The Trinity Apocalypse
Written in the mid-13th Century, The Trinity Apocalypse is the first and most extraordinary Apocalypse, representing the culmination of Gothic book illumination.
As a prophecy about the end of time and the last judgement, the story and illustrations are emotive and dramatic, and yet made more powerful by the way in which they have been contemporized. The seven-headed beast of the apocalypse, for example, is accompanied by kings and knights of the era. The book incorporates numerous tokens of the romance of chivalry. This is not surprising as it is likely that it was commissioned not by a cleric but by the wife of King Henry III – Eleanore of Provence.
This Apocalypse is the Revelation to St John, the only one of many to be included in the New Testament. It uses mysterious images and striking language but, unlike other apocalypses, terror is not the focus of the vision – it is more a book of consolation and inspiration. So whilst it portrays the red lake of hell, diabolic creatures and devastating plagues, it also includes gentle angels and the felicity of the chosen. Unlike other contemporary work, people are personalised so the expressive faces of the figures give the reader reason to pause and reflect.
There are over 71 large format miniatures, and over 100 images in all, richly and brightly coloured by the four original artists. The miniatures are embellished with finely tooled gold leaf to make them unparalleled among English Apocalypses.
The book contains one other innovation. It begins and ends with a picture gallery in resplendent gold borders illustrating the story of St John’s life. This idea became so popular that all late thirteenth century apocalypses followed this form – though perhaps not in the same detail and quality.
Trinity College, Cambridge has served as the guardian for the original Trinity Apocalypse for the last 350 years. The facsimile edition, published by Faksimile Verlag Luzern, is limited worldwide to 980 copies and is of the finest possible quality, and almost indistinguishable from the original.
The book is a large format 432 x 305 mm (17 x 12 inches) and is protected by a white goat skin cover, gold embossed by hand. It comes with a scholarly commentary from experts, with explanations of the nuances and an English translation of the old French text.