Alba Bible

Palacio de Liria (Madrid, Spain)

Alternate Titles:

Alba-Bibel

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Codiology

Alternate Titles

Alba-Bibel

Type
Extent / Format

1,046 pages / 40.5 x 29.5 cm

Origin
Date
1422-1430
Style
Genre
Patron

Luis de Guzmán, Grand Master of the military-religious Order of Calatrava

Illustrations

334 miniatures

Short description

The famous Spanish Alba Bible is a grandiose icon of tolerance! In 1422, at a time of increasing hostility by Spanish Christians against the Jews, Don Luis de Guzmán commissioned a Castilian translation of the Hebrew Bible along with a commentary. The idea was to strengthen tolerance towards Judaism through this translation. After an uphill struggle, Guzmán recruited Rabbi Moses Arragel from Maqueda as the translator, a highly educated and influential authority on the Hebrew Bible. The result of his work – completed on June 2nd, 1430 – is also an impressive work of illumination, which is richly adorned with 334 miniatures. A manuscript that seeks its match in quality and historicity!

Facsimile editions available

Description

Alba Bible

The famous Spanish Alba Bible is a grandiose icon of tolerance! In 1422, at a time of increasing hostility by Spanish Christians against the Jews, Don Luis de Guzmán commissioned a Castilian translation of the Hebrew Bible along with a commentary. The idea was to strengthen tolerance towards Judaism through this translation. After an uphill struggle, Guzmán recruited Rabbi Moses Arragel from Maqueda as the translator, a highly educated and influential authority on the Hebrew Bible. The result of his work – completed on June 2nd, 1430 – is also an impressive work of illumination, which is richly adorned with 334 miniatures. A manuscript that seeks its match in quality and historicity!

A Symbol of Tolerance

Don Luis de Guzmán, Grandmaster of the Order of Calatrava, was a high-ranking Spanish cleric who had great influence in Castile. His idea was to mediate the conflict between Spaniards and the Spanish Jewry with the help of a Castilian translation of the Hebrew Bible. The particular features of the Jewish faith were also to be made comprehensible for Christians through this translation and a detailed commentary, promoting tolerance and understanding between them. An impressive symbol of Judeo-Christian coexistence!

The Translator Refuses

Rabbi Moses Arragel from Marqueda, located in the province of Toledo, was commissioned with the historically significant translation. He feared resentment from the side of the Jews and vehemently resisted the commission at first. Rabbi Moses Arragel worried that the translation would rather incite hostility against the Jews. This lead to a lively correspondence between de Guzmán and Rabbi Arragel, which is recorded on the first 50 pages of the manuscript. This unique idiosyncrasy gives **background information about the manuscript in the codex itself! After extended negotiations, Rabbi Arragel conceded. Supported and supervised by Christian monks, he was able to complete the translation on June 2nd, 1430.

A Hebrew Bible with Illustrations from a Christian Hand

The wonderful translation of the Hebrew bible in Castilian is adorned with 334 miniatures on a total of 1026 pages. This marvelous evidence of 15th century Spanish illumination and the considerable attention attributed to the biblical translation was the work of Christian illuminators. Jewish influences are also clearly discernable in the miniatures, they are probably attributable to Rabbi Arragel’s instructions to the artists. The Alba Bible is also an impressive attestation of Spanish-Jewish culture and interfaith collaboration. Along with the commentary, the manuscript also contains numerous excerpts from significant rabbinical texts as well as the so-called “Glossary of the Confused” with explanations of certain foreign words.

The Further Course of the Story

The gorgeous Alba Bible was thoroughly scrutinized by Christian censors after its completion both in Toledo as well as at the University of Salamanca. Uncertainty reigns over the further whereabouts of Rabbi Arragel and the question of whether he ever received the rich payment that was promised to him by Don Luis de Guzmán. The precious manuscript has resided in the library of the Palacio de Liria, seat of the Archduke of Alba and Berwick, since 1622 and also gained its name therefrom. This evidence of a Christian patron and a Jewish author is regarded as an icon of religious tolerance!

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