Turismo Prerrománico > LIBRO DE LOS TESTAMENTOS


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To D. Agustín Hevia, Archivist of the Cathedral of Oviedo for his attention during a visit to the Holy Chamber and for providing us with the images of the Book of Thesramentos that we include in this page.

Notas Previas

  • Reference: Archivo de la Catedral Metropolitana de Oviedo.
  • Other names: Liber Testamentorum.
  • Dimensions: 364 X 240mm.
  • 113 folios of parchment in Visigoth script, written in two columns per page.
  • 17 miniatures, marginal decorations and illuminated initials.



Entorno histórico

From the reign of Alfonso II the Chaste, Oviedo became not only the capital of the new Asturian kingdom, but also the most important religious center of Christian Spain. In its Cathedral were accumulated the most significant treasures of the monarchy and the church, such as the crosses of Los Angeles and Victory, the Box of Agates, the relics of the Holy Chamber and the most important documents generated in the court, as the Testament of Alfonso II among many others.

When the court moved to León in 910, Oviedo lost much of its political importance, but kept El Obispo Martín.its relevance as the spiritual center of the new Leonese monarchy, preserving both the treasures and the relics and the documents that guaranteed it.

However at the end of the 11th century its independence was in danger given the growing importance of Leon as the capital of the kingdom, of Santiago de Compostela as the spiritual center of Christianity, and that which was acquiring the newly reconquered Toledo, that it remained the primal seat of the Spanish church, and in which its new archbishop, Bernardo de Cluny, the greatest representative of the Gregorian and Cluniac current that was sweeping away the traditional structures of the Spanish church, tried to make the Oviedo headquarters become suffragan of that of Toledo.

At that time the Asturian see was directed by Bishop Pelayo (1098-1130), a person of great transcendence who, in addition to directing the preparation of his Corpus Pelagianus, in which he gathered all the previous chronicles, completing them until his time with his own chronicle, faced with the risk that Bernard of Cluny represented and to legally guarantee the properties of the Asturian church, decided to copy all the documents that justified the large properties of its headquarters, basically donations, exemptions, privileges and other legal documents, grouping them in a single cartulary that would demonstrate their age and importance.

This cartulary was created in the scriptorium of the Cathedral of Oviedo between 1109 and 1112, at the beginning of the reign of doña Urraca (1109-1126), although it seems that the images are somewhat later. It contemplates all donations to the Cathedral of Oviedo since its construction in the time of Alfonso II the Chaste. to those of the queen, which were subsequently added. It seems that it was copied by Bishop Pelayo himself and his subdeacon Pelagius, who would also be the author of the miniatures.

The manuscript has since been kept in the Archive of the Cathedral of Oviedo, where it is preserved today.


The Book of Testaments is the diplomatic codexAlfonso II el Casto. It is considered to be the most interesting 12th-century Spanish manuscript preserved. It consists of documents dated between 812 and 1118 and structured chronologically by monarchs, including a full-page image of each king, although those of Ferdinand I and Alfonso VI have been lost. After each effigy is added the copy of all the official documents of that reign that imply donations or privileges of any kind to the Cathedral of San Salvador de Oviedo throughout the reign, including images, although smaller, of other important characters of that period. El hecho de que por primera vez en España aparezcan imágenes en un cartulario de este tipo, y la calidad de las mismas, evidencian la importancia política que dio el obispo Pelayo al manuscrito, destinado a asegurar los privilegios de su sede, a la vez que marca la pauta de otros cartularios creados por motivos semejantes, como el Tumbo A de Santiago de Compostela y el Libro de las Estampas de León.

With regard to the content of its texts, although interpolations and misinformation have been detected that have led many authors to suggest that their reliability was very low because they seemed to indicate that the changes in this manuscript were only intended to demonstrate the importance of the Ovetense site, the latest research, verifying the texts with other documents of the time that are also preserved in the Archive of the Cathedral of Oviedo, seems to indicate that, although there is some error in the transcript, there was no intention to distort the contents and that most interpolations already existed in the Alfonso III el Magno y su mujer, doña Jimena, con un obispo. original documents and were copied with the rest of their contents to produce an exact copy of it, as was usual at that time.

But it is his images that give a special significance to the Book of Testaments. They integrate the best traditions of the Mozarabic miniature that were reflected in the Blessed of Ferdinand I and Sancha, with the monumental sense of Romanesque painting, creating stylized figures of solemn grandeur, with much softer tones than usual in the previous Mozarabic miniature, albeit with a profusion of gold, and drawings based on clean vertical strokes, presenting great thoroughness in the representation of the garments, in which an interesting variety of clothing is offered in Christian Spain of that time, without influences from the Eastern world. Also the faces express a great concentration, fully integrated in a formal setting of Romanesque solemnity, with the characters surrounded by complex architectures whose most significant example is the portrait of Alfonso II the Chaste, depicted at the bottom of the page worshipping a Christ Pantocrator, surrounded by evangelists and other characters who appear inside an imposing arcade at the top.

It is interesting to note that in this codex, following the example of the Book of Hours of Ferdinand I, in which for the first time we find the portrait of the queen, doña Sancha, accompanying the king, also appear portraits of the different queens, associated with that of the corresponding monarch, obviously except in the case of King Chaste, for obvious reasons. In addition, they are depicted in a situation at least as relevant as that of the monarch, accompanying him at the time of the delivery of the will to the bishop and surrounded in some cases by personages in his service.

The fact that this cartulary was not continued from the moment in which doña Urraca guaranteed the privileges of the seat of Oviedo evidences the eminently political objective that motivated its preparation.



Historia de España de Menéndez Pidal: Tomos VI y VII*
L’Art Préroman Hispanique: ZODIAQUE
Arte y Arquitectura española 500/1250: Joaquín Yarza


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