Hispaniae Descriptio

In Canto XII of Paradise, when Dante and Beatrice meet the wise spirits of the sky of the Sun, we encounter a long and passionate panegyric of Saint Dominic of Guzmán, delivered by the great Franciscan Bonaventura da Bagnoregio. At this point Dante remembers the small Spanish village of Caleruega near Burgos, by him Italianised into Calaroga, place where Saint Dominic was born. To better identify the location, Dante briefly dwells upon the geographic description of the place, situated on that part of the Iberian peninsula where the Zephyr is born, the spring wind that awakens vegetation in the whole of Europe. A location not far from the Atlantic coast, a place where the sun sets behind the waves, after its long journey across the day.

Dante also points out that Caleruega is in the land ruled by the King of Castile on whose shield there are two castles and two lions: on the left side of the shield the lion yields to the castle while, on the right, it is the castle which yields to the animal.

Here you find the relevant verses (Par., XII, 46-57) in Dante’s original setting, ensued by the Spanish translation by Angel Crespo. Follows the English version of Allen Mandelbaum. Below can be seen the picture of the King of Castile’s shield.

In quella parte ove surge ad aprire
Zefiro dolce le novelle fronde
di che si vede Europa rivestire,
non molto lungi al percuoter de l’onde
dietro a le quali, per la lunga foga,
lo sol talvolta ad ogne uom si nasconde,
siede la fortunata Calaroga
sotto la protezion del grande scudo
in che soggiace il leone e soggioga:
dentro vi nacque l’amoroso drudo
de la fede cristiana, il santo atleta
benigno a’ suoi e a’ nemici crudo; 

Y donde se alza el céfiro que, blando,
hace abrirse y crecer las nuevas frondas
con las que Europa vase engalanando,
no muy lejos del golpe de las ondas
a las que el sol, tras larga fuga, llega
y esconde en ellas sus guedejas blondas,
se encuentra la dichosa Caleruega
bajo la protección del gran escudo
en que el mismo león manda y se pliega.
Nació allí el que se ató con fuerte nudo
de amor al cristianismo, el santo atleta
dulce a los suyos y al contrario crudo.

In that part of the West where gentle zephyr
rises to open those new leaves in which
Europe appears reclothed, not far from where,
behind the waves that beat upon the coast,
the sun, grown weary from its lengthy course,
at times conceals itself from all men’s eyes
there, Calaroga, blessed by fortune, sits
under the aegis of the mighty shield
on which the lion loses and prevails.
Within its walls was born the loving vassal
of Christian faith, the holy athlete, one
kind to his own and harsh to enemies.