12.10.18, Guglielmetti, and Ricci, eds., Giusto d'Urgel, Explanatio in Cantica Canticorum

Main Article Content

Alberto Ferreiro

The Medieval Review 12.10.18

Guglielmetti, Rossana E. and Luigi G.G. Ricci. Giusto d'Urgell, Explanatio in Cantica Canticorum: Un vescovo esegeta nel regno visigoto. Per Verba, Testi mediolatini con traduzione, 27. Florence: Edizioni del Galluzzo per la Fondazione Ezio Franceschini, 2011. Pp. ccxxxii, 220. ISBN: 978-88-8450-361-9.

Reviewed by:
Alberto Ferreiro
Seattle Pacific University

After researching the Visigothic era for over thirty years some colleagues are quite surprised when I tell them that much research awaits on two fronts: archaeology, which continues to yield many new sites and literary texts that still require work at many levels. Insofar as literary texts, our present book is an ideal example. Justus of Urgell, even within Visigothic studies, has been a marginalized person. The expectation is that this volume will remedy this neglect. If one glances at the ongoing and extensive Brill bibliographies on the Visigothic era compiled by this reviewer the entries on Justus are few.

We have enough information to reproduce an adequate biographical sketch of the Bishop of Urgell. As far as we know, he was the first Bishop of Urgell in what is now the independent Catalán country of Andorra. Bishop Justus attended the Second Council of Toledo in 527. He also attended the First Council of Lleida in 546, and wrote and dedicated the Explanatio in Cantica Canticorum to Sergius, Archbishop of Tarragona. St. Isidore mentions him and his three brothers in his De viris illustribus (cap. 21). One of the brothers Simplicius, Bishop of Urgell, attended the Third Council of Toledo (589).

The main author, Rossana E. Gugliemetti obtained her doctorate in Medieval Latin philology whose research interests are in medieval biblical exegesis. Her previous research has been on the medieval commentaries of the Song of Songs of Gilbert of Stanford, Alcuin, and two anonymous authors. She has published several articles on the manuscript tradition of diverse authors. Her other major interests include the Policraticus of John of Salisbury, cataloging hagiography manuscripts of the Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana, and in progress a critical edition of the Navigatio s. Brendani.

The Explanatio in Cantica Canticorum of Justus of Urgel, as the preface of the book points out, is the first Christian exegesis of this Old Testament book. In the ensuing centuries other exegetical commentaries will appear in the Middle Ages, culminating with the masterful and most well-known spiritual commentary by Bernard of Clairvaux. Given the unique place that Justus' commentary has in the history of the Christian exegesis of this biblical book it is rather surprising how this work has managed to be ignored for so long by scholars of patristics and the history of biblical exegesis. This modern study is welcome and promises to fill a void in Iberian patristics of Visigothic Hispania. We anticipate that there will be translations and editions of this work in other modern languages and in the prestigious Corpus Christianorum.

The first part of the book by Rossana E. Guglielmetti, in a lengthy two-hundred and thirty-one pages, covers the essential background to the Explanatio in Cantica Canticorum. Part one, L'Autore, sets forth all of the information that we have about Justus, his family, other works, and his cult. Part two, Il Commento al Cantico del Cantici, concerns the structure of the work and an analysis of Justus' preface to the work. This is followed in the same section with an inventory of his patristic sources that are quite impressive: Origen, Hippolytus, Gregory of Nyssa, Nilus of Ankara, Theodore of Cyr, Gregory of Elvira, Ambrose, Augustine, Jerome, Philo-Epiphanius, and perhaps Apponius. It is rather revealing the extent that authors in Visigothic Hispania had access to the Greek and Latin Fathers. As in other cultural centers in Hispania, Gaul, and Italy much of the patristic and even Classical literary legacy not only survived, in some cases it thrived as some recent studies have eloquently argued. [1] The author moves on to explain Justus' exegesis of his work, which is consistent with the allegorical-typological approach most prevalent among the western Fathers. Section three, Tradizione e Fortuna Dell'Opera, fills in what has always been in my view most essential regarding the patristic writers of Hispania, their diffusion throughout the Middle Ages. Although some authors have received some attention--Martin of Braga and the ever-ubiquitous Isidore of Seville come to mind--the majority have not, and, in the case of Martin and Isidore, much still remains undone. Apparently an author such as Justus of Urgell did not go unnoticed or disappear from the cultural milieu of the Middle Ages. An impressive list of authors who directly or indirectly availed themselves of Justus' commentary is presented with specific citations. These could potentially be utilized to do more detailed scholarly studies. Among the authors we find are: Leander of Seville, Gregory the Great, Isidore of Seville, Bede, Sigfried of Corbie, Anonymous Vox ecclesiae, Beatus of Liébana, Alcuin, Theodore of Orleans, Claudius of Turin, Anonymous ms. Paris lat. 2673, and Anonymous Italian, and Giovanni of Sulmona. It would be unrealistic to expect from this study any more than it already offers; however, one other line of inquiry that readily comes to mind. Comparative analysis of Justus' commentary with those written after him into the late Middle Ages. Section four, La Genealogia della Tradizione, is a detailed apparatus of the manuscript tradition. This serves an important role in the actual edited text that follows in the second part of the book. Within are also two appendices; the first on the reading of the codices descripti and the second on the glosses in a manuscript identified as Bs.

The second main section by Luigi G. G. Ricci, La Lingua e lo Stile, takes the reader deeper into the linguistic and philological dimensions of the Explanatio in Cantica Canticorum, which attests to the thoroughness of analysis of the highest academic standards. The subsection, La Lingua, presents a complete inventory of Justus of Urgell in the Thesaurus linguae Latinae, an indispensable instrument for philologists of Latin. This is followed by the section, Lo Stile: Il Ritmo della Prosa di Giusto, which explores the metric and rhythmic prose of Justus. Two additional appendices accompany this section with two sub-sections entitled: Censimento di tutte le forme di clausole metric- quiantitative, ritmitco-accentautive...nell'opera di Giusto di Urgell and the other, Censimento di tutte le 490 clausole metric-quantitative nell'Explanatio di Giusto di Urgell. The introductory part closes with an extensive bibliography and a Conspectus Siglorum. The third section contains the new critical edition of the Explanatio in Cantica Canticorum that also includes extensive notes with commentary. Four indexes close out the volume: of ancient and medieval authors, modern personages and of scholars, place names, and manuscripts.

This reviewer renders homage to the authors of this magnificent edition of the Explanatio in Cantica Canticorum that has been so masterfully researched and presented in this volume. Scholars of the biblical exegesis of the Cantica Canticorum and of the Church Fathers in Hispania will have to give serious consideration to this work. Any future studies on Justus of Urgell and his commentary will be obligated to begin their work with this new splendidly executed critical edition.



1. See the study by Yitzhak Hen, Roman Barbarians: The Royal Court and Culture in the Early Medieval West. Palgrave-Macmillan, 2007 which builds upon the essential monograph, Pierre Riché, Education and Culture in the Barbarian West: From the Sixth to the Eighth Century. Trans. John J. Contreni. University of South Carolina Press, 1976.

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Author Biography

Alberto Ferreiro

Seattle Pacific University