"El Cantar de Liébana", the world of the Blessed

This is the recommended reading of the fifth novel by José María Pérez González, known as Peridis. His new title is called "El cantar de Liébana".

Yolanda Cagigas-April 1, 2023-Reading time: 3 minutes
Blessed books

(Unsplash / Jonas Jacobsson)

José María Pérez González, better known as Peridisis an architect, cartoonist, disseminator of cultural heritage and writer. In addition to the vignettes he publishes in "El País" Since the foundation of this newspaper, he has collaborated in the program "Aquí la Tierra" on TVE and in "A vivir que son dos días" on Cadena Ser. Also on TVE he directed and presented the documentary "Las claves del románico".

"Song of Liébana" is his fifth novel. "In 2014 he won the Alfonso X el Sabio Historical Novel Prize with "Esperando al rey". In 2016 he published "The curse of Queen Leonor." and in 2018 he completed his "Trilogy of the Reconquest"." with "La reina sin reino". In 2020 she received the Primavera Novel Prize for "El corazón con que vivo".

The germ of this new novel was the proclamation of the opening ceremony of the lebaniego holy year of 2017 that Peridis pronounced. He was invited to do so, not only because of his knowledge of the Middle Ages, but also because of his origin in Liébana. The author was born in Cabezón de Liébana, where he lived his first three years and many of his summers, vacations "that ended on September 14, the day of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. On that day they would go up to Santo Toribio on pilgrimage to adore the lignum cruciskissing on their knees the largest fragment of the cross of Christ".

Peridis intends to "make true the maxim of teaching by delighting", and what he wants to show us is the world of the blessed. For Humberto Eco, "the blessed are the most prodigious iconographic creations in the history of Western art". A sign of their importance is that, in April 2016, the "Beato de Valcavado" was selected as one of the fifteen most important artistic works in Spain by the Europeana project.

A plot in Spain

In the 8th century, Elipando, archbishop of Toledo, then under the rule of the Emirate of Cordoba, defended and propagated the heresy of adoptionism, which denied the divine nature of Jesus Christ.

Beato was a wise priest who, fleeing from Elipando, took refuge in the Picos de Europa in the ancient monastery of San Marín de Turieno (today Santo Toribio de Liébana), where he undertook the struggle against the heresy of the Archbishop of Toledo and his followers. To do so, he dedicated himself to writing an illustrated work with commentaries on the Fathers of the Church, called "Commentaries on the Apocalypse".

This work acquired fame already during Beato's lifetime, so copies of the "Commentaries" began to be made, first in the scriptorium In fact, "after the Bible, Beatus is the most copied book in the whole of the Middle Ages". All these copies are called beatus and thirty-one are preserved throughout the world. 

At one point, the characters in this novel by Peridis visit the Historical Library of the University of Valladolid in the Santa Cruz Palace, where the "Beato de Valcavado" is kept, one of the richest and most complete copies of the beatos. It is a Mozarabic style codex, made on parchment, with 87 miniatures of very intense colorations.

Present and past

In the novel, the author intertwines the history and vicissitudes of Beato in his time, with the life -in our days- of Eulalia, a sexagenarian, a recent widow who enjoys a good position, who to fill the emptiness of her days signs up for a seminar on the Blessed at the University of Valladolid. There she will meet the nice Tiqui, a young alternative and the eccentric Don Crisógono, the professor who transmits his wisdom with passion and challenges his students to visit Cantabria and discover some blessed.

With a very careful writing and nice illustrations, Peridis achieves his desires: "to make true the maxim of teaching by delighting". Convinced that "fiction, when approached from documents and facts to places, is the genre that best allows us to get closer to the characters and their circumstances, makes us feel identified with them and live their lives as if it were our own".

The author pays homage to Beato, to the era and to the Cantabrian landscapes, a few months before the 74th Jubilee Year of Lebania begins on April 16, 2023.

The authorYolanda Cagigas

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