Created under the direction of Alfonso X “El Sabio” (“The Wise”), King of Castile during the latter half of the 13th century, the Cantigas de Santa Maria was composed as an ode to the Virgin Mary and comprises four manuscripts containing over 400 monophonic songs called “cantigas.” The collection consists chiefly of narratives of the miracles of the Virgin Mary, interspersed by songs of praise. The miracle narratives are illustrated by illuminated miniatures, arranged in panels much like the comic books and graphic novels of today.
The Marta and Austin Weeks Music Library is pleased to have a full-color facsimile of one of these four manuscripts: the richly ornamented códice rico held at the Real Biblioteca de San Lorenzo de El Escorial. This impressive, leather-bound facsimile was produced in 1979 by the Madrid firm Edilán-Ars Libris. One of a limited edition of 2,000 copies, this facsimile is a highly-valued part of our collection and a testament to one of the greatest artistic achievements of the 13th century.
The Cantigas de Santa Maria will be on display in the lobby at Weeks Music Library through the end of August 2012.