© Erich Lessing/Library of the Cathedral, Gerona, Spain

A colorful manuscript illumination telescopes several phases of the Flood story into one scene. The ark, above, is represented with childlike simplicity as a rectangular house or barn with triangular pediment resting on top of the fourth story. The house is open so as to show the animals, arranged two by two and according to size and species in the lower stories; Noah and his family occupy the pediment story. Noah, center, reaches up through a gap in the roof to receive the olive branch from the dove, signifying the end of the Flood.

In the rectangular scene below the ark, the waters surge above the mountain peaks, as bodies cascade into the depths. Only the topmost branches of a tree—perhaps the olive tree whose branch the dove carries Noah—and the hand of a drowning victim are above water level. The raven, left, sent out before the dove was ever released, according to Genesis 8:7, pecks at the victim’s hand.

These pages from a Spanish manuscript were illuminated by the monk Emeterio and by a nun between 970 and 975 A.D.