Las Cantigas de Santa Maria - El Códice Rico

Las Cantigas de Santa Maria - El Códice Rico

Spain — 13th century

The magnificently illuminated and unique synthesis of music, poetry, and painting: one of the greatest collections of songs from the Middle Ages, created for King Alfonso the Wise

  1. Collected during the reign and probably commissioned by King Alfonso X (1221-1284) and written in Galician-Portuguese, one of the medieval languages of the Iberian Peninsula

  2. Unique masterpiece of the synthesis of music, poetry and painting

  3. It has 196 hymns in the Galician-Portuguese language, each illustrated with 6–12 outstanding miniatures

Las Cantigas de Santa Maria - El Códice Rico

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  1. Description
  2. Detail Picture
  3. Single Page
  4. Facsimile Editions (2)
Description
Las Cantigas de Santa Maria - El Códice Rico

The so-called Rich Codex of Cantigas de Santa Maria is one of the most significant pieces of evidence of 13th century Spanish history. Alfonso X, King of Castile, commissioned a manuscript that brought poetry music, and imagery together in a unique conjunction. Songs praising the Virgin Mary, composed from various poets, stand at the center of the manuscript. These poems dedicated to Mary were illustrated in marvelous pictures, which offer a glimpse into the manuscript’s time of origin and which are considered to be important sources for the history of Castile. A truly historical, literary, and artistic work of art!

Las Cantigas de Santa Maria - El Códice Rico

The so-called Rich Codex of Cantigas de Santa Maria is one of the most significant pieces of evidence of 13th century Spanish history. Alfonso X, King of Castile, commissioned a manuscript that brought poetry music, and imagery together in a unique conjunction. Songs praising the Virgin Mary, composed from various poets, stand at the center of the manuscript. These poems dedicated to Mary were illustrated in marvelous pictures, which offer a glimpse into the manuscript’s time of origin and which are considered to be important sources for the history of Castile. A truly historical, literary, and artistic work of art!

A Royal Poet?

Alfonso X (1221–1284), called the Wise, was a significant Castilian king. He is presumed to be the patron of the manuscript of Cantigas de Santa Maria. This was an important project for the King himself, meant to impressively represent his land with its rich culture and history. Some researchers have gone so far as to suggest that Alfonso X himself composed some of the songs. One of the authors of the songs for the Virgin Mary was probably Airas Nunes. In the field of research, many of the songs are attributed to the 13th century Spanish poet and troubadour, who was active at the court of Sancho IV, the son of Alfonso X.

Over 1,000 Wonderful Miniatures

The Cantigas de Santa Maria contains 196 hymns in the Galician-Portuguese language. Their primary theme is the praise of the Virgin Mary, hence the name “Songs for the Virgin Mary”. Mary stands in the middle of the songs as the Mother of God, as a biblical figure, and as a participant in worldly scenes, e.g. holidays with a Marian connection. Each of the songs is illustrated with six or twelve miniatures, which incorporate references to the respective content. The miniatures enchant with their fine and gracile execution. Gothic architecture was often employed as a background. Wonderful imagery and fantastically vivid and realistic scenes unfold in marvelously adorned ornamental frames. A colorful text in black, blue, and red ink, the colors that also reign over the text, accompanies the image pages.

The Rich Codex

The 512-page manuscript measuring 50.2 x 35 cm from the famous El Escorial Library probably originated in the 1380’s, before the death of Alfonso X. It enchants with its unique and harmonious union of poetry, music, and imagery into a gorgeous synthesis of the arts. The Cantigas de Santa Maria is an exceptional piece due to its artistic adornment, but also because of its outstanding historical worth. The Cantigas de Santa Maria has been handed down in four codices in Madrid, Florence, and an additional copy in the El Escorial, respectively. The manuscript at hand, known as the codex rico – rich codex – noticeably stands out from among this group through its exceptionally impressive decoration.

Codicology

Alternative Titles
Códice Rico
Cantigas de Alfonso X El Sabio
Cantigas de Santa Maria - Codex Rico
Lieder für die heilige Maria, CSM
Size / Format
512 pages / 50.2 × 35.0 cm
Origin
Spain
Date
13th century
Style
Genre
Language
Illustrations
1,257 miniatures
Artist / School

Available facsimile editions:
Las Cantigas de Santa Maria - El Códice Rico – Escorial Ms. T.j.I ("E2") – Real Biblioteca del Monasterio (San Lorenzo de El Escorial, Spain)
Testimonio Compañía Editorial – Madrid, 2011
Limited Edition: 980 copies

Cantigas de Santa María
Edilan – Madrid, 1979
Limited Edition: 2000 copies
Detail Picture

Las Cantigas de Santa Maria - El Códice Rico

Prologue

Accompanied by a splendid zoomorphic initial with dragons, this miniature at the beginning of the manuscript shows King Alfonso X, who supposedly commissioned it. He is seated and flanked by scribes who sit on the ground while a group of tonsured men on the right examine a codex. Three musicians on the left play stringed instruments: two vielles, which are similar to modern violins but with somewhat longer and deeper bodies, and a citole, which is picked or strummed in the manner of a guitar.

Las Cantigas de Santa Maria, el Códice Rico
Single Page

Las Cantigas de Santa Maria - El Códice Rico

The Siege of Constantinople (626)

During the 7th century, the ailing Byzantine Empire was saved by the aggressive campaigning of the Emperor Heraclius in the East and the successful defense of Constantinople in 626 against a combined force of Persians, Avars, and allied Slavs. When the siege was over, both the defenders and attackers agreed that the city was saved through divine intervention.

The badly outnumbered defenders of Constantinople were rallied by a daily procession along the Theodosian Walls that paraded an icon of the Virgin Mary. This series of miniatures shows the arrival of the besieging army, their construction of siege engines represented by a trebuchet, and the intervention of the Theotokos or “Mother of God” who appears in the sky above the city.

Las Cantigas de Santa Maria, el Códice Rico
Facsimile Editions

#1 Las Cantigas de Santa Maria, el Códice Rico

Las Cantigas de Santa Maria - El Códice Rico – Escorial Ms. T.j.I ("E2") – Real Biblioteca del Monasterio (San Lorenzo de El Escorial, Spain)
Las Cantigas de Santa Maria - El Códice Rico – Escorial Ms. T.j.I ("E2") – Real Biblioteca del Monasterio (San Lorenzo de El Escorial, Spain) Copyright Photos: Ziereis Facsimiles

Publisher: Testimonio Compañía Editorial – Madrid, 2011
Limited Edition: 980 copies
Binding: Full leather with two clasps
Commentary: 1 volume by Laura Fernández Fernández, Juan Carlos Ruiz Souza, Elvira Fidalgo Francisco, Inés Fernández Ordóñez, and Carlos De Ayala
Languages: English, Portuguese, 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.
Price Category: €€€€ (7,000€ - 10,000€)
Edition available
Price: Login here!

#2 Cantigas de Santa María

Edilan – Madrid, 1979

Publisher: Edilan – Madrid, 1979
Limited Edition: 2000 copies
Binding: Full leather with tooling
Commentary: 1 volume by Matilde Lopez Serrano, Xosé Filgueira Valverde, Josè Guerrero Lovillo, and Josè M. Llorens
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.
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