Tower of Babel from BL Royal 15 D III, f. 15v
Detail of a miniature of the building of the Tower of Babel, with a section of a decorated initial 'D'. Image taken from f. 15v of Bible historiale, the early version. Written in French.
Bible Historiale was composed between 1291 and 1295 by priest and canon Guyart des Moulins, who added a prologue in 1297 announcing his recent election as dean of his canonial chapter at the collegial church of Saint Pierre d'Aire-sur-la-Lys. Describing his own role as translating and "ordering" the text, Guyart censored or omitted portions of the Bible that "should not, according to reason, be translated", rearranged materials "so that the laity might find them better ordered" and, on rare occasions, added further commentaries of his own or from other sources to produce the work known as the Bible Historiale. The work was copied in many manuscripts, of which more than a hundred survive, most of them richly illuminated, some with more than 300 miniatures, including La Bible historiale complétée (Proverbs - Revelation), France, Central (Paris?), Grand Bible historiale complétée à prologues, and more.
The Tower of Babel is a Near Eastern myth that is recorded in the Jewish Tanakh's first book (Genesis); it is meant to explain the origin of different languages. According to the story, a united humanity of the generations following the Great Flood, speaking a single language and migrating eastward, came to the land of Shinar (Hebrew: שנער). There they agreed to build a city and a tower "tall enough to reach heaven"; seeing this, God, viewing such behavior as rude and disrespectful, confounded their speech so that they could no longer understand each other and scattered them around the world. The Tower of Babel has been associated with known structures according to some modern scholars, notably the Etemenanki, a ziggurat dedicated to the Mesopotamian god Marduk by Nabopolassar, king of Babylonia (c. 610 BCE). The Great Ziggurat of Babylon was 91 metres (300 ft) in height. Alexander the Great ordered it demolished circa 331 BCE in preparation for a reconstruction that his death forestalled.