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Scala Paradisi




Scala Paradisi

Scala Coeli

Name of the Portuguese translation

Escada Celestial

Escada Espiritual

Escada do Paraíso (pt.025)


St. John Climacus or John the Scholastic or Sinaite (possibly Syria, VI century. - Mount Sinai, the beginning of the VII century).


Latin (the original is Greek)


Treatise divided into 30 parts. Each of them has a distinct reflection, which intends to help the monks to approach more and more of the divine perfection. The text is inspired by the biblical episode of the Ladder of Jacob (Gen. 28, 10-22). This work, written in Greek, may have been written at an advanced age of St. John Climacus, since in it we find innumerable accounts of the experiences of its author, who probably wanted to leave a record of the teachings that he taught to the monks of Monastery of Santa Catarina, on Mount Sinai, of which was abbot.


The original text is from the sixth or seventh century. The Latin translation from which eventually descends the Portuguese translation is from about 1300. The existing copy in Portugal, according to Martins (1961: 403), will have appeared around 1409.


The original text was possibly written at Mount Sinai. Following the thought of Martins (1962a: 62), the Latin translation of which can descend the Portuguese translation was probably carried out by Brother Angelo Clareno. This means it probably was written in Greece (during this monk’s exile) (See Almeida, 2005: 133).

Extant testimonies

There are about 33 manuscripts in Greek (kept in the Vatican Apostolic Library and in the library of the Monastery of Santa Catarina, Mount Sinai, Egypt) and several translations in Syrian, Arabic, Armenian, etc. Some excerpts in Latin dating from the eleventh century are known, so it is assumed that the first Latin translation is at the maximum of that time. However, the earliest complete Latin translation we know dates back to around 1300 and will have been made by a Franciscan friar named Ângelo Clareno. From this translation there are 51 manuscripts, which are found in Italy (17), Germany (8), France (9), Vatican (6), Belgium (4), England (2), Czech Republic (1), Croatia (1), The Netherlands (1), Spain (1) and Portugal (1). There are also 39 manuscripts written in Italian, one in English and one in Portuguese (Almeida, 2004: 265). Alkimim (2007: 19-24) presents other data, mentioning several Latin translations from which there are manuscript witnesses and printed editions and corresponding vernacular versions.

The existing Latin text in Portugal has, in addition to the Escada Celestial, the Livro do Pastor and is kept in the Codex Alcobacense CCLXI / 387. It contains the version of Ângelo Clareno, which was copied in Alcobaça about 1409 by Frei Martinho (Martins 1956: 274; Martins, 1962a: 62). According to Martins (1961: 407; 1962b: 181), similarities between the text of this codex and the Portuguese translation in the Codex Alcobacense 213 allow to think that the latter may derive from the Latin text, although it is not certain that this is its origin. In fact, some think that the Portuguese translation may have been made not from the Latin text, but from an Italian version of the same text (Almeida, 2005: 133 Alkimim, 2007: 19 n.30; 24-29).

In addition to this testimony, under the title Speculum Monachorum (Espelho dos Monges), the Codex Alcobacense 200 preserves, among folios 76v and 125, a partial testimony of the work. In fact, among the 76v-103v folios there are 20 chapters that coincide with chapters of the Escada Celestial, which served as the basis for the production of the text (Baldim, 1974, XXII, Alkimim, 2007: 24).



CLIMACVS, Joannes (1864). Scala Paradisi. In: MIGNE, J. P. (org.). Patrologiae Graecae. Paris: J.-P. Migne Éd., Vol. 88, 631-1164.

ALKIMIM, Ilma Magalhães (2007) Escada Celestial, de João Clímaco (Cód. Alc. 213): edição e estudo. Dissertação de Mestrado. Belo Horizonte: Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais.

ALMEIDA, Ana Cristina Rui (2004), Da Palestina à Europa: trajecto de um livro de formação monástica. Península – Revista de Estudos Ibéricos 1, 263-268.

ALMEIDA, Ana Cristina Rui (2005), “...E dali em diante soube perfeitamente falar o grego...” – um episódio na vida de Ângelo Clareno. MÁTHESIS 14, 129-136.

BALDIM, Agostinho (1974), Espelho dos monges : códice 200 dos códices alcobacenses da Biblioteca Nacional de Lisboa. Maringá: Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina.

MARTINS, M. (1956) A Biblioteca de Alcobaça e o seu fundo de livros espirituais. In Estudos de Literatura Medieval. Braga: Livraria Cruz.

MARTINS, M. (1961), A Escada Celestial em medievo-português. Brotéria 62.4, 402-415.

MARTINS, M. (1962) Vida de S. João do Monte Sinai por Daniel de Raitu. Brotéria 74.2, 179-186.

PLATHOW, M. (1992), Biographisch-Bibliographisches Kirchenlexicon. Verlag Traugott Bautz, Band III , s.v. “Johannes Klimakus”.