Vidal Mayor

Vidal Mayor

Spain — 1290–1310

Vidal Mayor

MS. LUDWIG XIV 6 The Getty Museum (Los Angeles, USA)
  1. Description
  2. Facsimile Editions (1)
Vidal Mayor

The only surviving copy of a historic legal code: the Vidal Mayor represents the first compilation of the Fueros de Aragón, the laws and regulations of the Kingdom of Aragon. It was commissioned in 1247 by King James I of Aragon and Catalonia following years of successful campaigns that earned him the nickname “the Conqueror” and was completed in 1252 by the bishop of Huesca, Vidal de Canellas. The original Latin text was then translated into Navarro-Aragonese vernacular in the manuscript at hand, made between 1290 and 1310. Although created in northeastern Spain, the influence of French illumination is unmistakable, especially in the hundreds of historiated initials that embellish the text.

Vidal Mayor

In 1247, King James I of Aragon and Catalonia (1208–76) had earned his epithet “the Conqueror” and stood victorious over his Moorish enemies, whom he had nearly driven from the Iberian Peninsula. It was now time for him to bring order to his realm, and thus the King set about creating a new systematic code of law that would become the Fueros de Aragón. This manuscript is the only surviving copy of the medieval legal code to survive today, making it both an important document in the legal history of Spain, as well as an important demonstration of the increased movement of both artists and manuscripts from one European court to another that would eventually lead to the emergence of the International Gothic style in the late 14th century.

A Precious Specimen of Law and Illumination

The manuscript is named after Vidal de Canellas, bishop of Huesca (ca. 1190–1252), who was tasked with compiling various laws, which he recorded in Latin. This original Latin text is gone, but the Navarro-Aragonese translation that was written and illuminated between 1290 and 1310 has survived. Michael Lupi de Çandiu, the scribe responsible for work, may also have served as translator. The elegant style of the miniatures and the overall design is clearly inspired by contemporary French illumination and is characterized by strong primary colors, gold leaf, elegantly patterned backgrounds, and hundreds of historiated and decorative initials. Three of the miniatures embedded in the text include the earliest representations of the Seneyra – the standard of the Crown of Aragon consisting of four red stripes on a yellow field that is often referred to as the “bars of Aragon”.

The First Compilation of the Fueros de Aragón

After the Fueros de Aragón were first drawn up in 1247, James I attempted to promulgate it, but faced opposition from the Aragonese nobility, who were still attached to the Fuero de Jaca. As a result, the laws were not exhaustively applied throughout the kingdom during the King’s lifetime and were not fully agreed to until 1283. Revisions continued to be made in 1496, 1517, and 1542 until the laws were thoroughly overhauled in 1552 and again in 1667. The Fueros de Aragón were finally replaced in 1707 during the War of the Spanish Succession after being in effect for nearly 500 years.


Vidal de Canellas' Latin text (laws)
Artist / School

Available facsimile editions:
Facsimile Editions

#1 Vidal Mayor: Estudios

Commentary: 1 volume by Antonio Ubieto Arteta
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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