The Angel of the Fifth Trumpet, an example of a Beatus manuscript
The most transcendental works of Beatus were hisCommentaries to Apocalypse, which were copied in later centuries in manuscripts calledbeati, about which the Italian writerUmberto Ecosaid: "Their splendid images gave birth to the most relevant iconographic happening in the History of Mankind".Beatus develops in them a personal interpretation of thebook of Revelation, accompanied by quotes from theOld Testament, theChurch Fathersand fascinating illustrations.
In theseCommentariesa new interpretation of the apocalyptic accounts is given:Babylonno longer represents the city of Rome, but Córdoba, seat of the Umayyad emirs ofAl-Andalus; the Beast, once a symbol of theRoman Empire, now stands for the Islamic invaders who in this time threatened to destroy Western Christianity and who made raids on the territories of the Asturian Kingdom.
In the prologue to the second book of theCommentariesis foundone of the best examples of aMappae Mundiof the high medieval culture. The aim of this map was not to represent the world cartographically, but to serve as an illustration of the Apostles Diaspora in the first decades of Christianity. Beatus took data from the works ofSaint Isidore of Seville,Ptolemyand theHoly Scripture. The world was represented as a land disc surrounded by the Ocean and divided in three parts: Asia (upper semicircle), Europe (lower left quadrant) and Africa (lower right quadrant). The Mediterranean Sea (Europe-Africa), the Nile River (Africa-Asia) and the Aegean Sea and the Bosphorus (Europa-Asia) were set as boundaries between the different continental masses.
Beatus was persuaded that theApocalypsedescribed in the book of Revelation was imminent, which would be followed by 1,290 years of domination by the Antichrist. Beatus followed the views ofSaint Augustinewhose work,The City of God, influenced theCommentarieswhich followed the premise that the History of the World was structured in six ages: the first five ones extended between the creation ofAdam, and the Passion of Jesus, while the sixth, subsequent to Christ and contemporary to us, had to end with the unleashing of the happenings prophesied by the book of Revelation.
Millennialist movements were very common in Europe at that time: between 760 and 780 a series of cosmic phenomena caused panic among the population ofGaul; John, a visionary monk, predicted the coming of theLast Judgementduring the reign ofCharlemagne. In this time appeared the Apocalypse of Daniel, aSyriactext redacted during the rule of the empress IreneofByzantiumwherein wars between theArabs, the Byzantines and the Northern peoples were prophesied. These wars would end with the coming of the Antichrist.
Events taking place in Hispania (Islamic rule, the adoptionist heresy, the gradual assimilation of theMozarabicpeople...) were, for Beatus, signals of the imminent apocalypticaeon. As Elipandus describes in hisLetter from the bishops of Spania to their brothers in Gaul, the abbot of Santo Toribio went so far as to announce to his countrymen the coming of the End of Time in the Easter of the year 800. On the dawn of that day, hundreds of peasants met around the abbey of Santo Toribio, waiting terrified for the fulfilling of the prophecy. They remained in that place, without having had a bite to eat, during a day and half, until one of them, named Ordonius, exclaimed: "Let us eat and drink, so that if the End of the World comes we are full!".