Daily Life Depicted in the Cantigas de Santa Maria

Daily Life Depicted in the Cantigas de Santa Maria

John Esten Keller
Annette Grant Cash
Copyright Date: 1998
Pages: 120
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  • Book Info
    Daily Life Depicted in the Cantigas de Santa Maria
    Book Description:

    The hundreds of illuminated miniatures found in theCantigas de Santa Maria, sponsored by King Alfonso X (1252--84), reveal many vistas of daily life in thirteenth century Spain.

    No other source provides such an encyclopedic view of all classes of medieval European society, from kings and popes to the lowest peasants. Men and women are seen farming, hunting, on pilgrimage, watching bullfights, in gambling dens, making love, tending silkworms, eating, cooking, and writing poetry, to name only a few of the human activities represented here.

    Combining keen observation of detail with years of experience in the field, John Keller and Annette Grant Cash bring to life a world previously little explored.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-5909-6
    Subjects: Art & Art History, Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. ix-x)
    Kathleen Kulp-Hill

    TheCantigas de Santa Mariais a book about I miracles and a miraculous book. Inspired by I King Alfonso’s devotion to the Virgin Mary, it I extols her virtues through art, music, and poetry, which convey a rich composite of the life, culture, and thought of thirteenth-century Iberia. Encomiums abound when theCantigasare mentioned—the variety of its versifications, the richness of its musical repertoire, the vast collection of miracle tales, the lavishness of the miniatures—an awesome and overwhelming abundance. Yet underlying the exquisite artistry is a disarming simplicity. The language of the poems is straightforward and...

  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-5)

    Across millennia patrons of learning ordered artists to record elements of daily life in order to perpetuate these practices. The Caves of lAltamira, with the millennia-old cave paintings, the frescoes of Ancient Egypt, and theTrés Riches Heuresof Jean, Duke of Berry are excellent examples. Their reasons for such patronage are probably numerous, and Alfonso X, known as El Sabio (the Learned) (ruled 1252-84) had his own reasons to create a record of the daily life of his subjects on a scale never equaled in. Europe before his time, during it, or even until the present day. This record...

  6. Methodology
    (pp. 6-7)

    Since theCodice Rico,archived at the Escorial Palace, where Philip II placed it in the sixteenth I century, is the primary source of our investi-I gation of daily life in theCantigas de Santa Maria,Keller studied codex T.I.1 there. However, given the difficulties involved, we have been able to use, thanks to permission, the excellent facsimile edition of T.I.1 published by Edilán in 1979. We have never encountered a more perfect facsimile of any Spanish manuscript. The same does not hold true for F, the manuscript archived in Florence, but only as regards the original. Edilán’s facsimile of...

  7. 1 Classes and Masses
    (pp. 8-15)

    Beginning at the top of the social hierarchy, emperors and kings and queens, we may note that no medieval books concern themselves more intimately with the lives of their patrons than did Alfonso’sCantigas de Santa Maria.In Codex T.I.1 the Wise King is actually depicted in a variety of royal regalia and everyday dress in many miracles and in fifteen of the seventeencantigas de looror hymns of praise. He does not appear in numbers 60 and 180. Wherever the artists depicted him in theloores,he seems, as we have seen, to be playing the role of...

  8. 2 Clothing: Civil, Ecclesiastical, Military, Naval, and Constabulary
    (pp. 16-18)

    As mentioned in the introduction, we owe a great Ideal to the expert observations of Kathleen I Kulp-Hill concerning the clothing depicted in the miniatures. Referring to the work of Antonio H. de Oliveira Marques on daily life in Portugal and to Guerrero-Lovillo's treatment of attire in theCantigas(1949), she invokes her own very special knowledge, gleaned from years of studying the miniatures, giving suggestions and insights best conceived by a woman.

    We realized that pictorial representation of the garments of any culture reveals a great deal about social life. Kulp-Hill, in a paper read at the Kentucky Foreign...

  9. 3 Death
    (pp. 19-19)

    The miniatures in theCantigasdepict death in many forms, and this is not strange, since people encountered it constantly. Diseases, some hardly known today, flourished—leprosy, small pox, erysipelas, and plague, to name only a few; feuds, murders and very violent acts were commonplace; executions for many more crimes than are so punished today were public—hanging, stoning, burning, and defenestration carried off thousands; starvation was always a factor; wild animals killed people; and war, nearly always in progress somewhere, brought death to the eyes of thousands; even art in many forms portrayed the grisly deaths of saints and...

  10. 4 Disasters and Accidents
    (pp. 20-20)

    Disaster implies a great or sudden misfortune resulting in loss of life and property or one that is ruinous to an undertaking. Accident implies a happening that is unforeseen or unsuspected, or unintended. Since people of all classes and levels of society encountered natural and other disasters, some caused at work, Alfonso and his collaborators included miracles in which the Virgin saved people from the results of both disasters and accidents. Quite probably, such miracles came from hearsay, folk legends, and even from history.

    In F 79 (307) (pl. 12) when Mount Etna in Sicily erupted, killing many people and...

  11. 5 Education
    (pp. 21-21)

    Education was the obligation of the Church, although royalty, nobility, and the Church’s jown members, and occasionally the sons I (rarely the daughters) of rich burghers had private instruction.Cantiga4, 1 (pl. 13) depicts a cleric instructing a class of boys who sit on the floor. A Jewish lad learns with the Christians and is popular with them.

    This small facet of daily life reveals an unexpected custom, that race and religious faith could be overlooked by and with children. Please see the full discussion of thiscantigain chapter 1, the section titled “Commoners and Occupations,” where we...

  12. 6 Fauna and Flora
    (pp. 22-24)

    In illuminating theCantigas de Santa Maria,the artists naturally included domestic and wild animals in the settings of somecantigas,even though many times merely as a gratuitous addition, since they are not mentioned in either the captions or the text of thecantigaproper (Mâle 1972, 51). It is clear that the miniaturists often decorated their illustrations with animals and plants designed to provide attractive, realistic settings.

    InCantiga148, 5 (pl. 23), “How a knight escaped from the hands of his enemies because of a shift of Holy Mary’s he was wearing,” we see a village scene...

  13. 7 Food and Drink
    (pp. 25-26)

    The two codices, T.I.1 and F, visualize food and drink, primarily bread and wine. Bread, of course, then as now, was served at all meals, usually in the form of small round rolls divided into six sections. They appear at every place setting at the wedding banquet inCantiga42, 4 (pl. 50). In 84, 3, we see the same rolls, and in 52, 3 (pl. 6), the table is in a monastery with the ever present rolls, knives, and bowls. In 67, 5 and 6 (pl. 58), a more formal meal appears at a table set for important people,...

  14. 8 Furniture and Furnishings
    (pp. 27-28)

    Alarge proportion of the miniatures in T.I.1 and some in F contain illustrations of furniture in churches and private homes. Guerreroi Lovillo (1949, 286-315) illustrates and describes most of the objects we regard as furniture, both ecclesiastical and lay. Poets, scholars, and clergy often are seen seated in large chairs, with attached arms that are used as writing desks, as in T.I.1 2, 1, where Saint Ildefonso writes his book about the virginity of Saint Mary. Other examples appear in F 33, 1 (202). Armoires, usually seen open and filled with books haphazardly stacked, can be seen in many miniatures,...

  15. 9 Geographic Place Names
    (pp. 29-29)

    TheCantigascontain a great many geographical place names from Spain and from abroad. Many are places of such importance as to be I familiar to all classes of people; others might have been known to educated people in Alfonso’s realm. Some are illustrated with miniatures that identify them clearly, as, for example, 107, 2 (pl. 67), in which the aqueduct of Segovia is seen. The aqueduct is drawn with Moorish arches, which would indicate that the artists knew of its existence but had not seen it. Many illustrations include representations of castles, fortifications, monasteries, and convents, few of which...

  16. 10 Health and Cures and the Human Body
    (pp. 30-32)

    The primary concern in human life across millennia has been health, its preservation and cures to keep it intact. Medieval Spain was no exception, and since the medieval world lacked the wonders of modern medicine and surgery, faith in curative measures from divine intervention was highly significant. Of course Scripture’s miraculous cures were ever present in the medieval mind. Alfonso was mindful of this, as were his people of all classes, and everyone believed in divine intervention when health was in danger. Those who were exposed to hisCantigas de Santa Maria,through reading in public and possibly in dramatic...

  17. 11 Legal Matters
    (pp. 33-33)

    Alfonso X caused various legal documents to be I written. HisFuero Real,hisEspéculo de las leyes,I and theEspéculo’s expansion, resulting in theSiete Partidas,treat an incredible number of laws. In the miniatures of theCantigas,various facets of law appear. Representative of these are the following: in 62, 1, we see the drawing up of a contract. A woman in need of money pawns her son and cannot redeem him. We see the contract and the people lending her the money. When she cannot redeem him and appeals to the Virgin, the Virgin takes him...

  18. 12 Love, Lust, and Marriage
    (pp. 34-37)

    We know that people from the beginning of literature until the present have been more in terested in the sexual element of human life than in most other aspects. Out of sex, love developed on the higher plane and resulted in marriage; on the lower it became lust and led to casual affairs condemned by church and state, but all the same viewed with interest and even fascination. Lust enabled Gilgamesh to capture the virginal wild man as soon as he sampled the charms of the temple prostitute. We all are familiar with the lust of Samson for Delilah and...

  19. 13 Personages
    (pp. 38-38)

    Unexpected and surprising numbers of individuals or personages are mentioned in T.I.I, and F. Many well-known people play roles (see the I categories “Royalty” and “Nobility,” under “Classes and Masses,” in the appendix), among these Alfonso and his family, retinue, and friends. In the “Church Hierarchy” category appear members from the pope to the monks in monasteries.

    Herewith we treat a few examples in order to provide the reader with an impression of the wide variety of people who appear. Many are personages well known to history, leading us to believe that the educated populace, and even the common people,...

  20. 14 Pilgrimage
    (pp. 39-40)

    Pilgrimage in medieval Spain, from very early times, was popular and continuous, certainly by the ninth century, when the sepulchre of Saint James was active in attracting pilgrims (Castro 1954, 130ff). The saint’s shrine in Compostela drew countless pilgrims from much of medieval Europe and even some from scattered groups in North Africa and the Middle East. Chaucer even sent the worldly Wife of Bath to Jacobsland, as Spain was known in England, and many royal and important people made the pilgrimage from Paris along the Camino de Santiago, as do many to this day. As the patron saint of...

  21. 15 Places, Sites, and Locales
    (pp. 41-41)

    Miracles occur in a large number of places, all of which contribute in one way or another to depicting daily life. In 4, 4 (pi. 13), we see a glass furnace, a picture that clearly indicates how such a furnace appeared with its door opened and closed; 186, 2 (pl. 46), reveals anhorreo,a storage bin or granary mounted on four smooth columns to protect the contents from rodents. The Alfonsine representation closely resembleshorreosseen today in Asturias and Galicia. An open-air shop is seen in 9, 3 (pl. 5), with a customer on horseback buying an icon;...

  22. 16 Punishments
    (pp. 42-42)

    Literature, Scripture, and the visual arts represent many punishments, since punishments I offer interesting narrative segments. Some of I art’s most vital and famous works dwell upon Jesus on the Cross, the martyrdom of saints, and punishments for crimes and sins in the secular world; there are also many incidents of punishments inflicted upon private citizens by their enemies or lovers. Mankind has always been fascinated by punishments. Legal punishments in medieval Spain were often overly severe, cruel, horrible, and even macabre, and they are depicted in the miniatures of theCantigas.The miniatures sometimes portray punishments in foreign lands...

  23. 17 Recreation and Entertainment
    (pp. 43-44)

    not for nothing was Alfonso X known as El Sabio (the Learned). So conscious was he of the everyday needs of his subjects that in law 21 of his famousSiete Partidas(seven divisions of law) we read: “There are other joys besides those we spoke of in the laws prior to this one, which were found to give man comfort, when he had cares and woes, and these are hearing songs and the music of instruments, playing chess or backgammon or other games similar to these. We say the same regarding stories and romances and other books that speak...

  24. 18 Religion
    (pp. 45-45)

    This somewhat all-inclusive section contains so I many details that here we can relate only representative aspects of it, leaving the rest to the I appendix. Obviously, since most of thecantigasconcern religion, clerics, pilgrimages, and so forth, we have included some items and aspects of religious daily life in other sections; for example, when we list devils or angels in the appendix, we place them under “Supernatural Beings.”

    One of the Virgin’s greatest boons to her devotees was their resuscitation or the resuscitation of their family members. No more impressive miracle could be performed. InCantiga11 a...

  25. 19 Sins and Crimes
    (pp. 46-47)

    medieval society regarded as sin a great many more actions than we do today, for example, the seven deadly sins, which are not even crimes in modern society. Alfonso and his legists did not promulgate laws and punishments even for some of the “thou-shalt-nots” of the Decalogue. Covetousness was not a crime, but it was regarded as sinful in the eyes of God. Separation of church and state was not a problem in the Middle Ages. Therefore, church law and civil law often overlapped. Some sins were also crimes and certain crimes were sins: adultery was one of these, as...

  26. 20 Structures
    (pp. 48-48)

    The illustrations depict many cities and villages I in Spain, as well as in other lands and centuries. As Guerrero-Lovillo (1949, 227-65) so I cogently puts it, the depiction of cities is not exact and indeed follows a style nearly always only suggestive of what these cities actually looked like—crenelated walls, towers, barbicans, and so forth. Since there are so many backdrops of cities behind their walls, we do not list every one depicted in the miniatures. We believe the depiction of the Arreixaca section in Murcia is a good example of a city in 169, 1, with many...

  27. 21 The Supernatural: Angels, Devils, Spirits, and Souls
    (pp. 49-50)

    Throughout the miniatures the hosts of heaven I and of hell are constantly at war. The Virgin, I of course, is the primary foe of all forms of I evil and its advocates. The miniaturists depict both angels and devils, often in the same illustrations. Angels appear wearing albs, most are blond, and their wings are brightly colored. There are some truly exceptional wings, which often extend beyond the full body length of these spirits and are exquisitely represented. They shimmer, appear diaphanous, and seem truly celestial. So many of the heavenly host appear in the miniatures that to describe...

  28. 22 Thieves, Gamblers, Highwaymen, Counterfeiters, and Other Criminals
    (pp. 51-51)

    Criminals who exist today appear in theCantigas’s miniatures: in 9, 4 (pl. 5), we see highwaymen, who would have stolen from a monk I but for Saint Mary; in 45 a knight is a highwayman and a robber of monasteries; in 106, 1 (pl. 59), thieves on horseback steal cattle; in 13 a thief who always commends himself to Saint Mary is arrested and condemned to hang; she holds him as he hangs from the gallows.

    Gamblers figure frequently in theCantigas,and their portrayal in taverns and on the street enables us to see features of daily life...

  29. 23 Tools, Implements, and Weapons
    (pp. 52-52)

    We believe that the illustrations of items used by j medieval Spaniards, as seen in the miniatures of T.I.1, and F, provide exceptionally detailed depictions. Our index in the appendix is copious in this area, but even so, and in accord with our plan to describe how some of these items appear in the miniatures, we relate herewith some representative examples. Armor in a world in which warfare was almost constant is exceptionally well presented.Cantiga63 (pl. 60), in all six of its colorful panels, reveals armor worn by cavalry. The story is well worth telling. Panel 1, at...

  30. Illustrations
    (pp. None)
  31. 24 Travel
    (pp. 53-54)

    Travel There are no surprises as concern travel on land. Horses of various sorts appear frequently: knights in battle rode heavy war horses, known in France asdestriers.In 63, 3 and 4 (pl. 60) and in 129, 1 and 2, they are depicted wearing heavy leather body armor and protective head armor. Bridles and stirrups are also visible.

    Palfreys were ridden by male and female civilians, as well as by knights and clergy for travel, as in 121, 2. In 175A, 4 (pl. 45), constabularies ride another variety of equine after a youth accused of theft; in 107 (pl....

  32. 25 Violent Acts
    (pp. 55-57)

    The Middle Ages, as we all know, was a period of physical violence, especially with regard to punishments for crimes. TheCantigasminiatures contain many miracles in which violence is seen. Even divine punishments were often violent. In cantiga 138, “How they put out the eyes of Saint John the Golden Mouthed and he was exiled and removed from the patriarchate,” panel 1 shows pagans putting out the eyes of Saint John Chrysostom because he revered the Virgin. We see the saint clearly, stretched out on the ground as people gouge out his eyes. In panel 2, strangely enough, before...

  33. 26 War
    (pp. 58-58)

    From time immemorial Spain was never free I from warfare. In Alfonso’s thirteenth century, I war constantly beset his kingdom. The Mus-lims still held considerable portions of the Peninsula. Christians fought Muslims, and both Muslims and Christians fought against their coreligionists. Knights in armor, armies on the march, sieges, battles in progress, engines of war, and other objects and activities associated with war are depicted in many miniatures.

    In 28, 1, 3 (pl. 20), and 4, the artists depict a city under siege. Workers have pitched tents and are still doing so, allowing us to see tent stakes driven by...

  34. 27 Women and Children
    (pp. 59-61)

    The importance of women in T.I.1 and F is manifested in the number of miracles that deal with women as protagonists or as secondary characters. Of the 195cantigasin theCódice Rico,exclusive ofloores,44 treat women; of the 99, exclusive of loores, in F, 23 are concerned with women; that is, in toto 67cantigashave female characters, or a little more than one-fourth in the two illustrated manuscripts. We include in this section women of high and low degree, from an empress and a few queens, through the middle class and down to prostitutes and gamblers....

  35. Concluding Remarks
    (pp. 62-62)

    As we planned, researched, and wrote this volume, we believed that it could be valuable to I many scholars and to the general educated public interested in the medieval world. Having completed it, we found we had underestimated its impact. Scores of unexpected items, even some discoveries, came to light. The two codices are indeed a world of exceeding varieties of information. Who would have expected a crossbow to be used to extract a missile shot into a man’s face from another crossbow? Or that bullfighting, better called bull-baiting, would be carried out with all the human participants attacking the...

  36. Appendix: Index of Daily Life Categories in the Cantigas de Santa Maria
    (pp. 63-77)
  37. List of Plates
    (pp. 78-79)
  38. Selected Bibliography
    (pp. 80-84)
  39. Index of Front Matter
    (pp. 85-88)