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Codex Calixtinus

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Title: Codex Calixtinus  
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Codex Calixtinus

Detail from the Codex Calixtinus Folio 4r, showing Saint James the Great

The Codex Calixtinus is a 12th-century illuminated manuscript formerly attributed to Pope Callixtus II, though now believed to have been arranged by the French scholar Aymeric Picaud. The principal author is actually given as 'Scriptor I'.

It was intended as an anthology of background detail and advice for pilgrims following the Way of St. James to the shrine of the apostle Saint James the Great, located in the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, Galicia (Spain). The codex is alternatively known as the Liber Sancti Jacobi, or the Book of Saint James. The collection includes sermons, reports of miracles and liturgical texts associated with Saint James, and set of polyphonic musical pieces. In it are also found descriptions of the route, works of art to be seen along the way, and the customs of the local people.

The book was stolen from its security case in the cathedral's archives on 3 July 2011[1] and retrieved almost exactly a year later on 4 July 2012.[2][3]


  • History 1
    • 2011 Theft and recovery 1.1
  • Composition 2
    • Book I: Book of the Liturgies 2.1
    • Book II: Book of the Miracles 2.2
    • Book III: Transfer of the body to Santiago 2.3
    • Book IV: The History of Charlemagne and Roland 2.4
    • Book V: A Guide for the Traveller 2.5
  • Music 3
  • See also 4
  • Bibliography 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7


The origins and authorship of the Codex Calixtinus have been the subject of much debate amongst scholars. It is generally believed to have been written by a number of different authors and then compiled as a single volume, possibly between 1135 and 1139 by the French scholar Pope Callixtus II,[5] who had already died in 1124.

The earliest known edition of the codex was held in the archives of the Jesuit scholar Padre Fidel Fita. A copy of the Santiago edition was made in 1173 by the monk Arnaldo de Monte,[6] and is known as The Ripoll (after the monastery of Santa Maria de Ripoll in Catalonia). It is now kept in Barcelona. The book was well received by the Church of Rome, and copies of it were to be found from Rome to Jerusalem, but it was particularly popular at the Abbey of Cluny.

The first full transcription of the Codex was done in 1932 by Walter Muir Whitehill, and published in 1944 by the Spanish Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, together with a musicological study by Silos's Dom Germán Prado O.S.B., and another on the miniature illustrations by Jesús Carro García.

In a 1972 article, "A note on Jacobus," Christopher Hohler argues that the book is written in deliberately bad Latin and is actually a kind of grammar book. "It is the general purpose teaching manual of a nomadic French grammar master, and appears to embody the contributions of a succession of such masters...He has retold, in ingeniously abominable Latin which is meant to be corrected, but in a manner which is enjoyable to read to this day, a number of epic tales.”

2011 Theft and recovery

The Codex was stolen in July 2011.[7][8] Spanish police sources had not eliminated the possibility that the theft was an "inside job" or that the manuscript had been hidden somewhere else in the cathedral. Spanish press reports speculated that the theft may have been an attempt to embarrass the cathedral administration over lax security measures[9] or an attempt to settle a personal or professional grievance.

On 4 July 2012, the Codex was found in the garage of a former employee of the Cathedral.[2][3] The employee, considered the intellectual author of the theft and three other members of his family were detained and questioned until one of them disclosed the location of the Codex. There were also several other objects of worth stolen from the Cathedral found in the home of the employee. The Codex seems to be in perfect condition but an in depth analysis will have to be performed in order to verify it.


The Santiago de Compostela copy comprises five volumes, totalling 225 double-sided folios each 295 × 214 mm. Its oversized pages were trimmed down during a restoration in 1966. With some exceptions, each folio displays a single column of thirty-four lines of text. Book IV had been torn off in 1609, either by accident, theft or at the decree of King Philip III, and it was reinstated during the restoration.

The letter of Pope Callixtus II which opens the book, occupies both recto and verso of the first two folios.[10] The author, who claims to be Callixtus II, tells how he collected many testimonies on the good deeds of Saint James, "traversing the cruel grounds and provinces for fourteen years". He also describes how the manuscript survived many hazards from fire to drowning.[11] The letter is addressed "to the very holy assembly of the basilica of Cluny" and to "Diego, archbishop of Compostela".

Book I: Book of the Liturgies

Anthologia liturgica.
Book I accounts for almost half of all the codex and contains sermons and homilies concerning Saint James, two descriptions of his martyrdom and official liturgies for his veneration. Its relative size and the information it contains on the spiritual aspects of the pilgrimage make it the heart of the codex. The Veneranda Dies sermon is the longest work in Book One and seems to have been part of the feast day celebrations for St. James (December 30). It commemorates the life, death and translation of the remains of St. James; discusses to route to Compostela in both physical and spiritual terms; and celebrates the blessings of the saint bestowed on the pilgrims of the route, on Spain and on Galicia.[12]

Book II: Book of the Miracles

De miraculis sancti Jacobi.
The hagiographic Book II is an account of twenty-two miracles[13] across Europe attributed to Saint James, both during his life and after his death.[14] The recipients and witnesses to these miracles are often pilgrims.

Book III: Transfer of the body to Santiago

Liber de translatione corporis sancti Jacobi ad Compostellam.
Book III is the briefest of the five books and describes the translation of Saint James' body from Jerusalem to his tomb in Galicia. It also tells of the custom started by the first pilgrims of gathering souvenir sea shells from the Galician coast. The scallop shell is a symbol for Saint James.

Book IV: The History of Charlemagne and Roland

Historia Caroli Magni et Rotholandi.

Book IV is attributed to Archbishop Turpin of Reims and commonly referred to as Pseudo-Turpin, although it is the work of an anonymous writer of the 12th century. It describes the coming of Charlemagne to Spain, his defeat at the Battle of Roncevaux Pass and the death of the knight Roland.[15] It relates how Saint James then appeared in a dream to Charlemagne, urging him to liberate his tomb from the Moors and showing him the direction to follow by the route of the Milky Way. This association has given the Milky Way an alternate name in Spain of Camino de Santiago. The chapter also includes an account of Roland's defeat of the giant Saracen Ferragut.

This widely publicized and multi-copied book describing the legend of Santiago Matamoros or 'St. James the Moorslayer' is considered by scholars to be an early example of propaganda by the Catholic Church to drum up recruits for the military Order of Santiago. The Order was formed in order to help protect church interests in northern Spain from Moorish invaders. The Military Orders of the Middle Ages were closely associated with the Crusades.

In later years the legend became somewhat of an embarrassment in its depiction of Saint James as a bloodthirsty avenger 800 years after his death. King Philip III ordered that Book IV be removed from the codex and for a while it circulated as a separate volume. Throughout northern Spain along the Way of St. James known as the Camino Frances, most churches and cathedrals still have statuary and chapels applauding 'Saint James the Moorslayer'. Today this legend in northern Spain has cultural and historical significance that is completely separate from any of the original intentions by the Catholic Church.

Book V: A Guide for the Traveller

Iter pro peregrinis ad Compostellam.
Book V is a wealth of practical advice for pilgrims,[16] informing them where they should stop, relics they should venerate, sanctuaries they should visit, bad food they should be wary of[17] and commercial scams, including in the author's opinion, other churches who claimed to hold relics of St. James.[18] The book provides a valuable insight into the life of the 12th-century pilgrim. It also describes the city of Santiago de Compostela and its cathedral. The popular appeal of Book V led to it achieving the greatest fame, and it has been described as the first tourist's guide book.[19] Among Basque scholars, this account is considered as highly important because it contains some of the earliest Basque words and phrases of the post-Roman period.[20]

In 1993, UNESCO placed the Spanish section of the pilgrimage on the World Heritage List, describing it as "a testimony to the power of the Christian faith among people of all social classes".[21] The French section joined the list in 1998 when UNESCO declared the cultural and historical importance of the World Heritage Sites of the Routes of Santiago de Compostela in France.[22]


Three parts of the Codex Calixtinus include music: Book I, Appendix I, and Appendix II. These passages are of great interest to musicologists as they include early examples of polyphony.[23] The codex contains the first known composition for three voices, the conductus Congaudeant catholici (Let all Catholics rejoice together); however, the extreme dissonance encountered when all three voices perform together has led some scholars to suggest that this was not the original intention.[24] The popularity of the music has continued to the present day with modern recordings commercially available.

See also



  1. ^
  2. ^ a b
  3. ^ a b
  4. ^ van Herwaarden & Shaffer, p358
  5. ^ a b van Herwaarden & Shaffer, p356
  6. ^ van Herwaarden & Shaffer, p359
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^ An English translation of this letter is included in
  11. ^ van Herwaarden & Shaffer, p365
  12. ^ An English translation of this sermon is included in
  13. ^ A complete English translation of the miracles is published in
  14. ^ van Herwaarden & Shaffer, p368
  15. ^ A complete English translation is published in
  16. ^ A complete English translation is published in
  17. ^
  18. ^
  19. ^
  20. ^ Trask, L. The History of Basque Routledge: 1997 ISBN 0-415-13116-2
  21. ^
  22. ^
  23. ^
  24. ^ Richard Taruskin, The Oxford History of Western Music, vol. 1, Oxford University Press: 2005, p. 165.

External links

  • The Codex Calixtinus and the development of polyphony in the twelfth century
  • The Codex Calixtinus (Spanish) (English) (French)
  • The Codex Calixtinus by Arsliber (Spanish)
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