BEATO DE FERNANDO I
Reference: National Library of Madrid (display cabinet 14-2).
Other names: Blessed of Facundo, Codex 14-2, National Library.
Dimensions: 360 x 268 mm.
317 folios in Visigothic typeface, written in two 35 line
98 illustrations of which 9 double pages.
Available facsimiles: Club Bibliófilo Versol.
Estudio del Beato de Fernando I efectuado por nuestro colaborador Jean-Luc Monneret en el que se han limpiado digitalmente todas las imágenes del manuscrito. Pulsar la imagen para acceder.
Manuscript created in 1407, although the miniatures must have been finished a few years later, for Ferdinand the First and Sancha, monarchs of Castile and León, what makes it the only blessed among those created in the 10th and 11th centuries that was commissioned by kings, as generally they were always requested by monasteries or other religious institutions. In this case it was probably destined to the funerary lithurgy of the Leonese monarchy or even to Ferdinand the First’s “meditatio mortis”.
It is known that its copyist was Facundo, who probably was also the author of part of the images, as there is no other name mentioned, and given the great quality of the manuscript, it is supposed that he worked in a highly specialized environment, possibly the Royal scriptorium of León or maybe the Royal Monastery of St. Benito de Sahagún.
It seems that it stayed in the royal library until 1063. On that year Ferdinand the First achieved the return of the relics of St. Isidoro on behalf of the Taifa king of Seville, to keep them in the Basilic of St. Juan Bautista in León, recently restored and destined to become a royal pantheon. For that reason in its new consecaration, the basilic began to be denominated St. Isidoro, to which the kings donated important pieces of religious art and possibly, amongst those, its Blessed was included.
We know through Ambrosio Morales that in 1572 it stayed in St. Isidoro, but in the middle of the 17th century it belonged already to the Marquis of Mondéjar to whom Philip the Fifth confiscated his whole library by the end of the War of Succession and the blessed was taken to the Royal Library. Today it is in the National Library of Madrid. It is one of the best preserved blessed, although it seeems that, according to a report from the technicians of the service of conservation of the National Librarty, it suffered severe harm when it mas moved to Rome to participate in the exhibition “Romei i jubilei” in the Palazzo Venezia at the beginnings of 2000.
Maybe because it was a royal commission and in view of the particular interest of Ferdinand the First and Sancha to promote a cultural and religious renaissance in the kingdom of León, devastated by Almanzor around fifty years earlier, he could have considered the intention to exceed with this blessed everything that existed until then. It is one of the most sumptuous codex of the High Middle Ages, both for its careful caligraphy as well as for the miniatures of great solemnity and an exceptional colouring for those times, many of them decorated in gold..
In this sense, it is interesting to point out the references to Queen Sancha in the manuscripts preserved from her reign with Ferdinand the First, since not only her name appears in the “maze” of this blessed, but her portratit next to Ferdinand the First and the miniaturist Fructuoso is also included -it is the first time in Spain that the portrait of the reigning monarchs appear in a codex- on folio 6 of the Book of Hours, preserved in the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. It was commissioned by Sancha herself, what seems to demonstrate the interest and even the support for the cultural development of the kingdom undertaken by her husband..
In this codex the style of Facundo opens a new way to the Spanish high medieval miniature, which influence would be reflected later in manuscripts as meaningful as the Libro de los Testamentos from the Cathedral of Oviedo and the monastic cartulary A of Santiago de Compostela. It surprises its ability to synthetize all the cultural contributions in Christian Spain in the middle of the 11th century, including important Carolingian and Irish influences on its decorations based on borders and decorated plated ribbons toppped in many cases with human or animal heads and all of that within a deep Spanish spirit with a great respect for the traditional model of blessed..
But although its images continue in the 11th century, the Leonese tradition of the blessed of Gerona and Valcavado, on this codex some characteristics of Romanesque art are already announced, as it can be seen on its more slender figures, where the creases fit to she shape of the body with parallel lines, as well as more mobility and animation in the characters and a new interest in the differentiation of the garments that form their dressings and in the way to represent them..
The first five folios that today appear integrated in this manuscript contain part of some genealogies, without miniatures, that belong to another codex, possibly to Blessed of Valcavado that, according to Ambrosio de Morales, it was also in St. Isidoro de León in the 16th century and that keeps a great ressemblance with its style. It is interesting to point out the relationship between the blessed of Ferdinand the First and Sancha with the one of Valcavado, as there are also important similarities in many images of both codex, to the extent that they are considered to stem from a common model.
In summary, without daring to claim, as Umberto Eco, that the Blessed of Ferdinand the First and Sancha “is the most important iconographic event in the history of mankind”, it is unquestionable that we are in front of one of the most important manuscripts from the Spanish Middle Ages, both, for the quality of its calligraphy and images, as well as for it means a clear opening to new trends without leaving the previous spirit of Mozarabic miniature, in an excellent exercise of synthesis, besides being the most sumptuous one in which the largest profusion of gold in its images has been used.
Historia de España de Menéndez Pidal: Tomos VI y VII*
SUMMA ARTIS: Tomos VIII y XXII
L’Art Préroman Hispanique: ZODIAQUE
Arte y Arquitectura española 500/1250: Joaquín Yarza
Beato de Fernando I y Sancha: varios autores (Moleiro)