Codex Calixtinus

Codex Calixtinus Facsimile Edition

Santiago de Compostela (Spain) — Ca. 1325

Stolen in 2011 before reappearing a year later: the first travel guide for the Way of St. James to Santiago de Compostela

  1. The official guide and fundament for pilgrims visiting the tomb of St. James (d. 44) at Santiago de Compostela

  2. The medieval pilgrimage guide allows the magic around the tomb of St. James to be comprehended today

  3. Stolen from Compostela Cathedral in 2011 and reappeared a year later

Codex Calixtinus

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  1. Description
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  3. Single Page
  4. Facsimile Editions (1)
Codex Calixtinus

The Salamanca codex of the Codex Calixtinus is one of five surviving manuscripts that contains the complete text of the Liber Sancti Iacobi, the Book of Saint James. It is named after Pope Calixtus II, to whom the work was originally attributed. Although modern scholars now believe it was written by another cleric shortly after the Pope’s death, each chapter is prefaced by a letter attributed to Callixtus II. Nonetheless, it is a precious manuscript depicting not only St. James the Great but also inter alia the army of Charlemagne and the famous chivalric hero Roland. The shrine dedicated to St. James in Santiago de Compostela Cathedral has been a pilgrimage destination as early as the 9th century and became so popular that an official pilgrimage guide was created. Other texts in the manuscript includes texts, prayers, and hymns for mass, 22 miracle stories about St. James, the story of the transfer of his corpse to Santiago, and an appendix with special, polyphonic songs.

Codex Calixtinus

For a considerable time, a pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela has enjoyed considerable vogue and popularity. Yet this tradition of the pilgrims to the grave of St. James in the most northwestern part of Spain goes back to the 9th century. An official pilgrimage guide and fundament from the 12th century for the great cult around James the great, also known as James the Elder, is the so-called Liber Sancti Iacobi, also known as the Codex Calixtinus. The oldest example of this codex is found today in Santiago. Nevertheless, there is a precious copy of this manuscript from the 14th century stored in the Universidad de Salamanca. The liturgical texts, miracle stories, songs, and the medieval pilgrimage guide in particular allow the magic of this location – around the tomb of St. James – to still be comprehended today and allows us to understand why a pilgrimage to Santiago de Campostela has exerted such a great fascination over the centuries.

A Papal Document?

The Codex Calixtinus from Salamanca is one of five remaining manuscripts with the complete text of the Liber Sancti Iacobi. Alongside the oldest 12th century “original” in Santiago de Compostela and the 14th century copy in Salamanca, yet more examples exist in the British Library, in the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, and in the Spanish National Library in Madrid. The famous Codex Calixtinus gained its name from the original ascription of the text to Pope Calixtus II (1119–1124). The texts probably originated from high-ranking clerics, including Aimeric Picaud, who delivered the codex to Santiago. Many legends and secrets wrap themselves around the book about St. James that were closely associated with the cult of James the Great throughout the Middle Ages and are up to today.

Exciting Legends and a Medieval Guidebook

According to the New Testament, Saint James was the brother of John the Evangelist and one of Christ’s disciples. He received martyrdom in the year 44. The legend of the transfer of his corpse to Spain, which founded the fame of Santiago de Compostela, has existed since the 9th century. An official basis for the cult of James, which enjoyed great fame, was accomplished in the 12th century with the Liber Sancri Iacobi. The collected manuscript contained texts, prayers, and hymns for mass, 22 miracle stories about St. James, the story of the transfer of his corpse to Santiago, and an appendix with special, polyphonic songs. The most famous part of the codex is nevertheless a pilgrimage guide, in which the various ways to Santiago de Compostela are described in detail and a manual was given to the pilgrims.

St. James and Charlemagne

The Codex Calixtinus is historically significant with regard to Charlemagne. The manuscript contains namely a historically significant 12th century forgery: the famous text of the so-called Pseudo-Turpin, also known as the Historia Karoli Magni et Rotholandi. This consisted of a collection of legends about the Spanish campaign of Charlemagne masquerading as the chronicle of Bishop Turpin of Rheims, a contemporary of Charlemagne. This was already exposed as a forgery in the 15th century. The Historia enjoyed great popularity and wide circulation in all of Europe and exercised various influences on art and literature. Thus the Codex Calixtinus contains biblical representations of this story about Charlemagne with Roland and Turpin alongside a miniature of James as a pilgrim. Both the great, luminous, brightly-colored design of the miniatures as well as the historically significant text of the codex originating from Salamanca in 1325 grant a wonderful glimpse in the world of medieval pilgrimages and stories.


Alternative Titles
Codex Calixtinus de la Universidad de Salamanca
Codex Calixtinus of the University of Salamanca
Liber Sancti Jacobi
Codice Calistino
Códice Calixtino
Liber Sancti Jacobi
Size / Format
246 pages / 33.1 × 24.5 cm
Ca. 1325
5 miniatures including 2 full-pages, a historiated initial with a portrait of Pope Calixtus II and many smaller decorative initials in red and blue

Available facsimile editions:
Codex Calixtinus – Ms. 2631 – Universidad de Salamanca / Archivo de la Catedral (Salamanca, Spain) Facsimile Edition
Siloé, arte y bibliofilia – Burgos, 2012
Limited Edition: 898 copies
Detail Picture

Codex Calixtinus

St. James as a Knight

The image of St. James as a knight is tied to the medieval legend of Santiago Matamoros or “Saint James the Moor-Slayer”. During the mythical Battle of Clavijo, he miraculously appeared to fight for the Christian army against the Moors, giving rise to the battle cry “St. James and strike for Spain!” The scallop, which is James’ emblem, is incorporated into the Cross of Saint James, symbol of the Military Order of Santiago, and is featured on both the flag and in the background of this miniature.

Codex Calixtinus de la Universidad de Salamanca
Single Page

Codex Calixtinus

Vision of Archbishop Turpin

This historiated “T” initial consists of four green dragons, who frame a scene depicting Archbishop Turpin celebrating mass, together with some kneeling clergymen. He has a vision of two angels carry the souls of Roland and his fallen companions before Christ, giving the sign of the benediction, and the Virgin Mary, crowned as Queen of Heaven with her hands folded in prayer.

The Devil is shown flying over the head of the Archbishop, who stands next to an altar with a golden cross and chalice. This implies that he is fleeing after playing a role in the ambush of the Christian army of the Franks by pagans at the Battle of Roncevaux Pass. The scene has a patterned background of purple squares and circles, except for the stars of heaven.

Codex Calixtinus de la Universidad de Salamanca
Facsimile Editions

#1 Codex Calixtinus de la Universidad de Salamanca

Siloé, arte y bibliofilia – Burgos, 2012

Publisher: Siloé, arte y bibliofilia – Burgos, 2012
Limited Edition: 898 copies
Binding: Full leather with gold decorated spine in a buckram leather slipcase
Commentary: 1 volume by Juan J. García Gil and Pablo Molinero Hernando
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.
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