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This content is taken from the Pompeu Fabra University Barcelona & Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona's online course, Understanding Ramon Llull: ​Philosophy, Arts and Science through the Ars Combinatoria. Join the course to learn more.

Skip to 0 minutes and 12 seconds We are now at the centre of an installation that reproduces an extraordinary illuminated manuscript, in this case animated. This is the manuscript written by one of Llull’s first disciples, Frenchman Thomas Le Myésier, circa 1311, depicting the most important scenes of the life, events and travels of Ramon Llull. Llull was born in Mallorca in 1232 three years after it was occupied by the troops of of James I of Aragon. The island, inhabited by Muslims for centuries, was occupied this time by the troops of James I. Llull, therefore, was born in Mallorca in 1232 to a Catalan family that came from the Maresme coast.

Skip to 0 minutes and 58 seconds Through a text that we could consider autobiographical, conceived by Llull at the age of 80 and dictated to the monks of the Charterhouse of Vauvert in Paris, we know that towards the end of his youth, when he was about 30, he had a series of visions. These visions of the cross brought about a life change in Llull, from a secular life, in which he was mainly focused on love for the woman, to a life centred on the love for God.

Skip to 1 minute and 40 seconds And hence he decided, especially, to undertake three missions: to write the best book in the world against the errors of unbelievers, make the popes and kings help him to build monasteries of oriental languages, in fact, schools of oriental languages where missionaries who were to go to preach in Africa could acquire a basic knowledge of Hebrew and Arabic and also, get them to help him to promote crusades to recover Holy Land. Crusades, however, that were to be not just military but also spiritual, because Llull believed that unbelievers should be convinced through reason. This is a precious manuscript, animated with twelve illustrations or illuminations that correspond to the Gothic school of Paris.

Skip to 2 minutes and 36 seconds These twelve pages represent the most important moments, from the visions of the cross to pilgrimage to holy places like Saint James of Galicia or Rocamadour in Occitanie. Returning from these sites, Llull went to Barcelona, where he spoke to the general of the Dominicans therefore a very important order as regards preaching to the infidels, Saint Raymond of Penyafort. Saint Raymond of Penyafort recommended that he not go to Paris, as he wanted, to provide himself with the tools of science and theology to write this book. And, in fact, Llull did not yet know how to “write”. Llull returned to Mallorca and instead of receiving a formal university education, settled down to study Arabic with a Muslim slave he bought.

Skip to 3 minutes and 40 seconds This slave, supposedly a cultivated person, taught him Arabic and also some of the principles of Islamic philosophy and theology. This was essential for Llull because he wanted to convince others and his way of convincing had to be through rational arguments. But, to do so, he also had to know the principles of Islamic philosophy and theology. This illustrated manuscript depicts some of these scenes, such as, for example, the scene where the slave is teaching him Arabic, an opened Qur’an sitting between them. The Vita Coetanea, an autobiographical text, says that they discussed issues of faith, that the Muslim slave tried to kill him and ended up incarcerated.

Skip to 4 minutes and 35 seconds The slave committed suicide, which caused something of an upheaval in the life of Llull, as he had great esteem for his former teacher. In any case, after this dramatic moment, Llull retired to Mount Randa, in Pla de Mallorca, where he had his great illustration. What does ‘illustration’ mean? Well, the way of making the book he wanted to write and didn’t know how as he did not have the academic and scientific knowledge to carry it out. But he had a revelation; that is to say, he understood how to explain the rational principles from which, as he believed, Muslims, Christians and Jews had to come to an agreement.

Skip to 5 minutes and 25 seconds The animation we can see here shows not only the key moments in the life of Llull, but also his system. There is a series of figures or symbols, like the tree or ladder, that show the tools to bring together what is up and what is down. But not only what is in heaven and what is on Earth, also the link between higher and lower faculties; therefore, between intellect and the senses, namely sight, hearing, touch, smell and taste. We believe it to be a remarkable manuscript, not just because it is an excellent illustration of the life of Ramon Llull, but also because the scribes and illustrators who made it wanted to confer movement in it.

Skip to 6 minutes and 24 seconds They did not have the instruments we have today and that is why we have made this animation. Nevertheless, through speech bubbles and scenes repeated in the same image, they aimed to show that it was all something that was moving, moving not just in history, that is to say, in the life of Ramon Llull but it was also something that was moving inside the person who contemplated it, who read it. It was necessary, therefore, to produce movement, also within the reader, and this was conversion, not just religious but also intellectual conversion.

Skip to 7 minutes and 5 seconds Now we will see some of the scientists, artists and writers who have received and have been influenced by this system known as Ars magna or Ars combinatoria, found at the centre of the thoughts of Ramon Llull.

Life and vision

In this video, Amador explains the major events in Ramon Llull’s biography. The description is based on the Breviculum of Karlsruhe, which contains Llull’s autobiography, and is accompanied by twelve miniatures.

At the start of Ramon Llull’s life project he has a visionary experience. This makes him change his outlook and understand reality as a unified whole in which all beings are connected by very subtle lines. There are three original intentions of Ramon Llull’s intellectual activity: make a note of these.

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Understanding Ramon Llull: ​Philosophy, Arts and Science through the Ars Combinatoria

Pompeu Fabra University Barcelona

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