Gonzalo de Berceo
Nationality: Spanish author
Region: Spain
Notable works: "Vida de San Millan"

Gonzalo de Berceo Facts

Biography

Gonzalo de Berceo, (born c. 1198, Berceo, Spain--died c. 1264), the first author of verse in Castilian Spanish whose name is known.

Berceo was a secular priest associated with the Monastery of San Millan de Cogolla in the Rioja, where he served as an administrator and notary. His works combined classical rhetorical style, popular poetic form, and the exhortative style of the sermon.

Berceo's subjects were religious topics--the lives of the saints, the Mass, and the miracles of the saints and the Virgin. He wrote in Castilian, a dialect which was then considered inferior to Galician-Portuguese, in order to bring religious learning to the common people. He used both Latin and folk sources and adhered consistently to the cuaderna via, a verse form of four-line stanzas, 14 syllables to the line, with each line broken by a caesura. In Vida de San Millan (c. 1234; "Life of Saint Millan"), Berceo promoted a local saint in order to encourage contributions to the monastery. Among his other works were Vida de Santa Oria (c. 1265; "Life of Saint Oria"), Milagros de Nuestra Senora (c. 1245-60; "Miracles of Our Lady"), and Sacrificio de la misa (c. 1237; "Sacrifice of the Mass").

Berceo's verse rarely reaches poetic heights but has simplicity and homely charm. Its clear and amusing rustic images contrast with the chivalric epics of the period and the author's own devout mysticism. It also sheds light on medieval thought and its development.

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