A Survey of Mozarabic Manuscript Illumination


This paper is an attempt to survey the development of manuscript illumination in Spain under the Mozarabs, who were Christians living under Muslim rule. The style generally attributed to them persisted from the ninth until the eleventh century. Undoubtedly, the tradition of Spanish book illumination was old and well developed before our Mozarabic examples. There are remains of Visigothic painting, and we shall refer to them briefly in order to set the stage for the advent of the Mozarabic style.

There has been little presumption to present a detailed stylistic analysis. Each manuscript in itself would warrant a monograph if this were to be achieved with any degree of success. Description of the monuments themselves, therefore, has been minimized.

Iconographically, many of the monuments are unique, and appear to be original creations. There are connections with the rest of Europe, as for instance, between the twelfth century facade of Santa Maria de Ripell (which we shall later mention in connection with the Farfa Bible) and the recension of the Cotton Genesis. The number of individual elements which enter the Spanish pictorial vocabulary from the outside is also enormous. But it is not the purpose of this survey to trace specific derivations, nor to formulate definitive channels of derivations as in the case of dependent traditions.

Even so, not all important categories of surviving Mozarabic illumination could be discussed. Important codices, such as the group recording the acts of Spanish Councils, Codex Vigilanus (Escorial, d. I. 2.) and the Codex Aemilianense (Escorial, d, I. 1.) must suffice with mention here, disproportionate as this may be to their value historically and artistically. On the other hand, we have attempted to fit some idea of the total development of Mozarabic style into the larger context of medieval Spain and coeval Europe. To establish some sort of order for this enormously complicated task, we have (somewhat arbitrarily, to be sure) fused two points of view, the general historical approach and the art historian's concern with the specific monuments. This latter we have organized into three schools for discussion, the former as an introduction, and the fusion in a final recapitulation.

Spanish soil was first entered by the Visigoths (1) in 409. After supplanting the local provincial Roman power, they were able to retain dominion over the Iberian peninsula until the beginning of the eighth century, when, divided by internal strife, one of the factions called is ibn Tarik and a Berber army from across the Straits of Gibraltar (which name itself is derived from the Arabic Jabal al Tarik, or "mountain of Tarik"). The eight-day battle at Guadalete in 711 crushed the remnants of Visigothic military strength from the one family, and dispersed the other faction when the Berbers decided to stay in Spain.

This immediately created the situation which gave rise to a class of Spanish society: the Mozarabs. Under the Visigoths, Spain was a Christian country. The Muslim North Africans, now virtually unopposed, swept through the peninsula, establishing their religion which was to remain a vital factor in Spanish life until the expul­sion of Moors in 1492. The Muslim forces did not only remain in Spain, but pushed into France, where they were finally met and defeated by Charles Martel in the famous battle of 732 near Poitiers. This was little more than an expeditionary force, however, and the dominion of Islam in France continued for some years.

The only areas not conquered in Spain were in the mountainous districts of the Pyrenees and Asturias. The last vestige of Visi­gothic tradition passed to Oviedo, which soon became the capital of Asturias and the center of Christian forces which were to effect the reconquest that terminated in the victory of Ferdinand and Isabella at Granada. The character and quantity of the Visigothic element in Asturian art and culture is debatable though, and it appears mere likely that the ninth century flowering of the arts in the tiny moun­tain kingdom bears a spirit all its own. (2)

The Asturian Christians spilled over their mountain barriers in the early tenth century, however, and established a new capital at León. There the character of their art changed significantly. Al­ready in the Asturian church of San Salvador de Valdediós (dedicated in 893) there appear elements then current in the architecture of Andalucia, whether Muslim or Mozarabic, such as the horseshoe arch, enclosed by an alfiz, or rectangular border, and a characteristically southern arcade. These andalusian elements were no doubt transmitted by Christians either escaping, or simply travelling, from the Muslim controlled lands in the rest of Spain. These were the Mozarabic architects, clergymen and citizens who were sought by the reconquering Christians to populate the land devastated by battles and neglect since the Visigothic collapse. Subsequent building under their influence or direction is called "Mozarabic", which persists as a style in the north of Spain until superseded by the Romanesque building campaigns of the Cluniac Order along the pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela.

Properly speaking though, Mozarabic style refers to those monuments produced by Christians remaining in lands controlled by Muslims. This style persists from the ninth to the eleventh centuries (contemporary with its northern counterparts. Until 1925 there were no known examples of this Andalusian tradition. Then the basilica of Bobastro was discovered which boasted a central apse of horseshoe plan, and whose side aisles were separated from the nave by series of horseshoe arches over pilars. (3) No decoration survived, if indeed there was any originally.                            

More churches from the northern regions survive however, and from them Gómez Moreno derived most of the material for his monumental study of Mozarabic architecture. He maintains that this style represents a national Christian artistic consciousness, which unites Islamic, Asturian and Visigothic traditions, and is modified subsequently by Carolingian, North African and finally Romanesque elements. (4) But a stylistic analysis of Mozarabie architecture is infinitely complex, not so much because of the state of the monuments, or because of later reconstructions and modifications which usually attend any architectural monument in Spain, but because of the very initial diversity of types. There is neither a total unity of character, nor do the churches fall into clear groups, either with respect to chronology or geographical distribution.

It is because of this heterogeneity that the case study of Mosarabic architecture it will be of little use to us to use painting, where otherwise one might expect some parallel between the styles of building and illumination. On the other hand, we can draw connections with specific monasteries in some cases, as for instance in the Beato of Távara, where the actual scriptorium is illustrated. (5) For the rest, we must rely upon the primary evidence of the manuscripts themselves.

Fortunately, a good number of manuscripts survive from the Mozarabic scriptoria, and there are many in excellent condition. Of all pre-Romanesque monuments in Spain, in fact, they form the most exciting and richest group, and one of the best documented. Particularly since the year 900, there was a surge of production of manuscripts. These have been typified as crude, barbarian, backward and oriental, and so they may seem to us in contrast to the manuscripts the same date from north of the Pyrenees or from the East somewhat later during the Macedonian Renaissance. "In one respect the Spanish scriptoria showed themselves in advance of these in other lands; nowhere else do we find so many signed and precisely dated codices. For the Spanish scribe made a point of recording in a col­lophon his name, the date, and sometimes also the place where the manu­script was produced." (6)

Nerdenfalk conjectures7 that this practice might stem from the in­fluence of the royal chancelleries, but he adds that there exists no evi­dence for any connection between the royal courts and the ateliers, as was the case in Carolingian illumination. King Ferdinand the Great of Castile, who died in 1065, was the first of Spanish to have ordered a manuscript produced the well preserved Apocalypse of 1047 (Madrid, Bib. Na.. B. 31), which was also the first to use geld.


But the early Spanish royalty is mentioned in an interesting connec­tion. There exist inventories of their libraries, as we know of them at least as collectors, where the codices are given the same meticulous attention as any other object of a royal treasury. Gómez Moreno lists and describes the known contents of these libraries in some detail. (8) These include ecclesiastical books, spiritual or mystical texts, general texts (such as a book on geometry, one on grammar, and also histories), and classical texts (Virgil, Horace, Juvenal, Ovid, Prudentius etc.) down to a work of Aldhelm, a Saxon Bishop who died in the eighth century. But by far the most significant group is composed of Biblical writings, both the Holy Scriptures and commentaries. Biblical material was composed of the Pentateuch, often with the addition of the Books of Judges and Joshua. The text was distinct from the Latin Vulgate, and perhaps forms the basis for the Mozarabic liturgy. Among the commentaries were these of St. Gregory on the Book of Job, the Morelia, and hie Expositum Ezechielis, St. Jerome's commentaries on the Book of Daniel, these of St. Augustine on the Evangelists, and the book of Cassiodorus on the Psalms in addition to others of unknown authorship. The Explanatio in Apocalipsism of Beatus is only cited once or twice, although there remain of this text the most (and the most richly illustrated) examples, which Gómez Moreno suggests may prove its having been propagated primarily among the laity.

In 780 it is recorded that King Silo gave a small library to the monastery of Santa Maria de Obona. Alfonso II of Asturias (el Casto) founded the library of San Salvador of Oviedo (later the cathedral of Oviedo). (9) Most of the Asturian monarchy followed this practice, so that throughout the north during the ninth and tenth centuries, there were formed powerful monasteries, which continued to augment their respective library collections. Some of the major centers were San Milian de la Cogella, San Pedro de Cardena and Santo Domingo do Silos, but the most productive were these situated around the tenth century capital of León. In all of these were copyists established. A charming insight into what one of these scriptoria was like is given to us by the aforementioned text from Távara (Arch, Hist. Na.. sod. 1240), where we see two copyists at work in a tiled room next to a tower, and in an adjoining room there is an apprentice who cuts the parchment sheets with a pair of shears. The building is decorated with colored tiles, or azulejos, examples of which are still preserved on buildings throughout Spain, while this tradition (which perhaps goes back to the Third Dynasty in Egypt, in the Room of the Blue Tiles of the Pyramid of Zoser) still continues, especially in Andalucia. The arches, blaustrade, bell towers, ladders and other details show how meticulously the artist has observed his sur­roundings and recorded them in paint. This example (and we shall see further support for this point) indicates a pictorial tradition in the process of formation, by men who observe the world around them, which they then incorporate into a fresh and vital aesthetic vocabulary.

This is in no way to undermine the force of either local tradition or exogenous influence. Rather, the unique qualities of Mozarabic illumin­ation tend to be forgotten, and scholars, while quite properly concentrat­ing upon the intricate, intriguing (and perhaps unsolveable) problems of origin and reciprocal influence, may at the same time exclude a factor of the most obvious, yet no less fundamental, importance. The originality of concept and execution are immediately apparent upon looking at any of the extant manuscripts. "The Beatus manuscripts are Spain's outstand­ing contribution to the art of medieval illumination. They prove conclusively, if proof were needed, that independence of mind, patience and persistence are essential.... It is no exaggeration to say that they have the glamour of exotic flowers--the dark orchids of those libraries for­tunate enough to own them." (10) As any great art, they are capable of stand­ing upon their own merits. Consequently, in analysing the manuscripts, we must always afford their creators the justice of creative latitude. But reminding ourselves of this, it remains that great art is not built from nothing. The problem of Mozarabic illumination is not the paucity of sources, but conversely, the abundance of affinities which the codices suggest. Historically, Spain of the middle ages can account for artistic influences being present from practically anywhere. The multiplicity of sources, influences and dependencies, the heterogeneity of Mozarabic art and culture as a whole, the very greatness and singularity of the monu­ments in question, all of this is complicated by the fact that the art of the book, more so than in any other medium, is the most easily translated.

Not only did Spanish illumination spread to the north and throughout the Mediterranean, but we know that medieval bibliophiles went out from Spain on long trips with the specific purpose of obtaining books. A cer­tain Pedro from Coimbra, a monk of Santa Cruz, twice went to France in search of codices. In the tenth century, a Bishop Sisenando sent an emmi­sary to Rome to amplify his book collection. (11)

Relations between France and Spain were not at an end after the Muslim foray of the early eighth century. Theodulf, Bishop of Orleans, (ca.755-821) was a native of Spain, and was probably familiar with the original Beatus miniatures. Grabar pointed out the Spanish influences (among others, Byzantine and Roman) in the mosaics Theodulf commissioned for Germigny, and Nordenfalk says the same is true in the canon tables and ornamented titles of the Paris Bible (Bib. Nat. lat. 9380) and in the Le Puy Bible (Le Puy, Cathedral Treasury), which were bath executed under Theedulf's instructions at Fleury. A connection between the Evangelists Matthew and John in the Gospel of Livinus at Ghent (Treasury of St. Bravo) and the Spanish Beatus (Morgan Lib. M. 429) is also suggested.

The noticeable influence from Merovingian France and the Byzantine heritage does not become apparent in Spain until the early tenth century. Curiously enough, this is also true of Arabic influences from the South. In attempting to evaluate the initial Mozarabic style, before 900, upon which later artists based themselves, regardless of what outside ele­ments they also incorporated, one must return to the native Visigothic tradition.

The Arab conquerors were so tolerant of Spanish Christians that they were able to maintain the Visigothic tradition of illumination until at least the late eighth century. Christians were recognized as "People of the Book", and permitted religious freedom in return for the payment of a small tax, which was a compensation for not performing military duties. Later, of course, there were series of persecutions, the worst of which, however, occurred under the North African fanatical dynasties after the fall of the Caliphate in 1032. But still in 786, Beatus of Liebana wrote his commentaries on the Books of Revelation and Daniel, which were richly decorated. None of the original copies remain, but there is an edition made in the mid eleventh century at St. Sever (Paris, Bibl. Nat. lat. 8878). A case is made for these being accurate indications of the original illuminations, upon the similarity of the St. Sever copy with the illustrations in the Ashburnham Pentateuch. It is true that stylistically and especially in coloring, there is a strik­ing resemblance. But against this it must be set the difference in time of about four hundred years, and the unsure provenance of the Pentateuch. The proposition that the Ashburnham Pentateuch comes from North Africa, would relate very well with a theory proposed by Helmut Schlunk, (13) that the prototypes for Visigothic manuscripts also derive from North Africa.

What is more to our purpose here, however, is Schlunk's association of many of the tenth century Mozarabic manuscripts with extant Visigothic sculptural remains in Spain. Very little monumental art remains from the pre-Muslim conquest period. The Arabs appropriated Visigothic capitals for use in building the mosque at Córdova, though, so these have remained. There have also been preserved some churches in the Province of Burgos, Quintanilla de las Vinas, and of San Pedro de la Nave, near Zamorra. Iconographically and stylistically, Schlunk builds up a strong case for the direct or indirect dependence of Visigothic monumental art upon a long and rich manuscript tradition. This Visigothic iconography is totally distinct from the Spanish Christian tradition, and early Byzantine style. Schlunk postulates it was introduced into Spain in the seventh century in the form of manuscripts. Since it would seem to have been formed by the conjunction of oriental and occidental ele­ments, and since traces of this same iconographical recension are found in the Lateran Baptistry of 640, in which the "Byzantine" ele­ments have undergone a long process of modification, such a North African origin would seem reasonable.

The introduction of the new iconography in the seventh century into Spain is corroborated by the only positively dated archeological evidence we have, a sculptural fragment of a bird dated 661. But a mid-seventh century date is soundly established for other Visigothic remains on the basis of secondary evidence. This is in accord with an interesting piece of literary evidence also. The Fourth Council of Toledo, meeting in 633, definitively imposed the authority of the Apocalypse as sacred scripture, which proceeded to occupy more space in the liturgy of Spain than in that of any other European country. In Canon XVII, the Council ordered excommunication for those neglecting to read the Apocalyptical text during the Easter period. During the time of San Defense, this lectio continua included not only Holy Week, but six consecutive Sundays, and three feast days, totaling eighteen lessons in all. (14) From 633, then, we can presume the Book of Revelation to be one of the most widely read, and this, coupled with its very nature, seems to support the assumption of illustrated editions. From the strong relationships between extant Visigothic monuments and Mozarabic illumination, one can then infer at least some dependence of the Mozarabic artist upon Visigothic prototypes; again, the most likely connection being the painted book.

Wilhelm Neuss has done the basic work on the problem of Catalan book illustration. The clearly distinguished Catalan and Castillian styles in the ninth, tenth and eleventh centuries, Neuss related both to common archetypes, thus proving the existence and perseverence of a pre-ninth century Spanish tradition. (15) He also affirms the Spanish origin of the Ashburnham Pentateuch, and its relations with North Africa while drawing distinctions between this and the Coptic traditions. (16) After his profound analysis of the Bible from Santa Maria de Ripoll (Cod. Vat. 1st. 5729, the "Farfa Bible") in its relation to monumental sculpture, and his discussion of the Roda Bible (Paris, Bibl, Nat. lat. 6) Neuss masterfully handles the relationship of medieval Catalan book art with traditions from the Orient, Armenia, Byzantium, North Africa, Greece, and the Germanic factors from North Europe, which are considered influences that have changed the Spanish style, along with the oriental factors affecting Spain which were brought in by the Muslim invaders. But in the face of this he maintains the importance of a basically Spanish, (before = Visigothic) tradition.

Turning now to a survey of the manuscripts themselves, we are fated with much the same problem of organization that confronted Gómez Moreno in his study of Mozarabic churches. Hesitating to make any definitive separation between the monuments, for convenience of discussion, we will divide them into three groups: those properly Mozarabic (ie. produced in al-Andalus, and the Toledan-Andalusian manuscripts), the Catalan group, and finally the Castillian-Leonese manuscripts. Following a discussion of these regional developments, we will present an overall summary of the chronological development of Mozarabic book art. Finally, the influence of this tradition upon the formation of Romanesque style must be cited.

The Andalucian type, produced by Christians living in Muslim lands, quite naturally exhibits the most "oriental" characteristics. It is not easy to define what one means by this term. Though Neuss suggest possible connections as far removed as ancient Egypt (17) we may follow his description of such oriental characteristics which transformed Spanish art under the influence of the Arab conquerors: a tendency to planar expression and avoidance of relief and modelling, the desire for symmetry and formal balance (which he sees most clearly in Persian art), a coloristic variety, the elegance of arabesques (most fully developed under Islam from Persian and Hellenistic sources), and finally the descriptive quality of Egyptian art. Under these influences, the Hellenistic element which may have remained since the Roman occupation, was fully superseded by a new rhythmic idea.

The Biblia Hispalense (or, Codex Teletanus; Madrid, Bible Nac.Vit. 14-1) is the most important and characteristic of this group, although not the oldest. It contains a double horseshoe arch of a typically Islamic type as opposed to the native Visigothic arch. The distinction between the two is subtle, though, and in some cases unclear, but in general, the Visigothic arch will have a perpendicular extrades, while the Muslim arch will repeat the curve of the intrados. In addition, the Islamic arch is consistently a fuller circle, the hypothetical center of which bears a different relationship to the "closing" of the arch than is the case with the Visigothic. While useful to draw distinctions in architec­tural monuments, we shall find such ingenious theories of little defin­ite value in illustrated manuscripts, where the lack of structural con­siderations grants the artist freedom in developing his formal vocabulary.

Nevertheless, the arches in the Biblia Hispalense saver definitely of Islamic architecture. They are adorned with "atauriques", or formal floral motifs, to which Bordena ascribes a Mesopotamian character. (18) He was writing just before the discovery of the Mozarabic church at Bobastre, and could not have been aware of the close correspondence of arches there, the only surviving examples in Andalucia, as has been noted, with those in our manuscript. (An even better comparison is with the two en­trance arches at Santiago de Penalaba, which, however, is in the Province of León). Bordena cites the realism of the two Evangelist symbols of St. John and St. Luke, their correct drawing and the delicacy of color as "oriental" (19) which may be open to some question, but he is quite correct in noting the oriental character of the Prophets, whom, we will recall, Schlunk related to Visigothic stone carving at Quintanilla de las Vinas.

This Bible was donated to the Cathedral of Sevilla by a prelate in 988 according to the Marques de Lezeya, (20) who draws more astounding analogies with Islamic art. He cites marginal illustrations in a codex of unknown origin, but probably Andalusian, in which the spontaneously drawn figures are very similar to those of the Prophets Naum, Micah and Zachar in the Biblia Hispalense, (according to drawings after Gómez Moreno). The Prophets are also related to frescoes from Samarra, and later Meso­potamian manuscript illumination, deriving perhaps from a common archetype. In the same Bible drawings of highly stylized fish and birds also remind one of Muslim art, but while nothing of Muslim book illumination remains for such comparison, there are reflected in the ceramic ware of Medina at Zahra the same motifs.

Apparently this Andalucian school was wide spread, and exercised a profound influence upon the northern style, centering around Toledo, with which it is identified. This is proven by the existence in the Leenese monastery of St. Cosmas and Damian of a miscellaneous codex which is from Spania, or the district comparable to Andalucia. At this time, however, the lands around Toledo were still in the hands of the Arabs (Toledo having fallen to the reconquering Christians in 1085). These Toledan manuscripts seem derived from their Andalucian counterparts, though the aspect of orientalism, and specifically, the connection with Islamic monuments, is less pronounced. On the other hand, an awareness of the ancient Toledan tradition under the Visigoths is more apparent, as are more northern influences.


The Vitae Patrum (Madrid, Bibl, Naci. Sign. 10007, Rh. 68) is an example of this school, which was done in 902 by one Armentario for the Abbot Trasamundo, whose name appears in a labrynth at the end. (21) Apparently the phrase regnante destine Adefonsum princeps refers to Alfonso III of Asturias, and expresses a rebellious attitude among the Mozarabs against the reigning Emir.

All of these Toledan manuscripts posses the spontaneity and grace of their Andalucian models, but are somewhat ruder and less carefully done. As Nordenfalk notes, (22) the persistence of a national tradition is apparent in the miniscule script, known as the Visigothic hand, in which they are executed. This is an offshoot of the Roman cursive, like the Merovingian script, and arose in the seventh century, though no monuments exist to prove this until from about a century later. The decoration is polychromatic, in water color of red, yellow, green, and sometimes blue, over ink drawings. The subject matter included in ornamental motifs was vegetal, although animal forms were extremely popular in the creation of capitals, and occasionally, the human form appears.

Contemporary with the Andalucian-Toledan school, there flourished a tradition of illumination in Catalonia which was completely free of influences from the Islamic south of Spain, at least in its initial development, and which is also strikingly distinct from Carolingian style. The center of production was the monastery of Santa Maria de Ripoll, which boasted already in the tenth century a school of copyists and a good library, There were also center's at Seo de Urgel and Vich, in addition to other Benedictine monasteries.

We have already referred to the Bibles of San Pedro de Roda and Santa Maria de Ripell in conjunction with Neuss' studies. The Reda Bible is one of the most beautiful books of medieval Spain, which can be dated by paleographic evidence to the late tenth century. In its abundant illustration are both pen drawings and book painting which shows a certain concern for values of chiaroscuro, in contrast to the planar treatment of the former school. The Farfa Bible is now considered to be an Italian product by many (after Beissel (23) although Neuss and ethers considered it Catalonian in origin. There can be no doubt that the reliefs of the church of Santa Maria de Ripoll used the Bible as a model for a decorative program, as proven by Piojan, (24) which does not prove its origin though, as Neuss would maintain. The style is sore complicated than that of the Rid Bible, especially in the archi­tectural settings.

The famous Danfla Bible of the monastery at Cava, near Salerno, probably relates to this school of painting. But in it the Carolingian influence is stronger than elsewhere. It was written by a monk named Danila in the second half of the ninth century, and is probably one of the most important monuments of the early period of Spanish illumination, despite the lack of illustrations proper. The calligraphy is most elegant, and the title pages of each book are decorated with pen drawings creating a frame and initial letter. The artist used mechanical devices often, which may suggest a connection with the Visigothic tradition as seen in copies of the Etymologies of St. Isidore of Seville. Red, green and yellow colors, typical also of Merovingian illumination, are used, along with a purplish-blue. In contrast again to the school of Andalucia and Toledo, a proficiency in handling modeled color is seen in the canon tables.


The Castillian-Leonese school contrasts with both of these in its exhuberence and vitality. The illustrations often cover the full page, and brilliant colors prevail: vermillion, ultramarine blue and bright yellow. The figures are often large scale, and it is here that the artists most portray the life of Mozarabic Spain. Although occasionally there is but a single composition, the usual page distribution is geometrical, and a narrative purpose seems to have been uppermost in the minds of the atelier. The artists never were limited by a naturalistic aesthetic, but distorted phenomena to their fullest in interest for expressive values.

It is among these manuscripts that we find the large series of Apocalypse texts, so genuinely Spanish in character. In the latter part of the eighth century, Beatus, or Vieco of Liebana, who appears to have been Abbot of Valcavado, wrote his commentaries upon the Books of Revelation and Daniel in an effort to refute the Adoptionist heresy of Elipandus then current in Spain. These became immensely popu­lar, and were copied well into thirteenth century, as was noted above.


The first of this series seems to be a copy by Magius in the Morgan Library (M. 644), with the date 922 conjectured (since there is some damage to the manuscript which may affect dating correctly). Paleographically and stylistically, this copy bears close resemblance to later copies of around 970. This 922 copy was dedicated to a Victor, Abbot of a monastery of San Miguel, which has been interpreted to be San Miguel de Escalada, south-east of León.

The same artist made a copy of the Beatus text in 968, but died just after starting work, now in the monastery of San Salvador de Tavares north of Zamora, which was early an active center of illumination. His work was carried on by Emetrius, and finished by him in 970. It is the copy we have referred to before, with the picture of the scriptorium.

Emetrius collaborated with a nun named Ende, a pintrix,in the year 995 in producing a second Beatus copy, now in the Cathedral' of Gerona. The many iconographical affinities with the earlier copy support the contention that it was also made in the Távara atelier, and destined for a nunnery which adjoined the monastery.

The works of Magius and his successors are vividly colored, though they exhibit a sensitivity to tonal variations hitherto rare. The im­pressive and original compositions expressively convey the horrors and exultations of a time when Abd al Rahman III and Al Mansur wreaked havoc upon the Christian armies, which otherwise were engaged in savage civil wars among themselves. The illustrations are always animated and extraordinarily expressive. Figure types are characterized by rigid movements and enormous eyes, which remind one of the Biblia Hispalense. There is a large number of monstrous forms, such as the beast of the Apocalypse, the Antichrist, and many types of horror inspiring hybrids. The most Spanish characteristic of these works is the dynamism, which manifests itself throughout.

Among later copies of the Beatus text, one must mention the ex­cellent edition of 1047, made by Facundus for Ferdinand the Great of Castilla and his wife Sancha (Madrid, Bibi. Nac. B. 31), and the Burgo do Osma Cathedral manuscript signed in 1086 by the scribe Petrus clarions, and illuminated by the artist Martinus. The last manuscript in the Mozarabic style was begun in 1091 in the monastery of Sante Domingo de Silos, thirty-five miles south of Burgos (Londen, Brit. Mus. Add, 11 695) but was not finished until 1109. The latter illustrations already show a strong Romanesque flavor which put an end to Mozarabic style, but which, in turn, was partly a result of the development of Mozarabic iconography and style, as shown by the work of Neuss and Emile Male. (25) 4044A

Let us recapitulate, then, the development of Mozarabic manuscript illumination, There seems to have been very little influence from early Muslim book art. Rather, the extant Visigothic tradition persevered. The primary example of this early style is the La Cava monastery's Danila Bible, but even the earliest monument (Albi, Bibl. Mun. Ms. 29) exhibits the characteristic pen and ink drawing of decorative frames and borders, with initials that show marked influences from two major sources, Byzantium and Merovingian France. This tradition continued, though weakening, to the end of the ninth century.

In the early tenth century, Spanish book art enjoyed a great renais­sance, and the prolific scriptoria provide us with many well authenti­cated copies. Monasteries were the chief centers of this activity, which we can divide into three basic schools, the Andalucian-Toledan, which is later overshadowed by the Castillian-Leonese, and finally the Catalonian.

Stylistically, the Byzantine-Merovingian influence continues down to the third or fourth decade of the tenth century. A good example of this style is seen in the Leon Bible of 920, in the Cathedral. It was written and painted by Juan and Vimara for the Abbot Maurus of the monas­tery of Albeares, with the composers names appearing in a labrynth. There is a full page Cross of Oviedo, typical of Mozarabic manuscripts and a symbol of the Reconquista. This is followed by a picture of the "rose of the winds" that Nordenfalk connects with an illustration in the encyclopedia Originum sive etymolegiarum XX of Isidore of Sevilla from the early seventh century. The half/length canon tables' figures of the Evangelists facing one another represent an early Christian formula which spread from Spain to Ireland, France and Germany. (26) A full page illumination in front of each Gospel contains an angel who bears the symbol of the respective Evangelist on its shoulders, There is an extreme emphasis upon decorative values, two-dimensionality, bright colors and geometric layout.

By 940, the Mozarabic schools felt a new influence from Islam and from the Carolingian north. Small, serrated leaves, and the typical Muslim plaitwork designs became more frequent, At the same time, the larger ini­tials and interlace patterns connect the work of this period with the School of Tours and the France-Saxon traditions. A Bible made in León, and in the collegiate church of San Isidore (Cod. 2), is dated 960, and is typical of this period. In general, the architectural elements are clearer, and the figures more coherent, although the drawing is still linear, schematic, and depends upon color for much of its effect.

Of especial importance is the cycle of manuscripts copied from the eighth century text by Beatus of commentaries upon the Apocalypse. These form the largest body of extant Mozarabic manuscripts, and are unique in comparison with other Apocalypse cycles, such as the Carolingian or Gothic ones. The range of scriptural themes is greater, and the illustrations bear only indirect reference often to the Book of Revelations. Included are also portraits of the Evengelists, genealogical tables, the Cross of Oviedo, occasionally an Incarnation of Christ Logos, and of Beatus' com­mentary in addition. They contained abundant and vivid illustrations, and therefore often served as source books for other artists, both book painters and monumental creators. In addition, St. Jerome's commentary on the Book of Daniel was often included, which possessed a cycle of at least twelve illustrations and a full page alpha and omega before and behind.

The tradition of Mozarabic illumination must have been far more extensive than the remaining evidence of the Beatus texts would have us believe, however, for many ether types of books were also illus­trated. Among these were religious and secular texts alike.

In the mid eleventh century, the Cluniac reform and the progress of the reconquest diminished Spain's isolation, and the Mozarabic style became overpowered by the Romanesque. When Cluniac bishops were appointed in Spain, the Mozarabic rite was finally abolished. But the manuscripts influenced not only local Spanish work in ether media, such as ivory and metal, but also played a formative part in the development of the Romanesque. Piojan connected the Farfa Bible with the facade of Santa Maria de Ripell. Neuss related Catalan Bibles to the portals and cloister of Sainte Pierre at Moissac, Saint Sernin at Toubouse, Souillas, Vezelay, and Autun, among others. Emile Male fully developed the theory of northern influence of the Beatus illustrations. (27) He understood the art of twelfth century France as centered around monasteries which de­rived their contact with the Beatus manuscripts from pilgrimages to Santiago de Compostela. A. Kingsly Porter modified Male's position by suggesting Cluny as the center of dissemination in France of the ori­ginal Spanish text.

Yet despite the changes which took place in Spain, and the shift of the artistic climate from the Mozarabic period to the Romanesque, the art of Mozarabic illumination presents us with a clear and vital picture of Spanish medieval life. The illustrations of the Apocalypse remain unmatched in their powerful expression of intense emotion and such typically Spanish sentiment. Though there is much uncertainty with respect to the origins of Mozarabic style and iconography, our remaining manuscripts are full testament to the highly developed technical capa­cities and the original and energetic sensitivity of the Mozarabic artists. Their products stand as true monuments in the history of art.

Kurt von Meier
May 20, 1960


1.     This was an invasion of German tribes, and was probably composed of Alans, Vandals and Sums, with the Visigoths on their heels. But by the mid fifth century at least, the Visigoth. were the conquerors of Spain, to which they then officially moved their court from Tolouse. (Vide Pedro Aguado Bleye, Manual de Historia de Espana, Tomo I, Espasa-Calpe, S.A., Madrid, (1947)0

2.     Helmut Schlunk, "Arts Asturiane" in Ars H spaniae, Madrid, Plus-Ultra, v. II.

3.     Manuel Gomez Moreno, "Arta Mozarabe" in Are Hispanae, Madrid, Plss-Ultra, v. III, p39, fig. 412.

4.     Manuel Gomez Moreno, Iglesias Mozarabes, Madrid, Centre de Estudios Historicos, 1919.

5.     Andre Grabar and Carl Nerdenfalk, Early Medieval Painting, Skira, 1957, p. 173, plate, Arch. Mist. Nac. Cod. 1240, fol. 139.

6.     ibid. op cit p 163atiAlaRp.163.

7.      ibid.

8.      Manuel Gomez Moreno, Iglesias Mozarabes, pp. 347ff.

9.      Juan Contreras y Lopez de Ayala, Marques de Lozoya, Historia del Arts Beillinnit4, Toms I, Barcelona, Salvat Editoren, SA, (1931), p. 314.

10.    Andre Grabar and Carl Nordenfalk, 22s cit., p. 168.

11.    Juan Contreras  22, cit., p. 315.

12.    Andre Grabar and Carl Nordenfalk, op. cit., p. 162, plate p. 171.

13.     Helmut Schlunk, "Observacienes en torno at problems de la miniature visigoda", Archive Espanol de Arte, Madrid, Institute Diego Velazquez, (1945), pp. 241ff.

14.    This was during the years 657-667, but continued until much later in many instances. The Mozarabic rite is still recited today in one chapel in the cathedral of Toledo. Vide Schlunk, loc. cit., p. 262.

15.    Wilhelm Neuss, Die Katalanische Bibelillustration um die Wende des . ersten Jahrtausends and die altspanische Buchmalerei, Bonn u. Leipzig, Kurt Schroeder, (1922)1 also;
          Jesus Dominguez Hordona, Spanish Illumination, New York, Harcourt Brace, (1924), pp. 3-4, whenein are listed the examples of Visigothic, manuscripts known to the author; in addition, see pp. 6-7 for Tailhan's theory which was taken up by Neuss.

16.   Neuss, ate. cit, pp. 55ff.

17.   loc. Cite, Pp. 6, 86.

18.     Jesus Dominguez Bordona, op, cit., p. 11.

19.     ibid.

20.     Juan Contreras,.., op. cit., p. 317.

21.     Jesus Dominguez Borden, Sociedad Espanola de amigos del arte, Exposicien de Codices mikados espanoles, Cateloge, Madrid, (1929), p. 170.

22.     Andre Grabar and Carl Nordenfalk, op. cit., p. 1620

23.    B. Beissel, Vaticanischen Miniature. Breslau, (1903), cited in Juan Contreras..., op.cit p320.

24. J. Hilda, Les miniatures de l'Octateuc a lea Biblies romaniques catalanos, Anuari de l'Institute d'Estudis Catalans, (1911-12).

25. Wilhelm Neuss, 42. cit.; and Emile Male, L'art religieux du XIIe Paris, A, Colin, (1946).

26. Andre Grabar and Carl Nordenfalk, 12. cit., p. 163.

27, Emile Mao, 12. cit., cited in Jesus Dominguez Bordona, Spanish Illumination, p. 35. n. 11.