Mediaeval chronicles offer an insight into the most important aspects concerning the Kingdom of León.

Biblio-de-San-Isidoro.-Leon-Sampiro’s Chronicle

It is thought that Sampiro was a cleric who served as a notary to Bermudo II from 990, and was later bishop of Astorga from 1035 to 1041. Sampiro’s Chronicle relates events between 866, when Alfonso III acceded to the throne, and the coronation of Alfonso V in 999. The Chronicle is very concise, and covers the period contemporary to the author’s own life.

Silos Chronicle

Named thus because it is attributed to the Monastery of Silos, the Chronicle was written at the beginning of the 12th century and recounts the history of the Kingdom of Asturias and the origins of Navarra. Exhaustive detail is provided concerning the reign of Fernando I, whilst the reign of Alfonso VI is omitted. The author held a good opinion of Urraca, the daughter of Fernando I, and his detailed knowledge of León would seem to indicate that he was a native of the city.

The Chronicle of the bishop Pelagius of Oviedo

Pelagius of Oviedo wrote his Chronicle at some time after 1130. It covers the period from the coronation of Bermudo II in 984 to the death of Alfonso VI in 1109. The Chronicle is noteworthy for its lack of historical rigour, and contains much unsubstantiated information whilst evidencing a dearth of relevant content.

The Compostela History biblio-San-Isidoro

This Chronicle, the work of several authors, dates from the first half of the 12th century, and was commissioned by the archbishop of Compostela, Diego Gelmírez. Narrating events up to the year 1139, the Chronicle comprises three books, the last of which is unfinished. In general, it relates episodes of a primarily religious nature, but in doing so also cites political figures and historical events such as naval battles with pirates. Despite its principally religious focus, it nevertheless provides valuable information concerning daily life and the institutions of the period.

The Book of Saint James, or Codex Calixtinus

Comprising five books, this manuscript principally refers to the Church and the apostle Saint James, including the transfer of his remains. Replete with fables, the authors were clearly well-versed in all matters relating to the Saint James’ Way. Perhaps the most important book is the last, attributed to Aimery Picaud, which gives details of the routes, the people, the lands and the rivers along the Saint James’ Way, and includes a description of Compostela and the basilica. This work is considered the first guide to be written for pilgrims.

The Iria Chronicle

Written around 1120, this Chronicle relates the history of the Church from the time of the withdrawal of the Vandals to Africa until the times of Bermudo II, and focuses on the See of Iria from its foundation, and on the history of Galicia. Of no great relevance as regards political history, it frequently resorts to imagination in the absence of historical facts.

The Anonymous Chronicles of Sahagún

This Chronicle was written in two parts:

  • The first was written by a monk in 1117, the year in which the chronicle closes. It praises the martyrs, saints Facundus and Primitivus, and provides a brief historical introduction before focusing on Alfonso VI, Urraca and Alfonso I the Warrior, giving an exhaustive description of the latter’s quarrels with the monasteries.
  • The second part was written by a different monk, and recounts events between 1237 and 1255. Whilst not very objective, it nevertheless contains some information of interest.

biblioSan-Isidoro-The Chronicle of Alfonso VII the Emperor

Written by a high-ranking member of the clergy and a contemporary of Alfonso VII, the author was a devotee of all things related to León. The Chronicle focuses on the life of Alfonso VII, his coronation and his conquests, although it also refers to other kings and nobles. In conclusion, this Chronicle was written by a contemporary and reflects ideas of the period rather than simply listing chronological events; consequently, it is of great interest as regards the study of Alfonso VII.

The Nájera Chronicle

Also known as the León Chronicle (Crónica Leonesa) or the Miscellaneous Chronicle (Crónica Miscelánea), it owes its name to the plethora of allusions to Nájera, and was written between 1160 and the end of the 12th century. Composed of three books, it attempts to provide a history from the Creation to the death of Alfonso VI, focusing above all on Sancho III the Great, Fernando I, Sancho II and Alfonso VI.

The Chronicle of the World

Written by Lucas de Tuy, canon of the Basilica of San Isidoro, this Chronicle has a distinctly León bias and comprises four books covering the whole of history from the beginnings of time to the conquest of Cordoba in 1236 by Fernando I. It focuses on the reigns of Fernando II, Alfonso IX and Fernando III.

Other sources of interest include:

The Annals, The First General Chronicle, Other General Chronicles, Praises and History of Zamora and The Honorable Crossing.


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