The Silos Beatus Codex

Commentary on the Apocalypse by Beatus of Liébana, Spain, 1090-1109AD
British Library Add. MS 11695.



f102v Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse

f136v The Riders on Lion-Headed Horses

f143r The Antichrist Kills the Two Witnesses

f194r A Knight



f196r The Rider upon the White Horse


f198v Triumph of the Rider over the Beast

f222v Siege of Jerusalem

f223r Nebuchadnezzar's Army attacks Jerusalem

f239r The Sleepless King Darius
The manuscript was copied in 1090 and the illuminations completed in 1109 in the Spanish monastery of Santo Domingo de Silos, near Burgos.




An extract from: pp146-7, Arms and Armour of the Crusading Era, 1050-1350, Western Europe and the Crusader States by David Nicolle
360A-L     Beatus Commentaries on the Apocalypse written for the Monastery of Santo Domingo de Silos, Mozarab-Castilian, 1091-1109
(British Library, Ms. Add. 11695, London, England)

A - Horsemen of the Apocalypse, f.102; B - Angel, f.198; C - f.202; D - Destruction of Jerusalem, f.143; E - Angel fighting the Beast, f.133; F - Spear of an Angel, f.2; G - f.239; H - Soldier of Nebuchadnezzar, f.143; I-J - Babylonians attacking Jerusalem; K - Sword of Nebuchadnezzar, f.232; L - Goliath, f.194. This is perhaps the most famous of all Mozarab manuscripts. It is generally thought to illustrate Castilian warriors in essentially typical European military equipment, but this could be misleading. Written and other evidence suggests that the warriors of Islamic al-Andalus, as distinct from men of North African origin, used styles very similar to those of their northern Christian-Spanish foes. Close inspection of the manuscript also reveals a number of clear differences between its arms and armour and that of, for example, France. Not only is the artistic style Mozarab but the manuscript was made within a few kilometres of the frontier between Castile and the Islamic state of Saragossa. Added to this is the fact that many of the figures shown here are representatives of the 'wicked', who are normally shown in Christian art as aliens, pagans or Muslims. All the shields are round (H, I and L). Mail hauberks of the Babylonians and of Goliath are long-sleeved (I and L), while that of an angel is short-sleeved (A). A form of apparently stitched soft armour is shown once (B) and perhaps twice (H) . This could be a crude representation of a defence made from sheets of felt which is said to have been used in the Iberian peninsula. The figure of Goliath (L) may have a yellow-coloured quilted aketon beneath his mail hauberk. One feature of considerable interest is the fact that Goliath wears a mail chausse on only one leg. This feature is also seen a little later in Verona, in Italy, where it indicates an infantry warrior who would kneel in the ranks behind a large shield with his armoured leg thrust forward. Its association with a small round shield here in Spain seems incongruous and might indicate that the artist was illustrating a feature that he did not fully understand. Helmets include conical and perhaps segmented types (L), plus versions with forward-angled crowns (I and J). This latter style would become popular throughout much of Europe in the 12th century. Both these forms of pointed helmet have relatively small nasals. A very unusual third form (C) appears to have an advanced shape, but might be the product either of the artist's imagination or a confused reference to an ancient or classical prototype. With the exception of a large wall-breaking crowbar (D) the only weapons are bows (not shown here), spears and swords. The spears are straightforward if stylised, and generally have single or doubled flanges or wings beneath their blades. This strongly suggests that the couched lance technique was not yet commonly used in Iberia. The swords show some interesting features. All have trilobate or, as in the case of Goliath's weapon, even more decorative pommels. Such a style was fast going out of fashion in the rest of Europe. Nebuchadnezzar's sword (K) is shown without any form of quillons or guard. This might be taken as an artistic error were it not for the fact that he is illustrated a second time holding exactly the same kind of weapon. Swords without quillons are seen in North African and Sicilian sources and even in southern French representations of Moors.



Other copies of Commentary on the Apocalypse by Beatus of Liébana
Other 12th Century Illustrations of Costume & Soldiers