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Libro de Caballería Celestial (1544 book)

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El Libro de Caballería Celestial (English: The Book of the Celestial Cavalry or Celestial Chivalry) is a sixteenth-century Spanish-language libro de caballerías a lo divino, a book of allegorical religious stories taking the form of a chivalric romance, that is credited to Hierónimo de San Pedro (Jerónimo de Sampedro) and was dedicated to Pedro Luis Galceran de Borja, "Maestre de Montesa."[G] The book was originally released as two folios, both printed in 1544, the first, el Libro de Caballería Celestial del Pie de la Rosa Fragante ("The Root of the Fragrant Rose", or "The Foot of the Fragrant Rose-bush"), at Anveres (Antwerp) by Martín Nucio, and the second, la Segunda parte de la Caballería de las Hojas de la Rosa Fragante ("The Leaves of the Fragrant Rose"), at València by Joan Mey Flandro.

The content of the book, according to later commentators, is a clear refiguration of the Bible, the stories from Scripture having been updated and transformed into tales about knightly heroes engaged in holy quests. The first book is composed of romances based on the Old Testament, divided into maravillas ("wonders"); while the second is based on the New Testament, divided into leaves, and presents the life and acts of Jesus Christ, el Caballero del Leon ("Knight of the Lion"), with Saint John the Baptist as el Caballero del Desierto ("Knight of the Desert") and the Apostles as the Knights of the Round Table, in opposition to Satan, el Caballero de la Sierpe ("Knight of the Serpent").

The work was not well-received, ultimately being condemned by the Catholic Church and included in the index librorum prohibitorum ("Index of Prohibited Books") of the Sacred Congregation of the Roman Inquisition. There are few known copies of the first folio and it is unknown if there remain any of the second.

Sources

"The Celestial Chivalry" (Ticknor's History of Spanish Literature, 1849)

One of the oldest of [the religious romances] is probably the most curious and remarkable of the whole number. It is appropriately called "The Celestial Chivalry," and was written by Hierónimo de San Pedro, at Valencia, and printed in 1554, in two thin folio volumes. In his Preface, the author declares it to be his object to drive out of the world the profane books of chivalry; the mischief of which he illustrates by a reference to Dante's account of Francesca da Rimini. In pursuance of this purpose, the First Part is entitled "The Root of the Fragrant Rose"; which, in stead of chapters, is divided into "Wonders," Maravillas, and contains an allegorical version of the most striking stories in the Old Testament, down to the time of the good King Hezekiah, told as the adventures of a succession of knights-errant. The Second Part is divided, according to a similar conceit, into "The Leaves of the Rose"; and, beginning where the preceding one ends, comes down, with the same kind of knightly adventures, to the Saviour's death and ascension. The Third, which is promised under the name of "The Flower of the Rose," never appeared, nor is it now easy to understand where consistent materials could have been found for its composition; the Bible having been nearly exhausted in the two former parts. But we have enough without it.

Its most remarkable allegory, from the nature of its subject, relates to the Saviour, and fills seventy-four out of the one hundred and one "Leaves," or chapters, that constitute the Second Part. Christ is represented in it as the Knight of the Lion; his twelve Apostles, as the twelve Knights of his Round Table; John the Baptist, as the Knight of the Desert; and Lucifer, as the Knight of the Serpent;— the main history being a warfare between the Knight of the Lion and the Knight of the Serpent. It begins at the manger of Bethlehem, and ends on Mount Calvary, involving in its progress almost every detail of the Gospel history, and often using the very words of Scripture. Every thing, however, is forced into the forms of a strange and revolting allegory. Thus, for the temptation, the Saviour wears the shield of the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, and rides on the steed of Penitence, given to him by Adam. He then takes leave of his mother, the daughter of the Celestial Emperor, like a youthful knight going out to his first passage at arms, and proceeds to the waste and desert country, where he is sure to find adventures. On his approach, the Knight of the Desert prepares himself to do battle; but, perceiving who it is, humbles himself before his coming prince and master. The baptism of course follows; that is, the Knight of the Lion is received into the order of the Knighthood of Baptism, in the presence of an old man, who turns out to be the Anagogic Master, or the Interpreter of all Mysteries, and two women, one young and the other old. All three of them enter directly into a spirited discussion concerning the nature of the rite they have just witnessed. The old man speaks at large, and explains it as a heavenly allegory. The old woman, who proves to be Sinagoga, or the representation of Judaism, prefers the ancient ordinance provided by Abraham, and authorized, as she says, by "that celebrated Doctor, Moses," rather than this new rite of baptism. The younger woman replies, and defends the new institution. She is the Church Militant; and, the Knight of the Desert deciding the point in her favor, Sinagoga goes off full of anger, ending thus the first part of the action.

The great Anagogic Master, according to an understanding previously had with the Church Militant, now follows the Knight of the Lion to the desert, and there explains to him the true mystery and efficacy of Christian baptism. After this preparation, the Knight enters on his first adventure and battle with the Knight of the Serpent, which in all its details is represented as a duel,— one of the parties coming into the lists accompanied by Abel, Moses, and David, and the other by Cain, Goliath, and Haman. Each of the speeches recorded in the Evangelists is here made an arrow-shot or a sword-thrust; the scene on the pinnacle of the temple, and the promises made there, are brought in as far as their incongruous nature will permit; and then the whole of this part of the long romance is abruptly ended by the precipitate and disgraceful flight of the Knight of the Serpent.

This scene of the temptation, strange as it now seems to us, is, nevertheless, not an unfavorable specimen of the entire fiction. The allegory is almost everywhere quite as awkward and unmanageable as it is here, and often leads to equally painful and disgusting absurdities. On the other hand, we have occasionally proofs of an imagination that is not ungraceful; just as the formal and extravagant style in which it is written now and then gives token that its author was not insensible to the resources of a language he, in general, so much abuses.


"Libros de Caballerías a lo Divino" (de Gayangos's Libros de Caballerias, 1857)

CLASE IV. LIBROS DE CABALLERIAS A LO DIVINO.

CABALLERIA CELESTIAL. (Primera parte.) Libro de..... del Pie de la Rota Fragante, dedicado al illutrisimo y reverendísimo señor don Pedro Luys Galceran de Borja, Maestre de Montesa, etc. compuesto por Hyeronimo de Sanpedro. Anvers, en casa de Martin Nució, MDLIIII (1534).— 8.°, de 387 hojas.

CAUALLERIA CELESTIAL. (Segunda parte.) Segunda parte de la..... de las hojas de la rosa fragante. Valencia por Joan Mey Flandro, 1554, folio. Nicolás Antonio, en los Anónimos, cita este libro como en 8.°, siendo en folio, letra de Tórtis, á dos columnas, y por cierto una de las mejores edicioues salidas de las prensas de Mey, en el siglo XVI. No hemos logrado ver la primera, que tambien debio im primirse en Valencia y en el mismo tamaño, pues no es de supo ner que á la primera de Ambires en 8.° se agregase una segunda en folio.


  • Gayangos, Pascual de (1857) (in Spanish), Libros de Caballerias: Discurso Crítico y Catálogo Razonado, Madrid, p. 57-58 

El mas curioso y característico de estos es, á no dudarlo, el intitulado Caballería celestial, en dos partes; impresas en 1554, en Anvers la primera, la segunda en Valencia. Su autor, llamado Jerónimo Sanpedro,(3a) fué natural de esta ciudad, y dedicó su obra á don Pedro Luis Galceran de Borja, maestre de Montesa. En la epístola proemial al benévolo lector, dice que, hallándose tan estragado el gusto de aquellos tiempos en materia de lectura, las gentes dejaban la dulce y provechosa leccion de la Sagrada Escritura por la de libros profanos y á las costumbres perniciosos. Que conociendo cómo él mismo, ciego por ciegos guiado, iba cayendo en el atolladero de su engaño, dió vuelta sobre su pensamiento, y determinó escotar el tiempo gastado en vanas lecciones, empleando el que le quedaba en escribir historia verdadera. «Pero advirtiendo, añade, que los que tienen acostumbrado el apetito á las lecciones ya dichas no vernian desseosos al vanquete destas, aviendo de pasar de un extremo á otro, propuse les dar de comer la perdiz desta historia, alboroçada con el artificio de las que les solian caer en gusto, porque mas engolosinándose en ella, pierdan el sabor de las fingidas, y aborreciendolas, se ceven de esta, que no loes. Para que despues de este pasto, como suelen algunos padres recitar á sus hijos las patrañas de los caualleros de burlas, les cuenten y hagan leer las maravillas de los guerreros de veras donde hallaran trazada, no una Tabla Redonda, mas muchas; no una sola aventura, mas venturas diversas; y esto no por industria de Merlin ni de Urganda la Desconocida, mas por la divina sabiduría del verbo hijo de Dios. Tambien verán, no al maestro Elisabad, diestro en la corporal cirugía, pero muchos cirujanos acuchillados por la experiencia de su milicia, los quales con los ungüentos de su santo exemplo sanarán á los heridos sus espirituales heridas. Hallaran también, no uno solo Amadisde Gaula, mas muchos amadores de la verdad no creada; no un solo Tirante el Blanco, mas muchos tirantes al blanco de la gloria; no una Oriana ni una Carmesina, pero muchas santas y celebradas matronas, de las quales se podrá colegir exemplar y virtuosa erudición. Verán assi mesmo la viveza del anciano Alegorin, el sabio, y la sagacidad de Moraliza, la discreta donzella, los quales darán de sí dulce y provechosa plática, mostrando en muchos pasos desta Celestial caballería encumbrados misterios y altas ma ravillas, y no de un fingido cauallero de la Cruz, mas de un precioso Christo, que verdaderamente lo fue.»

El trozo que acabamos de copiar nos dispensa casi de dar razon de esta notable obra y analizar su contenido, puesto que en él la intencion de su autor se manifiesta bien á las claras. Está el libro dividido en ciento doce maravillas, ó sean capítulos, comenzando con la creacion del mundo, y concluyendo con los hechos de Ezequías y el anuncio profético de la venida del Salvador bajo el nombre figurado de Caballero del Leon; de manera que contiene, por decirlo asi, toda la historia sagrada del Viejo Testamento, puesta en estilo de la andante caballería y parodiando(1b) los libros de este género. Continuó Sanpedro su Caballería celestial del Pie de la Rosa Fragante, con otro libro no menos notable, intitulado Hojas de la Rosa, etc., que se imprimió en Valencia en 1554; prosiguiendo en el mismo estilo y forma, las historias del Nuevo Testamento,(2b) amenizando su narración con no despreciables versos, y valiéndose además para ello de sierpes, basiliscos, enanos, encantamientos y cuantos recursos imaginativos habían antes empleado los escritores de caballerías;(3b) pero algo debió encontrar en el texto la Inquisición, siempre vigilante y suspicaz, para que un libro de este género, impreso en España, mereciese, á pesar de las buenas intenciones de su autor, ser marcado al Indice expurgatorio.(4b)

  • (3a) Hieronym Sempere se llama este autor en otras obras suyas, y así debió escribir su nombre, siendo, co mo fué, valenciano; mas, castellanizados su nombre y apellido, como lo están en la Caballería celestial, resulta «Jerónimo Sampedro», y se comprueba que el autor de la Carolea y el de este libro de caballerías son uno mismo. Ni Fuster ni Ximeno tuvieron noticia de esta obra, que tambien desconoció Nicolás Antonio. Véase lo que ya dijimos en las notas al Ticknor, tomo i, pág. 524.
  • (1b) Estas parodias son muy comunes en nuestra literatura, como la Clara Diana, de Ponce (1584); el Boncan á lo divino, de Sebastian de Córdova (1577), y otras que podrían citarse.
  • (2b) La alegoría principal se refiere al Salvador y ocupa setenta y cuatro capítulos, de los ciento y uno que componen esta parte. En ella Jesucristo está representado bajo el disfraz y nombre de caballero del Leon; los doce apóstoles son los doce pares, ó los doce de la Tabla Redonda; san Juan se llama el Caballero del Desierto, y Lucifer el de la Sierpe. Puede verse el análisis de este extraño libro en Ticknor, tomo i, página 258.
  • (3b) El autor prometió otra tercera parte con el título de Flor de la Rosa, que no se llegó á imprimir. A imitacion de la Caballería celestial, se escribieron luego otros libros con el mismo fin laudable y con títulos bastante análogos, como son: La Caballería cristiana, de fray Jaime de Alcalá, impresa en Alcalá en 1570, y el Caballero de la Clara Estrella, Sevilla, 1580.
  • (4b) Véase el de 1667, á la pág. 863.


"Religious Romances" (Warren's A History of the Novel, 1895)

Lepolemo was content with giving a religious bent to genuine exploits of chivalry, and with the introduction of a few minor characters in clerical dress, but the religious romances which followed this pioneer, during the subsequent decades of the century, were more directly doctrinal. The earliest of them, and one of the best, appeared in 1554 at Antwerp, at that time under Spanish rule. It is called La Caballeria Celestial, and was written by a certain Hieronimo de San Pedro. In a letter to the reader the author states that the characters in his romance will not be Merlin, Urganda, Amadis, Tirante, Oriana, or Carmesina, but lovers of the truth and holy women. The subject of the book is taken from the Old Testament, and its contents are divided into "marvels" instead of into chapters. The narrative begins with the creation of the world and of a Round Table, occupied by both earthly and heavenly knights. Angels are naturally the members of the latter class. After the fall of one of them, Lucifer, Prince Adam is engaged in a war with the Knight of the Serpent. In this way the narrative goes on, setting before us various Scriptural events, until it reaches King Hezekiah, who finally conquers the Knight of the Serpent, and thereby ends the romance.

La Caballeria Celestial does not fall far short of an allegory, for besides the presentation of Biblical personages, and evil and good angels in the role of mediaeval champions, it contains two actual personifications, Allegory and Moralizing, whose office it is to point out the religious doctrine which each episode is intended to convey.

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