September 15, 2016

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 ("Bloody Mary") 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 the monk Bernando Buil, who accompanied Christopher Columbus on his second voyage to the New World in 1493. On January 6, 1494 Buil conducted the first Mass held in the New World, in a temporary church on Haiti. 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 above 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.


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