Galicia: its Story in the World: some outstanding pieces

Galicia, un relato no mundo [Galicia: its Story in the World] is structured around the myths, stories, memories and the lives of Galicians in different periods and geographic contexts.

From the foundational myths of Galicia to the flowering of the mediaeval lyric, from Ireland to Rome, we highlight here just some of the more than 300 pieces that make up the essential story of this exhibition [*]:

The Book of Invasions (Book of Leinster) | Trinity College, Dublín

[1st time in Galicia]

The Lebor Gabála Érenn, or Book of Invasions, is part of the Book of Leinster, one of the most important compilations of mediaeval Irish literature. This work includes the first known mention of Breogán, the mythical leader who saw Ireland for the first time from the lighthouse at Brigantium. 

Centuries later, through the work of the historian Manuel Murguía in the 19th century, the legend of Breogán became incorporated into the cultural tradition and identity of Galicia; so much so, that its national anthem calls it the “Home of Breogán”. The Book of Invasions will leave Ireland for the first time, where it is in the collection of Trinity College, Dublin, to be exhibited in  Galicia, un relato no mundo

Sawley Map | Parker Library, Corpus Christi College, Cambridge

[1st time in Galicia]

The Sawley Map reveals the knowledge of the Kingdom of Galicia in Europe in the 12th century: the period known as the “Compostela Era”, a time of a notable cultural, economic and institutional flourishing of the kingdom. Dating back to 1190, and thus contemporary with the Portico of Glory, the map highlights Santiago Cathedral as the most important building in Europe, depicting it as even bigger than Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome. It is one of the first European maps of the world and is considered the oldest encyclopaedic map preserved in the British Isles.

Codex Calixtinus (Liber Sancti Iacobi) | Vatican Apostolic Library and General History Library of Salamanca

In the 12th century copies began to be made in Compostela of the Codex Calixtinus, with the aim of propagating the worship of Santiago and the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela throughout Europe. It extended to major devotional and intellectual centres of the period across the continent. The copies of the Liber Sancti Iacobi in the Vatican and Salamanca, which take the Codex in Santiago de Compostela as a model, are two of the only three illuminated copies of the Codex Calixtinus, apart from the original. They allow us to see graphic details that are lost in the version in Santiago, such as the face of the Emperor Charlemagne.

Cancioneiro da Vaticana (The Vatican Songbook) | Vatican Apostolic Library

[1st time in Galicia]

The Vatican Songbook is, together with the Ajuda Songbook and the Cancioneiro of the National Library of Portugal, one of the collections that preserves Galician-Portuguese mediaeval songs. It was compiled at a period of particular cultural, economic and political splendour of the 12th-century Compostela Era. It is a work of exceptional symbolic value for our culture, but also for the European literary tradition. Portuguese song, together with poetry in the langue d’oc (spoken in Occitania, southern France) and the langue d’oïl (northern France) were the first literary expressions in a Romance language on the continent.

Codex Aretinus, the Journey of Egeria | Arezzo Library (Italy)

[1st time in Galicia]

Egeria, a Gallaecian-Roman aristocrat, was the first female writer known on the Iberian Peninsula, and a representative of the small number of women in late antiquity who undertook the pilgrimage from West to East, moved by piety and the curiosity to discover the world of the Bible.

The manuscript of Egeria’s Journey forms part of the Codex Aretinus 405, which has gone through numerous editions and translations across the world, and is one of the most valuable sources for learning about the spirituality of late Antiquity and the role of women at the time.

Guerreiro de Lesenho (the Lesenho warrior) | Museu Nacional de Arqueologia de Portugal

A key piece for understanding the Iron Age in the north-west of the Iberian Peninsula, thanks to its iconographic wealth. In statues of Gallaecian warriors, the caetra (shield) is the most visible and important element of the panoply of armour and is always represented from the front. It is the first symbol of the peninsular north-west, identifiable as such, that represents the north-west of Iberia in Rome in the early period of the conquest.