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Incipit epistola abbatis Johannis, ducis monachorum...




Incipit epistola abbatis Johannis, ducis monachorum de Raytu, ad admirabilem abbatem Johannem Montis Synay, cognominatum Scolasticum, novissime vero a conscriptore nominatum Climacum

Name of the Portuguese translation

Carta a São João Clímaco (pt.028)


João, Abbot of the Monastery of Raitu




Epistle addressed to Saint John Climacus by the abbot of Raitu, where it is revealed that it was this abbot who asked the saint to produce the work Escada Celestial. In it comes the reference to Jacob's ladder (Gen. 28: 10-22) and an analogy between the "tauoas spirituaaes" written by St. John Climacus on Mount Sinai and the tables of the Law that Moses received from God on the same Mount Sinai (Alkimim , 2007: 30; Martins, 1962b: 184-185).


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 may have been written in the Monastery of Raitu, where the author lived.

Extant testimonies

This letter appears in various manuscripts, as an appendix to the work Escada Celestial. From the Escada Celestial descend manuscripts written in various languages (Greek, Syrian, Arabic, Armenian, etc.), including Latin. The oldest complete Latin translation that is known dates from about 1300 and was made by a Franciscan friar named Ângelo Clareno. This translation has been kept in 51 manuscripts.

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).



RAITHVNI, Joannes (1864). Ad sanctum Joannem…. In: MIGNE, J. P. (org.). Patrologiae Graecae. Paris: J.-P. Migne Éd., Vol. 88, 623-626.

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

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. (1962a), O Livro do Pastor, Brotéria 75, 62-68.

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