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« È caduta Babilonia »: varianti iconografiche dell'Apocalisse

Marco Rossi
Arte Lombarda
Nuova serie, No. 105/107 (2-4), METODOLOGIA DELLA RICERCA ORIENTAMENTI ATTUALI: Congresso internazionale in onore di Eugenio Battisti - Parte prima (1993), pp. 65-69
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/43132610
Page Count: 5
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« È caduta Babilonia »: varianti iconografiche dell'Apocalisse
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Abstract

In the introduction to the 1987 Italian edition of W.A. McClung's The Architecture of Paradise. Survivals of Eden and Jerusalem (Berkeley, 1983), Eugenio Battisti observed — by way of recalling the iconographie exhibit on the heavenly Jerusalem organized by the Università Cattolica (Milan 1983) — that « a good heaven cannot exist without having a good hell nearby ». He thus used an old Augustinian concept (the civitas Dei and the civitas diaboli) in a new context, thereby trying to inspire new research. The initial results presented here concern the exegetic and iconographie tradition of the theme of Babylon in the Commentarius in Apocalypsin by Beatus of Liebana, an eight century text which occurs in richly ornamented codices from the tenth century onwards. Babylon is the diabolical city, or celestial city's contrary, but Beatus is constantly aware of the drama of its place in history, not to mention within the church. The most significant images of the iconography of the Apocalypse of Babylon are to be found in the illustrations to the commentary on Apocalypse 18 and, in some codices, between the end of Beatus' commentary and the beginning of St. Jerome's commentary to Daniel, which brings them to a close. The two typologies were obviously full of variants, and present special iconographical characteristics: the first represents Babylon as a monumental façade to a temple, within which were kept the sacred vases taken away from Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar. There are evocative parallels with images of the holy city, thus assimilated with the « civitas diaboli ». The second presents Babylon as a fortified city encircled by two great dragons. On the inside are the arches of Hananiah, Azariah and Mishael. Since Beatus understood it as a « type » recurrent throughout history, Babylon often appears in Spanish codices with Arab stylistic features. This would suggest that it was to be identified with Islam, just as it was to be later assimilated with heresy or the Roman Catholic Church itself in its moments of sin and decadence.

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