clouds inside. The angel gives St John a book. There is then a legend reading “UBI IOHANNES ANGELO/ARUNDINEM ACCEPIT” and leading to the right-hand side where the beloved disciple takes the rod being given to him by an angel not named in the storia, which is written in an impersonal manner, unlike the legend which could refer to the powerful angel , whilst making an imperative gesture. The two scenes in the upper half employ the same formula of an object being delivered or given. Beneath them is a legend reading “ubi angelus sub nube amictus/[...] t autem/pede[m]/sua[m]/dextra[m] sup[er] mare sinix-/trum/[...] um sup[er] terra[m]”. At the bottom is a building – the temple of God – represented in cross-section like the buildings in the messages to the seven churches of Asia. Depicted in the central nave beneath a horseshoe arch and next to an altar is the author to whom the Revelation is attributed measuring the height of the temple, with the “VBI IOHANNES MENSV-/RAT TEMPLVM” on the left-hand side. He is flanked by seven figures with nimbi, three on the left and four on the right, whose meaning is not very clear, although judging by the gesture of their hands, they may be assumed to be the righteous waiting to be measured.

Branch IIa shows the angel, as in stemma I, handing the rod to St John, who has not yet taken it, whereas in IIb, it is held by both the evangelist and the heavenly messenger. Furthermore, branch IIa shows the gentiles placed on top of each other, not in the portico but in two passageways flanking the lateral naves. They are depicted in a manner similar to that in stemma I, in proskynesis or prostrated, depending on the manuscripts. Consequently, these are the worshippers in the legend “isti adorant” or “adorantes” to be found in the manuscripts having this illustration, described in the storia. The meaning of those in branch IIb on the other hand, is slightly different: the men are shown standing in a far larger setting, pointing at St John, and may refer to the Gentiles. The original branch IIa prototype probably covered two pages, one featuring St John listening to a voice from on high and represented as a hand enshrouded in a cloud emerging from a heavenly arch, ordering him to seal and not write down what he heard from the seven thunderclaps; consequently, branch IIb is of a more synthetic nature.

Carlos Miranda García-Tejedor
Doctor in History
(Fragment of the Girona Beatus commentary volume)

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