See How the Codex Calixtinus Inspired a Pilgrimage Site

The Codex Calixtinus consists of five books, from the 12th century, about the apostle Saint James and the pilgrimage to his shrine at the Santiago de Compostela Cathedral in Spain.

Liber Sancti Jacobi 1 (1326)UNESCO Memory of the World

The Codex Calixtinus

The Codex Calixtinus, also known as the Book of Saint James and Liber Sancti Jacobi, consists of five books compiled between 1138-1173 about the apostle Saint James and the pilgrimage to his shrine at the Santiago de Compostela Cathedral in Spain.

Santiago de Compostela, Galicia, Spain

Salamanca, 3 (12th century)UNESCO Memory of the World

Named After Pope Calixtus II

It’s known as Codex Calixtinus (Compostellanus) as it was attributed to Pope Calixtus II and is considered the oldest and most complete version of his work.

Spain, Santiago de Compostela Cathedral, low angle view (2007-01-12) by Andrew GunnersGetty Images

The Codex Calixtinus promoted the cult of Saint James, Camino de Santiago as a Christian pilgrimage route, and Compostela in Christendom. It provided background details for pilgrims traveling to the shrine of the apostle, located in the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia Spain.

Liber Sancti Jacobi (1325)UNESCO Memory of the World

The Codex is structured in five books and a series of musical appendices. It includes masses, prayers, and sermons associated with Saint James and the tales of miracles, and Saint James and Charlemagne. There are descriptions of the pilgrimage route travel tips and polyphonic musical pieces.

Incipit epta beati calixti pape (12th century)UNESCO Memory of the World

Book I: Book of the Liturgies

Book I contains masses, prayers, sermons, blessings, and homilies concerning the worship of Saint James, including the Veneranda Dies sermon which is part of the feast day celebrations for Saint James on July 25th. It also discusses the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela.

Lib 1. Cap 1 (12th century)UNESCO Memory of the World

Book II: Book of the Miracles

Book II is hagiographic (writings of the lives of saints) and lists 22 miracles attributed to St. James between 1100-1110 in different parts of the world. They were intended to strengthen the pilgrims' faith in the apostle and to encourage them to take a road which was not free

Salamanca, 4 (12th century)UNESCO Memory of the World

Book III: Transfer of the Body to Santiago

Book III describes moving Saint James' body from Jerusalem, where he was beheaded, to his tomb in Galicia and related difficulties. It also tells of the first pilgrims gathering souvenir sea shells from Galicia. The scallop shell is a symbol for Saint James.

Apostolus Karolo Magno apparuit (Codex Calixtinus, Liber III) (12th century)UNESCO Memory of the World

Book IV: The History of Charlemagne and Roland

Book IV describes Charlemagne coming to Spain, his defeat in battle, and how Saint James appeared in his dreams and urged him to liberate his tomb. Saint James showed him the direction by the route of the Milky Way, also known as Camino de Santiago.

Liber peregrinorum (Codex Calixtinus, Liber V) (12th century)UNESCO Memory of the World

Book V: A Guide for the Traveler

Book V is known as a “Pilgrim’s Guide” and provides practical advice for pilgrims traveling to Santiago de Compostela. It includes listings and descriptions of places to visit, transport available for crossing rivers, food to avoid, drinking water points, scams to be wary of, etc. It’s considered to be the world’s first travel guide.

Con gaudeant catholici (Codex Calixtinus, Appendix) (12th century)UNESCO Memory of the World

Music of the Codex Calixtinus

Its musical texts include early examples of polyphony. “Let All Catholics Rejoice Together” (“Congaudeant Catholici”) is the first known composition for three voices in the Europe. “Dum Pater Familias,” the hymn of the pilgrims, was popular in the Middle Ages and is still famous today.

“Congaudeant catholici (Let all Catholics rejoice together)” Medieval chant from the Codex Calixtinus. 

“Dum Pater Familias” Medieval chant from the Codex Calixtinus.

Pilgrim´s monument (1993)Regional Government of Galicia

Christian Pilgrim Destination

In the 11th-12th centuries the Santiago de Compostela gained greater popularity than any other pilgrimage destination, such as Rome or Jerusalem. It was more accessible and affordable and became the popular with all people from peasants and merchant up to kings in the Middle Ages.

Apostolus Karolo Magno apparuit (Codex Calixtinus, Liber III) (12th century)UNESCO Memory of the World

Why Did People Take Pilgrimages During the Middle Ages?

In these very pious times, the relics of saint and the temples they were held in wielded an enormous attraction in their ability to: connect with the divine, transfer gifts and spirits, work miracles, and to atone for sins.

John Paul II in Santiago de Compostela (1982)Regional Government of Galicia

The Codex Calixtinus Today

Today the Codex retains a special symbolic value for the city of Santiago de Compostela and for cities linked to the pilgrimage routes to Santiago de Compostela. The temple of Saint James and the Cathedral of Compostela are Christian holy places, along with Jerusalem and Rome.

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