Codex Calixtinus, The Book of Santiago or Jacobus

The Codex Calixtinus (Códice Calixtino, in Spanish) is a Latin book written about the Camino de Santiago. It is the oldest manuscript centred on the pilgrim world.

Codex Calixtinus book

The original work is guarded in the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. It is this manuscript called Codex Calixtinus or also, Codex Compostellanus.

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However, there are other names to refer to Codex Calixtinus. One of them is Liber Sancti Jacobi (Book of Santiago). This name refers to complete replicas, or almost complete, that have been distributed in various libraries around the world.

Occasionally, the document is also referred to as Iacobus or Jacobus. This fact is because some scholars of the work think that the desire of the authors of the Codex Calixtinus is that it receives this name, since the original document begins with the following words:

Ex re signatur, Iacobus liber iste uocatur

” Justly signed, this book is called” (translation)

Codex Calixtinus

Codex Calixtinus: a brief history

The Codex Calixtinus is an essential work for anyone who wants to understand in more depth the origins of the Camino de Santiago and the evolution of society of that time. That is why in this article we want to tell you everything about this historical and literary work.

The Codex Calixtinus and its date of creation

The book, as we know it today, took more than 40 years to produce. It is estimated that it was written between 1120 and 1170. However, many scholars agree that by 1150 much of the work had already been produced.

The creation of the Codex Calixtinus was promoted by the Church of Compostela, in the time of Diego Gelmírez, a strong driver of the pilgrim tradition. The aim of the manuscript was to spread and strengthen the pilgrimage to the tomb of Santiago the Apostle, as the second centre of Christianity, after Rome.

The author of the works

The name Codex Calixtinus comes from the pope of the Cluniac Order, Callixtus II, to whom the Church of Santiago attributed the work. Scholars claim that this fact was due to Callixtus II being one of the main benefactors of the Church in Santiago de Compostela. Also, to the attribution of authorship to this cleric brought greater prestige and legitimacy to the tradition of pilgrimage.

Today, however, no one doubts that its actual author or authors are unknown. What is clear is that there was a strong French influence in the writing of the manuscript.

French influence

In fact, Aymeric Picaud, to whom the drafting of book V, considered the first guide of the Camino Frances, is quite certainly attributed, is of French origin. Some scholars go even further and attribute to this French cleric the coordination of the complete work or even much of its wording.

To the above, it should be added that Archbishop Gelmírez sent numerous religious Compostela clergy to study in France. At the same time, he also encouraged the arrival of the Cluny religious order from France, to Santiago de Compostela.

Hence, many scholars of the manuscript claim that among them are the authors of the work. The reality is that, despite the doubts that still exist today about the name of the author or authors of the Codex Calixtinus, no one denies that its author or some of its authors were of French origin.

A collection of artists

In fact, given the richness in information and colour of the work, as well as its great artistic value, some scholars, such as Diaz y Diaz, have no hesitation in stating that the best narrators, poets, copyists and clerics of the time participated in its elaboration. According to them, the Book of the Camino de Santiago was written by the best artists and scholars of Spain and northern France.

The Codex Calixtinus and its content

The original manuscript has a large extent. In total, 225 pages of parchment, 30 x 21 centimetres in size. Written in French scripture.

The Codex Calixtinus is divided into 5 books. They contain liturgical texts dedicated to Santiago the Apostle, the miracles performed by the saint, the transfer of his body from Jerusalem to Galicia, the arrival in Spain of Charlemagne to liberate the Camino de Santiago and the first guide of the Camino de Santiago, centred on the French route.

The Codex Calixtinus and its content

In addition, the Codex Calixtinus also collects various musical compositions in honour of Santiago, as well as supported texts of the work and various miracles recorded on the Camino de Santiago. Information of the most diverse that, as believed at the time, would support the promotion of the Camino de Santiago.

From the content of the Codex Calixtinus, it is striking that much of the work focuses its attention on the rest of Europe, forgetting the Iberian Peninsula itself. Hence, in the texts there are few references to the struggle between Christians and Muslims, which was experienced at that time in Spain.

Book I: Liturgy to Santiago

Book I is the largest of the Codex Calixtinus. Its extension exceeds the total of the other four books.

This part of the Codex is divided into 31 practical chapters. They describe the liturgy of the worship of Santiago the Apostle, such as masses, songs, prayers, etc.

Many of these liturgies are centred on the festivities in honour of Santiago, on July 25th, and on those of the transfer of his body, on December 30th. According to scholars, the purpose of this part of the work was to ensure the solemnity desired for the worship of the apostle’s tomb.

Book II: The miracles

This part of the Codex Calixtinus collects a total of 22 miracles attributed to Santiago the Great. Except for a miracle, which takes place in the year 1135, the rest take place between 1100 and 1110.

The miracles which are recorded in Book II are universal in nature and take place in various parts of the world, although those recorded on the Camino de Santiago stand out. Undoubtedly, the objective of this part of the work was to strengthen faith in the saint and in his protective character.

Book III: The transfer of the remains of the Apostle

The pages of Book III includethe strange happenings related to the transfer of the remains of Santiago the Apostleto Galicia. The text is very concrete and not rich in details, the objective was simple: to justify the presence of Santiago’s body in Galicia.

Although there were some previous texts that spoke about the discovery of the remains of Santiago the Apostle in Galician lands, such as the Epistle of Pope Leo, none spoke of exact places. The Codex Calixtinus was intended to reinforce the role of Santiago de Compostela as a pilgrimage goal.

Book IV: The roles of Charlemagne and Roldán

Book IV focuses on the work done by Charlemagne, with the help of his faithful knight Roldán, to liberate the Camino de Santiago, from France to Compostela. This was intended to make the Compostela pilgrimage more prestigious at European level. Charlemagne was used to do this, a figure that met the chivalrous ideals of the time.

The exploits in this book of the Codex are largely based on songs of heroic deeds circulating throughout Europe. Many of them, fruit of the invention of medieval minstrels.

The text attributes all the merits of the contest against the unfaithful (Muslims) to Charlemagne, forgetting much of the struggle led by the armies of the peninsula. This has caused this part of the Codex Calixtus to be often cursed in Spain.

In fact, although Book IV was the one that was best received at first and the one that had the greatest dissemination in Europe, its pages were removed from the Codex Compostelanus in 1619. The church justified this censorship by pointing out that the book was not the work of Calixtus II, but of Bishop Turpín.

However, many scholars argue that the withdrawal of the book was due to the need for the Compostela church to reinforce the role that Hispanic kings had had in pilgrim tradition and in its future. At the end of the 19th century, Book IV was once again integrated into the Codex Compostellanus.

These pages of the Codex Calixtinus have been the most studied in the work. Only in the middle of the 20th century with the rebirth of the Camino de Santiago, Book V (the pilgrim’s guide) robbed it of prominence among the researchers.

Book V: the first pilgrim’s guide

Book V, known as Liber peregrinationis, was the first guide to the Camino de Santiago. However, many authors doubt the actual dissemination of this book during the Middle Ages and its practical value.

Be that as it may, Book V played an essential role in the recovery of the Camino de Santiago in the 20th century. The document includes four tracks of the Camino de Santiago in France and in Spain, details the stages of the Camino Frances. The degree of detail of the text and the precision of the explanations are very surprising for the time.

Book V also contains various tips for pilgrimage, as well as references to villages and relics that the pilgrim could visit during the tour. It also contains a detailed description of the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela.

The final pages of the book

The last pages of the book include one of Codex Calixtinus’ greatest contributions to western culture: its collection of polyphonic music. In total, 21 compositions of impressive artistic quality. According to various scholars, this is the first polyphony work in the western world.

Codex Calixtinus, The Book of Santiago

These last pages also capture some of Santiago’s miracles and the justification of the work. As well as details about its authenticity. No doubt, sought to give credibility and prestige to all the previous work.

The scope of the work

Since 1170, the Codex Calixtinus has been copied by scribes and disseminated throughout Europe. A complete copy of the work was not always made, but it is estimated that there are about 250 or 300 copies, between complete and partial.

It is believed that the first copy that was made is the one that is currently preserved in the Archive of the Crown of Aragon, in Barcelona. At the same time, it corresponds to the work that is guarded in the Convent of Alcobaca, in Portugal.

Much later, copies of the Codex Calixtinus were to be found at the University of Salamanca, the British Library in London and the Vatican. The cities of Paris and Madrid also have handwritten replicas.

As we mentioned earlier, since the second half of the 19th century, the Codex Calixtinus has been experiencing a second golden age, especially the pilgrim’s guide. At that time, the amount of translations and transcriptions of this part of the work expanded rapidly.

So far, we come with the brief history of the Codex Calixtinus. We hope you found the information we have provided you in this article about the Codex Calixtinus interesting. If you have any questions or want us to help you organize your pilgrimage to Santiago, do not hesitate to contact us.

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