Vida de Santa Pelágia




Vida de Santa Pelágia

Vida de Sancta Pellagya

Vida de Santa Paia

Original Latin source

Vita Pelagiae

Vita Sanctae Pelagiae (lt.012)

Textual localization  

There are two copies with the translation:

- Manuscript 1: with about twenty different texts, it is entitled Colecção Mystica de Fr. Hylario da Lourinhãa, Monge Cisterciense de Alcobaça, o qual transcreveo o seguinte no idioma Portuguez (Códice Alcobacense 266).

- Manuscript 2: with about 12 texts, it is named 'Ascetic Treaties' (Códice Alcobacense 270).


Old Portuguese



Witness 1: At the beginning of the Códice Alcobacense 266 it is stated that the translator of the texts  was Frei Hilário (of which almost nothing is known, except that he came from Lourinhã and was a monk at the Monastery of Alcobaça - Castro et alii, 1982-83: 5), but this information does not seem reliable.  In fact, although paleographically the manuscript is dated to the fifteenth century, some of its texts have an older language and there are signs of at least three different scribes. According to Castro et alii (1982/83: 6), it is possible that the three have worked in the scriptorium of Alcobaça during the time D. Estêvão de Aguiar was the abbot of the Monastery (between 1431 and 1446) and that Frei Hilário had the responsibility to compile the texts and copy or translate some.

Witness 2: It is possible that the scribe was Frei Elói de Ferreira, probably the monk referred by Barbosa Machado in his Bibliotheca lusitana historica, critica, e cronológica (Vol. I, page 749). About this monk, we only know he was born in Ferreira do Alentejo and was a monk at the Monastery of Alcobaça. There, he wrote texts like Exercícios espirituaes’ and ‘Vida de Santa Maria Egypcíaca, e outros Santos’.

Translation’s contextualization  

The Códice Alcobacense 266, a manuscript from the fifteenth century, is a collection of lives of saints known by its eighteenth century title: Colecção Mystica de Fr. Hylario da Lourinhãa, Monge Cisterciense de Alcobaça, o qual transcreveo o seguinte no idioma Portuguez.

The Códice Alcobacense 270 is a manuscript of the fifteenth century that is a collection of lives of saints and other treaties which became known as ‘Tratados Ascéticos’. Originally, this collection had 12 texts, but today it only has only 11 (the first text, ‘Doze Mandamentos’ de Atanásio, and part of the second, entitled ‘Livro de Isaac’, are missing).


The dating of the Códice Alcobacense 266 is controversial, because there are significant differences in terms of the dates for which the researchers point out. Recent studies indicate that the dating of the codex is between 1431 and 1446. This does not mean, however, that this specific text has been produced at that time, although some researchers argue that the codex was the result of a unitary project and that, therefore, all texts were produced on the same period (see Sobral 1993: 673).

In what concerns the Códice Alcobacense 270, most researchers located the codex in the late fifteenth century, although some point to the fourteenth century.


Both witnesses have been translated/copied probably in the scriptorium of the Monastery of Alcobaça, where the manuscripts where they are inserted were made.

Changes to the original work


Hagiographic text about the life of Pelagia of Antioch, or Margaret, and her decision to change her life after hearing the sermon of a bishop called Nonnus. After being baptized and giving up her sinful life, she disappeared. Later, the narrator goes on pilgrimage to the Holy Land and meets a hermit monk, called Pelagius. When he dies, the narrator realizes he was actually Pelagia, who lived disguised as a man during all this time.

The witness 1 is a copy of a missing English translation. The witness 2 is based on the same translation, but shows the direct interference of the Latin version of Códice Alcobacense 283/454, which the copyist / translator also took into account (Duarte, 1993: 674).

List of manuscript witnesses


There are two witnesses of the text, in the National Library of Portugal.

Witness 1 is inserted between folios 74v and 82v of the manuscript with the reference ALC. 462 that comes from the Monastery of Alcobaça (Códice Alcobacense 266) and today belongs to the National Library of Portugal. There is a microfilm of the manuscript at the Torre do Tombo (Mf 185), its previous owner.

Witness 2 is inserted between folios 133v and 144r of the manuscript with the reference ALC. 461 that comes from the Monastery of Alcobaça (Códice Alcobacense 270). There is a microfilm of the manuscript at the Torre do Tombo (Mf. 366 cota antiga: Alc. 270; nova cota: Manuscritos da Livraria, nº 771, Casa Forte), its previous owner.

List of old editions

According to Duarte (1993: 674), there are subsequent versions of the Portuguese text, which come from the Vitae Patrum and the Historial of St. Antonino. There are also versions of Flos Sanctorum (see note) and another version in the work Historial das vidas e feitos heroicos, e obras dos santos, of Frei Diogo do Rosário (1567).

Witnesses’ contextualization 

The two Portuguese witnesses seem to have a common model, as they contain the same mistake: Nonnus is presented as the bishop of Antioch but that would not be possible, because in the same narrative he was summoned to a meeting with the bishop of Antioch. Besides, on other versions he is considered the bishop of Heliopolis. This led researchers to believe the translator made a mistake and that the two Portuguese texts are copies from the version containing the error (Duarte, 1993: 675). According to Nunes (1917: 183) and Sobral (1993: 672), it is likely that the archetype from which the two witnesses descended is a copy of a Latin translation of the ninth century made at the request of Charles the Bald, by Paul Deacon of Naples. This archetype is lost but was translated into Portuguese between the thirteenth and the fourteenth Centuries. The two Portuguese extant copies are:

-    Witness 1: a text in Códice Alcobacense 266, now in the National Library of Portugal (ALC. 462).

-    Witness 2: a copy of the second half of the fifteenth century in Códice Alcobacense 270, also in the National Library of Portugal (ALC. 461). The copyist of this witness probably consulted the Latin version of the text, in Códice Alcobacense 283/454 (Duarte, 1993: 674).

Other data

Witness 1: text in Códice Alcobacense 266, now in the National Library of Portugal (ALC. 462). The manuscript is on parchment and it is written in Gothic characters from the late fourteenth century or beginning of the fifteenth century in a single column of 30 lines. The initials are colored and decorated with filigree. The leaves have the size of 263 × 180 mm. The previous owners were Torre do Tombo and the Monastery of Alcobaça.


Witness 2: text of the second half of the fifteenth century in Códice Alcobacense 270, also in the National Library of Portugal (ALC. 461). The manuscript consists of 151 folios (only 148 are known) on parchment (58 folios) and paper (90 folios) with the size of 208 x 135 mm. There are no ornamentations. It was written in Gothic cursive black letter probably by two hands (Cambraia, 2001: 8-9) and it is considered a copy of the late fifteenth century. The previous owners were Torre do Tombo and the Monastery of Alcobaça.   



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NUNES, J. J. (1907), "Textos antigos portugueses III. [Vida de Santa Pelagia]", Revista Lusitana 10, 179-190.

OLSEN, B. Munk (1984), "La 'Vida de Santa Pelágia': une traduction portugaise médiévale et son modèle latin". In Pélagie la pénitente: métamorphoses d'une legende. Paris: Études Augustiniennes, 2, 243-277.

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Online database:


Testemunho 1: Texid 1085; Manid 1143; CNum 1074

Testemunho 2: Texid 1085; Manid 1141; CNum 1104

Testemunho 3: Texid 1085; Manid 1153; CNum 2088



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DUARTE, L. F. (1993), "Vida de Santa Pelágia". In Lanciani, Giulia e Tavani, Giuseppe (dir.), Dicionário da Literatura Medieval Galega e Portuguesa. Lisboa: Caminho, 674-675.

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There are two translated texts that apparently derive not from the Latin text, but from a Portuguese copy, belonging to Portuguese versions of Flos Sanctorum:

-  One is in the National Library of Portugal (Ho flos sanctõ[rum] em lingoaje[m] p[or]tugue[s]), with the reference RES. 157. This work comes from the Spanish version of Leyenda Aurea of Jacopo de Voragine and the life of St. Pelagia is between the folios 148v and 149r. This book was printed in 1513 in Lisbon by Hermão de Campos, who compiles more than two hundred texts. It has about three hundred folios (some are missing and others are damaged) illuminated and written in Gothic on paper in two columns and is bound in parchment. The leaves have a size of 263 x 200 mm. Previously, the work belonged to Dom João de Melo Manuel da Câmara Medeiros, Conde da Silvã and Francisco de Melo Manuel da Câmara (Cabrinha).


-  The other is in the Central Library of the University of Brasilia (Divisão de Coleções Especiais: 182 - Olim; Cofre [sem cota]) and has about three dozen texts (lives of saints and small moral treatises). This is a fourteenth or fifteenth century copy probably from an unknown Portuguese witness (Smith et alii 2009: 199) and it records saint Pelagia’s life between folios 17v, 14r-v and 1r- 3r. This book has 81 folios in parchment with leaves with the size of 330 x 223 mm with two columns of 36 lines, and is written in Gothic. The manuscript belonged to Jorge de Faria and Serafim da Silva Neto and was acquired in 1964. In the National Library of Portugal there is a modern copy of this manuscript concerning the folios 62r-82v (Mss 211, n. 1).