Codex Albeldense

D.I.2 - Real Biblioteca del Monasterio (San Lorenzo de El Escorial, Spain)

Alternate Titles:

Albeldense Codex, Códice Albeldense, Vigilian, Crónica Albeldense, Codex conciliorum Albeldensis seu Vigilanus

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Codiology

Alternate Titles

Albeldense Codex
Códice Albeldense
Vigilian
Crónica Albeldense
Codex conciliorum Albeldensis seu Vigilanus

Type
Extent / Format

858 pages / 45.5 x 32.5 cm

Origin
Date
976
Style
Genre
Language
Patron

Count of Buendía

Artist / School

Scribe: Vigila
Miniaturists: Sarracino and García

Illustrations

82 miniatures, some of them covering a whole folio

Former owners

Philip II, King of Spain and Portugal (reigned 1556 - 1598)

Short description

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!

Facsimile editions available

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!

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.

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!

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