Biography of Ramón Menéndez Pidal (1869-1968)

Philologist and Spanish historian, born in La Coruna on March 13, 1869 and died in Madrid on November 14, 1968.

Asturian parents, was the fifth of their children. During his childhood and youth, follows in the footsteps of his father, judge, by different Spanish cities: Oviedo, Valladolid and Albacete, where begin high school, as well as Madrid and the final destination of the father in Burgos, where he/she died in 1880. In 1883, the family moved to Madrid, where they receive the support and protection of cousins of his mother, Luis and Alejandro Pidal and Mon, second Marquis of Pidal this last. In Madrid, he/she decided to study philosophy and letters, rather than by imperative family, is he/she obliged to study law at the same time. During his career, he/she had great importance in which would be further development of his work the discovery of the work of Milá y Fontanals heroic poetry popular castellana which showed a much more rigorous method and scientist that which prevailed in the Madrid University of hand's brilliant but superficial professors as Sánchez Moguel, with whose narrow-mindedness was tripping the young researcher in his early years. They are the years in which discovers in the Ateneo library books that, like the romance of Federico Díez s grammar or grammar of Meyer-Lübke, were unknown or despised in college but who discover him the comparatism as a research method and the fruits that, in the study of language and Spanish literature, had already given the hand of many researchers from all over Europeespecially German, in both. Meanwhile, our linguistic studies remained in the hands of fans and the University remained in a State of almost dying languor.

Single breath from inside of academia will come hand Marcelino Menéndez y Pelayo was student incidentally during the Bachelor's degree, although it was not until the years of PhD when you lock a deeper knowledge which would have considered his final teacher. However, method both differed substantially in the point of view, every time that, front of the Santander exacerbated hispanism, Menéndez Pidal will be supported a broader view than the previous civil approach.

In 1892, he/she received his doctorate with a work on the sources of El Conde Lucanor which never met him since he/she was to carry it out almost without direction, every time that Sánchez Moguel barely paid attention. It was a work used as the basis for further investigations, every time, when I thought to rewrite it, already oblivious to the surveillance of Sánchez Moguel, the Royal Academy convened already in 1893, a prize to the best study on the Cantar de Mio Cid, award was presented to and where he/she was winner with a work which has not yet reached to publish in its original state and keptApparently, at the Academy. However, no doubt material including that initial study was used as magna research base that would take place in later years about singing. The influence of the works of Gaston Paris and Leite de Vasconcellos, showing you a longer perspective than the one used previously in Spain will be essential in the preparation of this study. Meanwhile, he/she manages to work as a civil servant in the General direction of teaching that allows you to help her family financially. In 1893 Menéndez y Pelayo opens the doors of its library of Santander, where invited him to investigate. This will consolidate the friendship between the two. In these years, participates in the school of higher studies of with some conferences madrileño Ateneo on the origins of the Spanish language that earned him harsh and unfair criticisms of Clarin, faced politically with Menéndez Pidal family, especially with his brother Juan, representative in Oviedo of the ultramontanists characters who criticized in La Regenta.

In 1896 the first study sees the light: the legend of the seven infants of Lara, who will receive the award for the talents of the Academy of history, and in 1898 the following year catalog of the General Spain Chronicles, an attempt to establish a genealogical tree of fifty-four texts of the Chronicle of Alfonso. In 1898, although expanded in the new edition of 1917, is also the anthology of Castilian prose writers, which was a publishing success unprecedented, given the lack of publications of this type in Spain, and the first contribution of the young researcher to a foreign magazine: Revue Hispanique, newly founded in Paris, to which it contributes to the article "The poem of the Cid and general accounts of Spain". Also it was 1898 date of the inaugural palaeographic the Cantar de Mio Cid. These follow in 1899, his notes to the Ballad of count Fernán González, which extends the study of ballads and begins his work on the legend of the origins of Castile.

During those years, he/she begins to treat María Goyri, young philologist that will marry in 1900, moving away from the direction in which sought to impose his uncle Alejandro, who was preparing her wedding with a wealthy heiress and wanted to make him the intellectual of the conservative party in the shadow of Menéndez y Pelayo. Their marriage will be born three children: Ramon, died in 1908 in the Villa de El Paular (Madrid), Gonzalo and Jimena. The young researcher's little attachment to worldly life, as well as his vision unrelated to exaggerated nationalism of the Conservatives, set aside political paths through which his family had moved. At the time, its flexibility of ideas allowed him to maintain long and deep friendship with Unamuno, so distant from him in character and formation as in working method. In 1899, he/she obtained the Chair of Philology compared (Latin and Spanish) at the Central University of Madrid, and in 1902, he/she entered the Academy, institution of which he/she was director in 1925 and 1947, after being away from it in 1939. In the same 1902, the discovery of a new manuscript of the poem from Yucuf takes you to make an edit that improves the previous Morf and Schmitz and, with his usual modesty, he/she decided to subtitle "Materials for study".

The Board was created in 1907, para Ampliación de Estudios e Investigaciones Científicas provided means to many researchers from the most varied of the human sciences branches. It was part since its Constitution (first with range of vocal and, from 1910 until 1930, as Vice President) as well as from the center of historical studies, created in 1910 or body Board, from which it would boost all branches of Philology as well as history and its related disciplines. Both agencies would allow complete to master his teaching and create a school-wide. From the beginning, Menéndez Pidal combined directions from the Centre and the Philology section. The first lines of research of the new body were Dialectology, phonetics and the necessary documentation for the study of the medieval language, prior to the 16th literature and that of the golden age, with special attention to the ballads and the theater. In 1914, he/she began to publish within the Center the Revista de Filología Española, which work together, from the first numbers, Gili Gaya, Sánchez Cantón, Américo Castro, Tomás Navarro and García Solalinde, as well as Mexico's Alfonso Reyes, one of the first foreign students from the Center. For twenty-three years, was Menendez Pidal visible magazine head, rather than not working to fund your organization, absorbed by an as wide as important research work. However, your participation will be active and constant in the magazine, as shown in the series of articles published between 1914 and 1916 under the title of folk poetry and ballads.

In 1912, he/she joined the Academy of history, although it will not read the speech until 1916. There are years of tireless work and international recognition; the decade between 1904 to 1914 consolidates the figure of Menéndez Pidal as the visible head of the Philology after deaths of Rufino José Cuervo, Menéndez Pelayo, Lenz and Hanssen. Thus, honors as the appointed Commissioner of the King in the border conflict between Peru and Ecuador in 1904 or the custom of head section of philology of culture magazine, published between 1906 and 1909. In 1913 he/she was appointed Special Advisor to the Ministry of public instruction, honor to which accompany, in the same year, the Medal of silver of the Hispanic Society of New York (to go to the United States for giving several lectures at Johns Hopkins and Columbia universities including the read and published in French L' épopée castillane à travers la Littérature espagnole) and the reception at the Accademia dei Lincei of Rome. In 1914 the Center published the facsimile edition of the Cancionero de Romances printed in Antwerp between 1547 and 1549. In addition, during the second world war, visit twice Paris, within a Commission of Spanish intellectuals who supported the Allied cause.

In 1919, at the age of fifty, he/she was elected President of the Ateneo madrileño and in 1925, on the occasion of their twenty-five years as a Professor, Center of historical studies provided a tribute in which participated more than 130 linguists and philologists from all over the world. In 1927, he/she suffered a detached retina in the right eye that will force him to rest and make him lose sight in that eye. Result of such blindness is the new flower of old Romances (1928), compilation which has resulted in the first approach to ballads to entire generations of students until the start of collections as those of Di Stefano, Alvar or Díaz Roig, prepared with more modern criteria.

Until 1936, its prestige does not but grow: from historical studies Centre runs numerous works and it is creating school and granted him numerous honors. Also its brave open letter to Primo de Rivera, signed and posted in solo on the occasion of the closing of the University of Madrid in 1929, resulted it in many sympathies. In the same way, his confrontation with Rovira, supporter of a federal Republic, Catalan end, took who considered him as a possible candidate for the Presidency of the Republic, bid rejected, as well as the Act of Deputy that was offered. Political activity had been reduced to that of a private citizen that intervenes with its opinion in matters of State when these affect their professional work. That it will intervene, on the other hand, in the creation of the international Menéndez y Pelayo University, which will be Secretary his disciple Pedro Salinas. Also, will chair the Board of cultural relations, the Ministry of State. At the time, he/she continues his research work and prepares reprints of works already exhausted and backward as the original the legend of the seven infants of Lara, who sees the light in 1934. The outbreak of the civil war found him in Madrid, where he/she remained until he/she gets permission to travel to Bordeaux with his family. From there, after occupying a Chair for two months, it accepts the invitation of the University of Havana to pronounce a series of conferences to occupy the Chair of history of the Spanish language. In 1937, he/she moved to Columbia, always saddened by the Spanish and always keen to avoid both sides, situation which led him to formally break with the Republican cause. In 1938, is in Paris, where resumed his research at the library of the Sorbonne.

After the war, returns to Madrid, where they will receive unequal treatment, to be submitted to the Court of policy responsibility and away from the direction of the Academy until 1947 for refusing to perform the oath at the Institute of Spain which forced all academics. With very different attitude, the Academy's history helped him pursuant to the proceedings as vexatious as unpleasant for the already elderly research. The last thirty years of his life were spent working tireless in his house in Chamartin, seat nowadays of the seminar Menéndez Pidal, directed by his grandson Diego Catalán, where he/she received visits from colleagues and students. However, slights he/she received as the suspension by ruling, in 1947, the Act in which he/she was going to name a favorite son of La Coruña or attacks that was object, including one particularly sañudo Professor Entrambasaguas, by their low political orthodoxy and its tendency to reconciliation, palpable in the abundant correspondence with Américo Castrothat they contradict with facts as the publication run by the CSIC of seven volumes of studies dedicated to Menendez Pidal, who saw the light between 1950 and 1962 as a tribute on eighty. In recent years, must confront, in addition, the death of disciples as Amado Alonso, his wife, who died in 1954 and his son-in-law, Miguel Catalán, who died suddenly in 1956. In 1965, he/she suffers a thrombosis which leaves him half paralyzed, rather than conscious, and that will never recover completely. He/She died at his home in Madrid on November 14, 1968.


The figure reached one sufficient international relief to get out of its decline to the Spanish Philology. In this regard, Menéndez Pidal, aided only by the library of the Ateneo madrileño and the indirect Magisterium of Milá y Fontanals, introduced the comparatism in Spanish, current College which was a complete unknown among us still at the end of the 19th. Until the end of his days, his cosmopolitanism, result of our investigations, was constant in his work.

His method was characterized by rigor in the systematization of data and the search for a style that would allow easy communication, remote both drying scientific Milà and Fontanals and philologists as Gayangos, Cotarelo or the own Menéndez y Pelayo rhetorical excess. However, its main merit was the establish a work that continues to serve as the basis for subsequent research that extend it, correct or clarify, overcome already the white legend that, as noted by Malkiel, the figure of don Ramon enveloped precluding any criticism or retouching to a work that was considered less than sacred point. On the contrary, recent years have known a fashion to discredit the work of Menéndez Pidal, even by those who allegadas, drank in the sources by which seems to refer to the heat of investigations like those mentioned Samuel Arminstead or Francisco Márquez Villanueva by system.

From his early work, the figure of Menéndez Pidal stands out for the fact of melting characteristics and the knowledge the paleographer, historian and philologist in disciplines such as etymology, metrics, toponymy and historical grammar. However, has been criticized him excessive attachment to a number of issues, rather than such criticism prescinds from the constant support provided to numerous disciples who worked in areas outside of its own research line. As a teacher, his critical work is characterized by the rejection of dogmatism and destructive criticism, which encouraged many researchers to embark on ambitious projects that would take body in new lines of research. In its wake such outstanding figures in the field of Philology as disparate, are proof of the flexibility of Menéndez Pidal in treatment. Are researchers of the stature of Tomás Navarro Tomás, Federico of Onís (two early disciples Center), Américo Castro (which maintained steady correspondence until his last days and whose presence añoró from this exile), Amado Alonso, Antonio García Solalinde, Dámaso Alonso, Pedro Salinas, Samuel Gili-Gaya, Rafael Lapesa, Juan Corominas, Vicente García de Diego, Marcel Bataillon or Miguel Asín Palacios, among many others. Likewise, within his own family, his grandson Diego Catalán and his nephew Álvaro Galmés de Fuentes are among the disciples of the great researcher. On the other hand, through his work and beyond his death, his figure advises the method of current researchers from the likes of Samuel G. Arminstead, which has come to demonstrate many of the assumptions that Menéndez Pidal should be limited to indicate, such as the relationship between the epic and the Germanic ballad and the Spanish.

Similarly, it is necessary to take into account their contributions to fields which still today we know little, as it is that of the Chronicles which has advanced little since its already almost century-old works, indolence which, obviously, cannot be loaded in your account, but in the later generations. From its early general Chronicles of Spain (1898), sponsored by the Royal House, following by the first edition of the Estoria de Alfonso Spain, at which Menéndez Pidal gave the inaccurate but explanatory title of first chronic General of Spain, who commanded compose Alfonso el Sabio and continued under Sancho IV in 1289, published in 1906, and which tried to give a text the most approximate the original of a work almost completely unknown to the now, despite his conscience be task that would require revision and correction. Accordingly, work was said the first to be published by the seminary Menéndez Pidal in 1955, within his habit of correcting and updating the jobs that were left behind.

However, the best-known of the pidalianos studies is the set of works dedicated to the Cantar de Mio Cid and, in general, to the Spanish epic. In them poses for the epic a popular, similar to the Germanic ballads, origin identified with the ballads, which would have resulted in the composition of songs news near the narrated facts that would have remained in the memory of the people through the recitation, as Menéndez Pidal called "latency". This latency, had key role the minstrels, which spread these songs and infused them with his peculiar style, suited to memory recitation, given the insufficient dissemination of her writing. The text would remain, therefore, in the collective memory, well that not a static form, but with each reader's own variants which, on the other hand, should not become distorted the basis of the story. This gave each recitation a unique character and, necessarily, ephemeral. Subsequently, songs were set in writing well by its intrinsic importance, thus the Cantar de Mio Cid, well considered appropriate material for the writing of Chronicles, which are frequently prosificaban fragments of songs without even conceal the assonances. Menéndez Pidal that led to two conclusions of very different character: the historicity of songs, very questionable today, and the antiquity of the epic and Romance literatures with it, which would go up much further back in time of showing the preserved texts.

These texts, on the other hand, wouldn't be but exceptions of what was a primarily oral literary universe that has only partially reached us. Against the theory of collective and traditional, several voices (singularly of Bedier) defended the existence of a cult author who produced the poem probably in the heat of concrete social circumstances, usually related to the economic needs of the monasteries. The issue of the single author, defended in recent times by Colin Smith with both boldness and lack of scientific basis, on the other hand, has the problem of scarcity and dispersion of texts (common in the study of times of origins) that prevent a personal and unique authorship certification. By tora part, can be blamed to the pidaliana theory an excess in the reconstruction of songs from romance and prosificaciones that would, also by the scarce and scattered texts, beyond what is permissible scientifically speaking.

Within the work of Menéndez Pidal can be distinguished three facets: Linguistics, of analysis and textual reconstruction and the literary and cultural-historical. In the strictly linguistic aspect, his masterpieces are the origins of the Spanish. State linguistic of the Peninsula until the 11th century (expanded in 1950 1925), first part of a history of the Spanish language that worked for years and that was left, finally, unfinished, which publish large number of texts about the early days of our language, from the own glosses, which accompanied by a detailed analysis of the linguistic evidence that provide such texts, and the elemental Manual of Spanish historical grammar (1904, expanded in subsequent editions until the 1940 and since the sixth known as Manual of historical grammar), which systematizes first the elements that constitute the language Spanish from a historical point of view, that all of them reveal his method and the definitive separation of modern philology with respect to the bombastic and rhetorical style of the masters of the 19ththat it was still last in the work of other researchers. Other works that affect the same field are the initial "Notes on the spoken bable in the Council of Lena", article published in 1899 which opens the very long list of books, articles and communications that would until 1965; Linguistic documents of Spain, I: Kingdom of Castile (1919), collection that would be assisted for successive deliveries by Navarro Tomás in relating to the Kingdom of Aragon; Pre-Indo-European toponymy in Celtiberia (1950); Hispanic pre-Romanesque toponymy (1952-53), the dialect Lions (1906, republished and updated in 1962), as well as several volumes that collect less extensive work, like those who integrate the Spanish language in its earliest stages or the language of Cristóbal Colón, both from 1942; Studies of Linguistics or around the Basque language (1962).

Within the second aspect, the one dedicated to the analysis and interpretation of texts, is necessary to quote his seminal work on the Cantar de Mio Cid (1908-1911), enlargement of the winner by the Academy, which known successive revisions throughout the life of the scholar and whose study includes a worthy to be compared with the works already mentioned language section in the first place. Above are the legend of the seven infants of Lara (1896), his first Studio, followed by editions of the dispute of the soul and the body, and the Auto de los Reyes Magos (both in 1900); Yucuf poem (1902); the reason for love (1905); Spanish ballads (1910); the aforementioned Flor Nueva of old Romances (1928); Three primitive poets. Elena and María, Roncesvalles, polymetric Trojan history (1948), of whom Roncesvalles and Elena and María had already occupied it in articles published in the Revista de Filología Española; Anthology of Spanish prose writers (1899 and 1928); Chrestomathy of the medieval Spanish (1965-66), posted during his last illness and in equipment, from the materials close friends by don Ramon, led by Rafael Lapesa or by the call first General Chronicle (1955), first publication of seminar Menéndez Pidal.

Finally, the third aspect are studies as El Cantar del Cid, Castilian epic through Spanish literature (1910), jugglery poetry and minstrels (1924), which meant an important step forward in the field of comparative literature and which received a new title in its sixth edition (1957): jugglery poetry and origins of Romance literatures; History and epic (1934), La Spain del Cid (1929); Cervantes and Lope de Vega; Arabic poetry and European poetry; Early lyrical Spanish and ancient epic; Spaniards in the literature; The Catholic monarchs and other studies; Imperial idea of Carlos V, without doubt one of the weaker and less fortunate of the great researcher who was Menendez Pidal, while one of the works that have most hurt their image; The Hispanic Empire and the five kingdoms; two times of the political structure of Spain (1950), work that is not at the level of the best of the author where he/she was studying the time of Alfonso VII as an attempt to restore the old Leonese Empire and keep the unity of the Hispanic community. The work was severely criticized by Vicens-Vives. Back is the "Chanson de Roland" and the neotradicionalismo; origins of the Romanesque epic (1959), late but excellent testimony of his tireless work and his critical lucidity showing the Romanesque perspective that always lit his work, even in times as little inclined to internationalism within Spain, and its firmness against the attacks of the bedieristas, supporters of individual authorship of the epic poems. He/She devoted, likewise, Menéndez Pidal several studies to the figure of Padre Las Casas, such as El Padre Las Casas (1962), padre Las Casas; his double personality (1963) or the Padre Las Casas and Vitoria.

Other studies of interest are the Catholic Kings and other studies (1962); Spain, link between Christianity and Islam, and a long etcetera which are, moreover, numerous articles and lectures published throughout his life. On the historical side, Menéndez Pidal is inclined to the study of historical type against almost despised, aesthetic concerns in their work on the Cantar de Mio Cid.

Ramón Menéndez Pidal, original voice.

[Excerpt from the future of the Spanish language, extracted from "The file of word" from the center of historical studies, edited by the students residence]

In addition to his brilliant career as a scholar, as historian Menéndez Pidal began in 1927 the history of Spain, an ambitious project whose purpose was to 'make the history of a people, rather than heroes, Kings or battles'. The ambitious collection suffered several interruptions and Menéndez Pidal came only to see published twelve volumes, from 1935 until his death. Led since 1975 by José María Jover Zamora, finally this collective work, which worked more than four hundred authors, closed in 2004 with the publication of the last three volumes. In total, the history of Spain consists of fifty thousand pages and has twenty thousand illustrations.


ALONSO, Dámaso; Menéndez Pidal and the generation of 98; Madrid, graphic Benzal, 1969.

MALKIEL, Yakov; "It was essential omne..." in Romance Philology, XXXIII, 4, 1970, pp. 371-411.

PEÑALVER CASTILLO, Manuel, the school of Menéndez Pidal and Hispanic linguistic historiography; Almería, Almería 1995 University.

Joaquin PEREZ VILLANUEVA; Ramón Menéndez Pidal: his life and his time; Madrid, Espasa-Calpe, 1991.

Gerardo Fernández San Emeterio.