Codex Vindobonensis 2554 is one of the earliest examples of a Bible Moralisée, or ‘moralized’ Bible—a genre of manuscript developed in the thirteenth century for the French royal family. In contrast to earlier manuscripts of the Scriptures in which text dominated, the Bible Moralisée was essentially a picture book to which short explanatory commentaries were added.
Here we see the illuminations arranged in pairs: a biblical scene, and beneath it a second visual image that suggests its ‘spiritual sense’. The accompanying text of the Bible Moralisée (seen here in the left margin) helps readers to interpret how the juxtaposed pictures can instruct them. In a way appropriate to their royal users, the scenes chosen for commentary frequently emphasize proper rule and the importance of purifying the Church.
In the first of this pair of illuminations accompanying the book of Kings, we see the full-length figure of the crowned Solomon with hands raised in a gesture of prayerful fealty, next to a schematized imagining of the interior of the Temple, represented as a ciborium with a dome. In the upper right corner of the image God (in the form of Christ, with a cross in his halo) extends his hand in blessing. The marginal text reads: ‘Here Solomon comes and gives thanks to God and praises the Lord God when he has finished the Temple, and God descends and gives his blessing to the Temple’.
Below this scene, in a second roundel, we see the image designed to accompany it: Christ standing next to a highly stylized Gothic church, with steeples and flying buttresses. Christ makes a gesture similar to Solomon’s. He wears a blue inner garment, and red outer robe—a reversal of the colours of Solomon’s clothing. They mirror each other as prefiguring type and prefigured antitype. God once again appears in the upper right, blessing. The text explains the spiritual meaning of this moment: ‘That Solomon gave thanks to God when he had finished the temple and God gave him His blessing signifies Jesus Christ who gave thanks to the Father of Heaven for finishing the Holy Church and the Father of Heaven descended and gave [His] blessing and his grace’.
As Solomon is presented as a prefiguration of Christ, so the physical Temple he built is presented as a type for the spiritual reality of the Church instituted by the Saviour.
Guest, Gerald B. 1995. Bible Moralisée. Codex Vindobonensis 2554, Vienna, Österreichische Nationalbibliotek (London: Harvey Miller Publishers)
Lowden, John. 2005. ‘The “Bible Moralisée” in the Fifteenth Century and the Challenge of the “Bible Historiale”’, Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes, 68: 73–136
62 Then the king, and all Israel with him, offered sacrifice before the Lord. 63Solomon offered as peace offerings to the Lord twenty-two thousand oxen and a hundred and twenty thousand sheep. So the king and all the people of Israel dedicated the house of the Lord. 64The same day the king consecrated the middle of the court that was before the house of the Lord; for there he offered the burnt offering and the cereal offering and the fat pieces of the peace offerings, because the bronze altar that was before the Lord was too small to receive the burnt offering and the cereal offering and the fat pieces of the peace offerings.
65 So Solomon held the feast at that time, and all Israel with him, a great assembly, from the entrance of Hamath to the Brook of Egypt, before the Lord our God, seven days. 66On the eighth day he sent the people away; and they blessed the king, and went to their homes joyful and glad of heart for all the goodness that the Lord had shown to David his servant and to Israel his people.
9 When Solomon had finished building the house of the Lord and the king’s house and all that Solomon desired to build, 2the Lord appeared to Solomon a second time, as he had appeared to him at Gibeon. 3And the Lord said to him, “I have heard your prayer and your supplication, which you have made before me; I have consecrated this house which you have built, and put my name there for ever; my eyes and my heart will be there for all time. 4And as for you, if you will walk before me, as David your father walked, with integrity of heart and uprightness, doing according to all that I have commanded you, and keeping my statutes and my ordinances, 5then I will establish your royal throne over Israel for ever, as I promised David your father, saying, ‘There shall not fail you a man upon the throne of Israel.’ 6But if you turn aside from following me, you or your children, and do not keep my commandments and my statutes which I have set before you, but go and serve other gods and worship them, 7then I will cut off Israel from the land which I have given them; and the house which I have consecrated for my name I will cast out of my sight; and Israel will become a proverb and a byword among all peoples. 8And this house will become a heap of ruins; everyone passing by it will be astonished, and will hiss; and they will say, ‘Why has the Lord done thus to this land and to this house?’ 9Then they will say, ‘Because they forsook the Lord their God who brought their fathers out of the land of Egypt, and laid hold on other gods, and worshiped them and served them; therefore the Lord has brought all this evil upon them.’ ”
4 Then the king and all the people offered sacrifice before the Lord. 5King Solomon offered as a sacrifice twenty-two thousand oxen and a hundred and twenty thousand sheep. So the king and all the people dedicated the house of God. 6The priests stood at their posts; the Levites also, with the instruments for music to the Lord which King David had made for giving thanks to the Lord—for his steadfast love endures for ever—whenever David offered praises by their ministry; opposite them the priests sounded trumpets; and all Israel stood.
7 And Solomon consecrated the middle of the court that was before the house of the Lord; for there he offered the burnt offering and the fat of the peace offerings, because the bronze altar Solomon had made could not hold the burnt offering and the cereal offering and the fat.
8 At that time Solomon held the feast for seven days, and all Israel with him, a very great congregation, from the entrance of Hamath to the Brook of Egypt. 9And on the eighth day they held a solemn assembly; for they had kept the dedication of the altar seven days and the feast seven days. 10On the twenty-third day of the seventh month he sent the people away to their homes, joyful and glad of heart for the goodness that the Lord had shown to David and to Solomon and to Israel his people.
11 Thus Solomon finished the house of the Lord and the king’s house; all that Solomon had planned to do in the house of the Lord and in his own house he successfully accomplished. 12Then the Lord appeared to Solomon in the night and said to him: “I have heard your prayer, and have chosen this place for myself as a house of sacrifice. 13When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command the locust to devour the land, or send pestilence among my people, 14if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land. 15Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayer that is made in this place. 16For now I have chosen and consecrated this house that my name may be there for ever; my eyes and my heart will be there for all time. 17And as for you, if you walk before me, as David your father walked, doing according to all that I have commanded you and keeping my statutes and my ordinances, 18then I will establish your royal throne, as I covenanted with David your father, saying, ‘There shall not fail you a man to rule Israel.’
19 “But if you turn aside and forsake my statutes and my commandments which I have set before you, and go and serve other gods and worship them, 20then I will pluck you up from the land which I have given you; and this house, which I have consecrated for my name, I will cast out of my sight, and will make it a proverb and a byword among all peoples. 21And at this house, which is exalted, every one passing by will be astonished, and say, ‘Why has the Lord done thus to this land and to this house?’ 22Then they will say, ‘Because they forsook the Lord the God of their fathers who brought them out of the land of Egypt, and laid hold on other gods, and worshiped them and served them; therefore he has brought all this evil upon them.’ ”