Reading Ramon Llull

Cover of Libre del Orde de Cavaylería (‘Book of the Order of Chivalry’). Facsimile manuscript from the 15th century. J. Bedmar/Iberfoto. Photoaisa.

Here is a selection of eight texts of Ramon Llull, written in medieval Catalan and withthe original spelling. They are in chronological order. Each is accompanied by a briefcomment.

Llibre de contemplació en Déu

«Book of contemplation on God»

Originally written in Arabic between 1271 and 1274, the Llibre de contemplació shows a Ramon Llull full of strength and optimism in his forties. It is an ambitiouswork written in Mallorca, and has been described as an encyclopaedia or tableauof the Middle Ages for its comprehensiveness and colourfulness. The first twopassages correspond to the first distinction, which includes three chapters (out ofthe 365 that the book has), and is entitled «D’alegre». The disparaging referenceto jesters is in fact addressed to troubadours, to which Llull, however, must havefelt close to before his conversion when he was thirty.


Llibre de gentil e los tres savis

«Book of the Gentile and the Three Wise Men»

This book was first written in Arabic between 1274 and 1276 and then translatedinto Catalan. In it, three wise men (a Jew, a Muslim and a Christian) debate witha Gentile (non believer) who needs to say who is right. The singularity of theplot is that the three wise men return to their countries even more convinced oftheir own faith, while the reader finishes the book without knowing who isvictorious. In the passage reproduced, the author tells of his encounter, next to afountain, with a lady called “Philosophy of love”. Stands out the author’sdecided choice for the harmonic integration between love and reason in a“Living Art” in which science serves the good.


A vos, dona verge santa Maria

(Verses 1 to 20)

«To you, blessed Virgin Mary»

The Llibre d’amic e amat is a beautiful poem about mystical passionate love or rathercrazy (foll). It is integrated in the novel Blanquerna (1283), which tells the fictitious storyof the monk Blanquerna that becomes a Pope to finally give up his privileges to lead ahermit and contemplative life. Ramon Llull, in this poem of eastern echoes, uses alanguage where the “friend” is Blanquerna (actually himself), while the “beloved” is God.There are abundant references to suffering, loneliness, and metaphors of nature. Itconsists of 366 verses, with the idea that each one is used as prayer and reflexion forevery day of the year.

SOURCE: and AntoniArtigues (UIB).

Llibre de les bèsties

«Book of beasts»

«III. Of the treason the Fox tried against the king»

The Llibre de les bèsties (written between 1288 and 1289, probably in Paris) is a fable inwhich Ramon Llull uses animals to cast moral, social and political messages. It belongs tothe Llibre de meravelles or Fèlix. In the passage reproduced there is an elephant (Orifan),a snake (Serp), a rooster (Gall) and a fox (Renart); the latter plots a conspiracy againstthe king. The author draws a parallel between the existences of opposed groups ofanimals (carnivores versus herbivores) and the difficult entente between human groups(Christians against Saracens) of his time.

SOURCE: Bibilonet (Interactive guide of Catalan literature): El llibre de les bèsties de Ramon Llull.

Cant de Ramon


«Song of Ramon»

This selection of passages corresponds to the Cant de Ramon (1300), theautobiographical poem that he wrote in Mallorca at nearly seventy years old. In themwe can see the important aspects of his own life: the years of youth and the vision ofChrist crucified (first verse); a beautiful reference to the Mallorcan monastery ofMiramar, where he founded a school of eastern languages (second); the aim to convertthe Saracens, Tartars and Jews (third); the regret for his failures (forth and fifth); theconsideration of his own work as a “troubadour of books” (sixth); and a plea to God inwhich includes assets such as health, joy, freedom and good friends (last two verses).

SOURCE: Llull, Ramon. “Cant de Ramon”. General anthology of Catalan poetry. Barcelona.

Ed. 62, MOLC, 1979. (p.11-12-13)




Desconhort is an emotive autobiographic poem written in an uncertain date between1295 and 1305. It has 69 monorrima stanzas of 12 alexandrine verses each and it shouldbe sung to the rhythm of the Carolingian epic poem Berard de Montdidier. Reflects thegreat sadness that overwhelms the author, who feels he failed after more than thirtyyears of futilely chasing the support of popes and kings for his mission to convert the“infidels” by reasons of his Art. Formally it is a dialogue between a monk, in favour ofhermit life, and the author (Ramon) who, despite everything, tries not to becomediscouraged and suggests action again.

SOURCE: and AntoniArtigues (UIB).

Senyor Deus: pluja (89.11.a)

De Oracio (verses 694 to 732)

«Lord God: rain»

These verses are part of the long poem Del consilii (‘Of the Council’), written in themonth of October in 1311, shortly before the Council of Vienne (1311-1312), to which itrefers. Ramon Llull wrote it on the journey from Paris to Vienne (Vienne, Isère), southof Lyon, where he was going to attend the Conclave of the Catholic Church. In the textthe author asks God again and again for rain (pluja) «for evil to flee, because sin comesup». To the rhythm of the chorus, it is easy to imagine the slow pace of the horse andthe rain on the road.

SOURCE: Ed. Salvador Galmés: Ramon Llull, Rims, vol. II, Palma de Mallorca, Diputació Provincial de Balears, 1938, p. 255.


Ramon Llull quotations

«With rage, the will looses the freedom and the deliberation looses the understanding»

Messages about Ramon Llull

Ramon Llull left his family and mundane life in 1262 to devote himself with body and soul to the conversion of the “infidels”.

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