The Apocalypse of 1313

The Apocalypse of 1313 f. 47r, Seven angels receive the bowls of God’s wrath (Revelation 15: 5-8)

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f. 47r, Seven angels receive the bowls of God’s wrath (Revelation 15: 5-8)

With a penknife in one hand and a scroll in the other, John listens and watches (f. 46v). He sees the Temple open in heaven. The seven angels in immaculate robes like white stone who have emerged from the heavenly sanctuary resembling a church on the left, move forward. The similarity with the dazzling stone is a way of conveying the fact that these angels who, according to the Fathers, represent the last preachers, “are garbed with Christ in whom all force and all justice dwell, and who cleanses men of their sins”. The text of the Apocalypse says that the tunics were “girt about the breasts with golden girdles”, but since the loose-fitting fabric covers these girdles, the artist has replaced them by a decorative gold strip around the hem of the robes, disregarding the gloss, according to which the belts were tied not around the hips but around the chest being an allegory of God’s wisdom and the charity preventing the heart and the will from devoting themselves to evil.

The angels move towards an altar upon which one of the four Living Creatures – in this instance, the eagle symbolising John the evangelist – stands. The bird has grasped the rim of a bowl in one of its claws and holds it out to the first angel. Another six bowls which the illuminator has portrayed rather as large phials await beside the altar. The sparks emerging from these golden bowls signify that they contain the wrath of God everlasting. “Smoke arising from the glory of God and his power” then fills the Temple. This smoke intended to blind the wicked is depicted in the painting as sparks flying through the openings in the buildings, whilst the fire, the image of the Holy Ghost, evokes the supernatural manifestation more explicitly.

Marie-Thérèse Gousset and Marianne Besseyre
Illuminated Manuscripts Research Center, Bibliothèque nationale de France
Fragment of the Apocalypse of 1313 commentary volume


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