The Apocalypse of 1313

The Apocalypse of 1313 f. 53r, Babylon split into three parts (Revelation 16: 19-20)


f. 53r, Babylon split into three parts (Revelation 16: 19-20)

Babylon receives the full brunt of the general upheaval unleashed when the seventh bowl is emptied. Whereas the “cities of nations” have already collapsed (f. 52), every island has fled away and the mountains have disappeared, the Great City is split into three parts by the flames of the lightning and a storm of stones. In a somewhat naive manner, the painter has conveyed this division by three great towers set alongside each other. Their roofs fall in on the “assembly of the wicked” consisting, according to the commentator, of “the Jews, the heathens and the false Christians”. The bodies of the wounded are heaped up in each building. On the left, the slaughtered traitors bear no special sign. In the centre, several wear a pointed cap, probably alluding to the hat worn by the Jews, and on the right, the flesh of the false Christians turns the colour of darkness to indicate the damnation awaiting them. The foundations of this three-part Babylon rest upon an earth in motion: large, slender clods, wrenched out by the earthquake, glide in a remarkably even line above the rippling ground. Descending from the clouds, a divine messenger repeats the gesture Christ made in the previous vision, thereby emphasising the supernatural origin of the punishment.

This is the moment when God recalls Babylon and gives her the bowl bubbling with the wine of his wrath. The illustration of the sequence has been moved to f. 52v, near the witness at his desk. Portrayed near a mandorla containing Christ at the Last Judgement showing his non-bleeding wounds, is a king in armour who defiantly raises the gold goblet full of God’s wrath that he has just received. This king, who represents the power of the world and symbolises the might of the Great City and the Antichrist, is accompanied by three soldiers armed with powerful spears featuring finely decorated blades. The sinister, grimacing faces of these hellish warriors and the emblems – a bear’s head and boar’s head – embellishing the shield and shoulder plates of one of them confirm that they belong to the forces of Evil.

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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