One of the most precious manuscripts in the Escorial Library is that entitled Codex Conciliorum Albeldensis seu Vigilanus, which was generously donated to Philip II by the Count of Buendía, for the library. The manuscript comprises 429 large-sized folios (455 x 325 mm), written in double columns in Visigothic script, and is very luxurious by the standards of the time. Both text and illumination were finished in 976; it was produced for the Monastery of St. Martin at Albelda (Rioja) by the copyist Vigila, assisted, according to the colophon by to other illuminated named Sarracino and García; all three are pictured among other figures in one of the miniatures. The Monastery of St. Martin at Albelda was founded in the 10th century, when Rioja was governed by the kings of Pamplona, in the most important cultural location of the kingdom, and was even higher up than the no less famous monastery of San Millán de la Cogolla. The scriptorium was highly productive and well run, and the monks produced books on liturgical, spiritual and legal themes. Some of its manuscripts went to other countries, as for example a copy of San Ildefonso's treatise on the virginity of Mary, which was escorted to its destination by French bishop Godescalc du Puy in person, in the middle of the 10th century.
The Albelda codex is a monumental compendium of canon and civil law. The main corpus comprises complete accounts of all the general councils, to which were added a selection of canons and decrees by popes up to St Gregory the Great, a contemporary of St Isidore. It also contains the Fuero Juzgo, that is, the civil code used in Spain from the Gothic period up to the 13th century.
The work was enriched by the addition of other texts of historical and liturgical rather than legal interest, such as the Life of Mahomet, and the Albelda Short Chronicle or Calendar, in which we find the first mention and drawing in Europe of the Arabic numerals 1-9, without the 0.
This is a work of some luxury, embellished with 82 miniatures in brilliant colours, some of them covering a whole folio, with views of towns (Toledo, for example,) and portraits of famous persons. Although this is essentially an Hispanic work, the techniques used for the draperies are not those of the traditional Mozarabic Visigothic style, but rather inspired by Carolingian miniatures.