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First page of Latin translation of the Ascetical Homilies printed in Barcelona in 1497

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The Ascetical Homilies in Western Europe

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Saint Isaac the Syrian
and Christopher Columbus

In the 12th or 13th century, a selection of St. Isaac’s Homilies was translated from Greek into Latin, and from Latin into French, Portuguese, Catalan, Castilian, and Italian.

Queen Mary of Aragon owned two copies of the Catalan translation. Another copy was among the goods left to the Cathedral of Seville by Hernando Columbus, Christopher’s son.

The first Castilian translation was made by Bernando Buil, who accompanied Christopher Columbus on his second voyage to the New World in 1493. If he took along a copy of his translation, then the Ascetical Homilies was one of the first books brought to the New World, as The Ladder of Divine Ascent was the first book printed in the New World.

Shown at left is page one of Homily One of the first printed Latin edition of the Homilies, printed at Barcelona in 1497. This homily corresponds to Homily Four in our English edition.

Two copies of the 1497 printing are known to exist. One has been scanned and posted by the National Library of Catalonia here.

Pages 67–71 of our Introduction cover the recent research in some detail.

The image at left is reproduced by kind permission of the Biblioteca de Reserva (Universitat de Barcelona). All rights reserved. This image is licensed for use on this website only; further use of it is forbidden without the prior written permission of the Biblioteca de Reserva.

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