Illuminated Manuscripts - STUNNING ILLUSTRATIONS

In the middle ages, artistic scribes created compendiums of birds and animals which were called “Bestiaries.” These works focused on natural history, but the illustrations of featured animals were often accompanied by a moral lesson. This excerpt from the Aberdeen Bestiary—known as “Christ in Majesty”—is from the 12th century and is a true illumination since it was created with gold or silver. A miniature, it is Folio 4 verso from the Aberdeen Bestiary. Today it is located at the University of Aberdeen.


Beyond the Biblical stories and scholarly analyses which fill medieval manuscripts, it is interesting just to look at the pictures. Many were created by monks and artists whose names are long forgotten. Their work, however, is like a bridge between their time and ours.

  • The Visconti Book of Hours is a two-volume prayer book filled with marvelous illustrations.  It was started by Giovannino de'Grassi and completed by Luchino Belbello da Pavia and his assistants. In the linked picture, we see not only the creation of Eve but also a griffin, a hunting leopard, and many vine-leaves and flowers.  Located at the Biblioteca Nazionale, Florence.

  • Bona Sforza was the wife of Sigismund I of Poland. Her 16th century Book of Prayers contains many gorgeous illuminations, including the nativity of Christ.  Located at the Bodleian Library, Oxford.

  • One of the Ghent-Bruges workshop illustrations in the Mayer van den Bergh Breviary portrays daily chores framed by strewn flowers in a trompe-l'oeil style. (Museum Mayer van den Bergh, Antwerp)

  • Another illustration in that same Breviary (a prayer book designed for every day use) highlights the nativity surrounded by scenes of contemporary (16th century) life.

  • King David, the most famous of Jewish rulers and writer of many Biblical Psalms, is shown kneeling in this illumination on parchment. It is part of the Gradual of Esztergom.  Located at the Cathedral Library - Esztergom, Hungary.

  • In the Middle Ages, books of hours richly illustrated the twelve months of the year. Jean de Mauléon created this scene, for the month of September. While one peasant plows the field, another sows the seeds.  Located at the Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore.

  • Church officials, including priests, were a significant part of daily life during Medieval times. Beyond marrying people, Bishops were called upon to admonish parishoners for their wayward deeds. (Bodleian Library, Oxford)
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Author: Carole D. Bos, J.D. 5190stories and lessons created

Original Release: Jul 01, 2001

Updated Last Revision: Sep 17, 2019

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"STUNNING ILLUSTRATIONS" AwesomeStories.com. Jul 01, 2001. Jan 21, 2020.
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