Codex Albeldense

Codex Albeldense – Testimonio Compañía Editorial – D.I.2 – Real Biblioteca del Monasterio (San Lorenzo de El Escorial, Spain)

Monastery of St. Martin at Albelda (Rioja, Spain) — 976

Doctrinal and legal texts of early councils and civil law, the history of Mohamed, Benedict's rules, Gregory's homilies...: Probably the most famous composite manuscript of the Middle Ages and the first European text with Arabic numerals

  1. This codex is counted among the most important historical Spanish sources from the 10th century

  2. 82 miniatures tell the story of the Roman Empire from Romulus to the Byzantine Emperor Tiberios II (698–705)

  3. The first European text with Hindu-Arab numerals also has the Christian narrative on the life of Mohammad

Codex Albeldense

  1. Description
  2. Facsimile Editions (1)
Description
Codex Albeldense

The Codex Albeldense, stored in the famous collection of the El Escorial, is counted among the most important historical Spanish sources from the 10th century. Made in the Monastery of San Martín de Albelda, lying in the region of Rioja, the codex contains a comprehensive chronicle of the Kingdom of Asturias under King Alfosno III. This chronicle, composed at the Asturian royal court at the end of the 9th century, is an inestimably valuable source of knowledge about the Visigothic, Asturian, and Galician kingdoms. In the gorgeous Codex Albeldense, one of four surviving specimens of the chronicle, these informative explanations illustrate cityscapes, portraits of important historical figures, and an additional 82 miniatures in the most wonderful way. A marvelous testimony to Spanish history!

Codex Albeldense

The Codex Albeldense, stored in the famous collection of the El Escorial, is counted among the most important historical Spanish sources from the 10th century. Created in the Monastery of San Martín de Albelda in the region of Rioja, the miscellany contains various legal texts and a Christian vita of the Prophet Muhammad, as well as a comprehensive chronicle of the Kingdom of Asturias under King Alfosno III. This chronicle, composed at the Asturian royal court at the end of the 9th century, is an inestimably valuable source of knowledge about the Visigothic, Asturian, and Galician kingdoms. In the gorgeous Codex Albeldense, one of four surviving specimens of the chronicle, these informative explanations illustrate cityscapes, portraits of important historical figures, and an additional 82 miniatures in the most wonderful way. A marvelous testimony to Spanish history!

The Codex Vigilianus

The scribe and miniaturist Viglia was responsible to the splendid décor of the codex. Along with his assistants Sarracino and García, he visually immortalized himself in one of the gorgeous miniatures. The codex from Albelda is also known as the Codex Vigilianus, after this Viglia, who copied the chronicle from older specimens and carried it forward with lists of kings up to the year 976. The illuminator adorned the manuscript with 82 miniatures altogether, some of them even full-paged. One finds informative tables, lists, and gorgeous initials here alongside marvelous cityscapes, e.g. of Toledo, and full-figured portraits. The paintings obviously have a strong Carolingian influence stylistically, and appear nonetheless to be extremely ornamental, e.g. with extremely complicated interlacing ornamentation. Viglia and his colleagues were certainly among the most outstanding masters in the Monastery of San Martín de Albelda with its famous scriptorium!

An Asturian Chronicle

The content of the Codex Albeldense was based on a famous chronicle, which was composed at the royal court of King Alfonso III (866–910). The author was probably a cleric from the circle of Oviedo or Leon. This chronicle relates the history and geography of the world in a quick summary – from Adam to the Romans to the Visigoths. Thereafter follows detailed information about the Iberian Peninsula and the history of the Asturian Kingdom as the successor to the Visigothic Kingdom up to the time of King Alfonso III. The first version of the chronicle closes with the year 881, giving an indication of its time of creation. The chronicle survives today in four codices, the famous Codex Albeldense is counted as the oldest among them.

The Vita of Muhammad between canonical and civil legal texts

The miscellany also includes a remarkable calendar with Arabic numbers, making it the oldest surviving European document in which these were used. The codex also contains the Vida de Mahoma, a description of the life of the Prophet Mohammed, which was written from a Christian perspective. The numerous legal texts collected in the manuscript are also invaluable and represent a valuable source of knowledge about the early medieval society on the Iberian Peninsula. These include canonical legal texts such as council acts and a selection of canones and decretals of the early popes up to Gregory the Great, but also an important collection of laws on civil jurisdiction in the Visigothic Empire, which was valid from late antiquity to modern times.

Outstanding Significance for Spain

The Codex Albeldense came into the possession of King Philip II of Spain in the 16th century as a gift from the Count of Buendía. He in turn incorporated the outstanding treasure into the famous library of his royal monastery of El Escorial. In spite of some corruption of historical facts, the Codex Albeldense has outstanding significance as an invaluable source of knowledge both historically and artistically. It is considered to be a historic source for the history of the Visigothic, Asturian, and Galician Kingdoms of Spain. With its legal codes, lists of council decisions, a calendar, in which the Arabic numerals first appear in a European document, and the Vide de Mahoma – a description of the life of Moghammad from a Christian perspective – this significance is unquestionable!

Codicology

Alternative Titles
Albeldense Codex
Códice Albeldense
Vigilian
Crónica Albeldense
Codex conciliorum Albeldensis seu Vigilanus
Codice Albeldense seu Vigilanus
Albelda Codex
Size / Format
858 pages / 45.5 × 32.5 cm
Origin
Spain
Date
976
Language
Illustrations
82 miniatures, some of them covering a whole folio
Content
Collectio Hispana, Council of Toledo, Isidore, Etymologiae and De fide catholica contra Iudaeos, Mozarabic calendar, history of Muhammad, names of famous men, Vita Salvi abbatis Albaildensis, homilies of Gregory the Great, excerpts from the Rule of Benedi
Patron
Count of Buendía
Artist / School
Previous Owners
Philip II, King of Spain and Portugal (reigned 1556–1598)

Available facsimile editions:
Codex Albeldense – Testimonio Compañía Editorial – D.I.2 – Real Biblioteca del Monasterio (San Lorenzo de El Escorial, Spain)
Testimonio Compañía Editorial – Madrid, 2000
Limited Edition: 980 copies
Facsimile Editions

#1 Códice Albeldense

Publisher: Testimonio Compañía Editorial – Madrid, 2000
Limited Edition: 980 copies
Binding: Goatskin, blind embossed on both sides, corresponding to the original
Commentary: 1 volume by Francisco J. García Turza
Language: Spanish
1 volume: Exact reproduction of the original document (extent, color and size) Reproduction of the entire original document as detailed as possible (scope, format, colors). The binding may not correspond to the original or current document binding.
Facsimile Copy Available!
Price Category: €€€€€
(over 10,000€)
You might also be interested in:
Black Hours – Faksimile Verlag – M. 493 – Morgan Library & Museum (New York, USA)
Black Hours
Bruges (Belgium) – Ca. 1475

Radiant miniatures, glowing borders and gold initials on black dyed parchment: one of only seven black manuscripts that have survived to the present day, created by the Flemish master Willem Vrelant

Experience More
Chansonnier de Jean de Montchenu – Vicent Garcia Editores – Ms. Rothschild 2973 – Bibliothèque nationale de France (Paris, France)
Chansonnier de Jean de Montchenu
Savoy (France) – Ca. 1460

Once owned by the Rothschild family and unique in its form: a heart-shaped hymnal with 44 songs for Bishop Montchenu, a romantic at the French royal court

Experience More
Durazzo Book of Hours – Franco Cosimo Panini Editore – m.r. C.f. Arm. I – Biblioteca Civica Berio (Genoa, Italy)
Durazzo Book of Hours
Parma (Italy) – Beginning of the 16th century

Renaissance splendor and piety in gold and purple: one of the last and most beautiful purple manuscripts, adorned with masterful illuminations and a splendid binding of gold, silver and precious stones

Experience More
Purple Passion of Fra Angelico – Patrimonio Ediciones – Fogg Art Museum (Cambridge MA, USA) / Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen (Rotterdam, Netherlands)
Purple Passion of Fra Angelico
Florence (Italy) – Mid 15th century

Created for the Medici, preserved today in two museums on two continents: masterly miniatures of the Dominican monk Fra Angelico on purple parchment

Experience More
Black Prayer Book of Galeazzo Maria Sforza – Österreichische Staatsdruckerei – Codex Vindobonensis 1856 – Österreichische Nationalbibliothek (Vienna, Austria)
Black Prayer Book of Galeazzo Maria Sforza
Bruges (Belgium) – 1466–1476

Black parchment and bright colors commissioned by Charles the Bold: arguably the most beautiful of the seven black illuminated manuscripts of the Middle Ages that survive today

Experience More
Blog articles worth reading
Filter selection
Publisher