Turismo Prerrománico > BIBLIA HISPALENSE


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Notas Previas

  • Reference: Biblioteca Nacional de Madrid, VITR/13/1.
  • Other names: Codex Toletanus.
  • Dimensions: 440 X 320mm.
  • 375 folios of parchment in Visigothic script with three columns with 63-65 lines per page.
  • Two images of characters, canons between columns with horseshoe arches, colored uncials.

Entorno histórico

San Isidoro created a large library in the bishopric of Seville, for which he obtained the cession and loan of a multitude of codices of Spanish and foreign monasteries, many of them from the north of Africa, from which Christian communities had come fleeing the Vandals and the orodoxy of Eastern Christianity. These were not only religious books but also classics and any area of knowledge in their time, which would be reflected in the encyclopedic knowledge contained in their Etymologies and in the rest of their writings, and for this he had to have an important scriptorium to copy those on loan and to make multiple copies of the books written by San Isidoro himself.

Possibly this scriptorium continued to exist during the Arab conquest, maintaining a certain level of activity according to periods due to the variable situation of the Mozarabic in Al-Andalus, with a production in which many characteristics of the Visigoth era are preserved, although it is also absorbing influences from the Arabic miniature. In this period Bishop Servando X requested the preparation of a copy of the Vulgate which is currently known as the Spanish Bible or Codex Toletanus for having been discovered in the Cathedral Library of Toledo.

According to a note on page 375v Servando de Sevilla gave the book to his friend the bishop of Córdoba, who gave it in 988, to the church of Santa María in Seville. Its dating is very controversial, as while some authors consider that this would possibly be the date of completion of the manuscript, placing this Bible at the end of the tenth century, C. Diaz believes that it should be dated to the first part of that century.

We do not know how this Bible came to the Cathedral of Toledo, where in the middle of the eighteenth century Felipe Antonio Fernández Vallejo, then Master School in said Cathedral, who became Bishop of Salamanca and Archbishop of Santiago de Compostela, which was then responsible for the conclusion of a “Literary Plan” by order of Ferdinand VI, reports that “This invaluable codex is known to have been arranged for use of the Church of Spain by St.Isidore…”, which does not seem possible to be about two centuries later, but it could be a copy of a Bible from the time of Saint Isidore. In 1869 the Spanish Bible arrived at the National Library of Spain with other materials from the Cathedral of Toledo, where it is still preserved in good condition, although the first pages are somewhat deteriorated.


The Spanish Bible is a manuscript of 375 folios of 440 X 320 mm parchment. composed of eight-page notebooks, written in small visigoth letters in three columns from 63 to 65 lines by at least four copyists. The text is written in Latin although there are titles in Hebrew and marginal notes also appear in Arabic.

It is one of the oldest Spanish Bibles that have come to us, since of the best known it is only after that of Tirreni. It contains the texts of the Old and New Testaments according to a Spanish version of the Vulgate, whose original could have been the work of San Isidoro as reported by Fernández Vallejo in the 18th century, which stated that it also includes the Canon of Eusebius Caesarean for the concord of the evangelists, the Epistles of St.Paul and the canons of Priscillian corrected by the pilgrim bishop. It also contains a preface and prologues and commentaries by Saint Jerome, Saint Isidore and others. The first two pages include an index of the contents in table format and the last pages add a fragment of a Latin glossary of a different codex.

Its decoration is based on very simple capitals of the text with an average height of three lines, large titles in capital letters in the separation of chapters, with colored inks and with uncials decorated also with vivid colors, some with birds and fish.

It contains two human figures interspersed in the text and in the codex there are many blank areas, the width of a column, prepared possibly to add miniatures, which was only done in those two cases.

In folio 278 we find the Canons corresponding to Saint Luke and Saint John, framed between columns and capitals closed by horseshoe arches of great prolongation in which the bull of San Lucas and the eagle of San Juan stand out on the crossing of two inscribed arches that also rest on a central columnite. Both animals are reproduced with great figurative realism, while in the rest of the image the influence of Arabic art is evident both in the vegetal decoration of columns, capitals and arches, of beautiful colorful in the form of flowers and leaves, and in the great effusion of the arches. In another folio it presents a relation of kings also framed by horseshoe arches on columns and decorated capitals, but this image was not colored.

In summary, we can consider the Hispalense Bible as the work of a scriptorium visigodo in which in the decoration and the form of arches and capitals, as well as in some uncials of the titles of the chapters there is already a clear influence of Cordovan art.


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