Juan del Encina

Juan del Encina

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Juan del Enzina – the spelling he used – or Juan del Encina – modern Spanish
Spanish language
Spanish , also known as Castilian , is a Romance language in the Ibero-Romance group that evolved from several languages and dialects in central-northern Iberia around the 9th century and gradually spread with the expansion of the Kingdom of Castile into central and southern Iberia during the...

 spelling – (born July 12, 1468 – died late 1529 or early 1530) was a composer, poet and playwright, often called the founder of Spanish
Spain , officially the Kingdom of Spain languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Spain's official name is as follows:;;;;;;), is a country and member state of the European Union located in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula...

 drama. His actual name was Juan de Fermoselle, and was one of at least 7 known children.


He was born in 1468 near Salamanca
Salamanca is a city in western Spain, in the community of Castile and León. Because it is known for its beautiful buildings and urban environment, the Old City was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1988. It is the most important university city in Spain and is known for its contributions to...

, probably at Encina de San Silvestre
Encina de San Silvestre
Encina de San Silvestre is a village and municipality in the province of Salamanca, western Spain, part of the autonomous community of Castile-Leon...

. He was of Jewish
The Jews , also known as the Jewish people, are a nation and ethnoreligious group originating in the Israelites or Hebrews of the Ancient Near East. The Jewish ethnicity, nationality, and religion are strongly interrelated, as Judaism is the traditional faith of the Jewish nation...

A converso and its feminine form conversa was a Jew or Muslim—or a descendant of Jews or Muslims—who converted to Catholicism in Spain or Portugal, particularly during the 14th and 15th centuries. Mass conversions once took place under significant government pressure...

 descent. After leaving Salamanca University sometime in 1492 he became a member of the household of Don Fadrique de Toledo, the second Duke of Alba, although some sources believe that he did not work for the Duke of Alba until 1495. A plausible argument is that his first post was as a Corregidor in northern Spain.

Fermoselle was a Chaplain at the Salamanca Cathedral in the early 1490s. It was here that he adopted the name Enzina, or Encina (meaning holm oak
Holm Oak
Quercus ilex, the Holm Oak or Holly Oak is a large evergreen oak native to the Mediterranean region. It takes its name from holm, an ancient name for holly...

) during his stay as Chaplain. He was later forced to resign as Chaplain because he was not ordained.


In 1492 the poet entertained his patron with a dramatic piece, the Triunfo de la fama, written to commemorate the fall of Granada
Granada is a city and the capital of the province of Granada, in the autonomous community of Andalusia, Spain. Granada is located at the foot of the Sierra Nevada mountains, at the confluence of three rivers, the Beiro, the Darro and the Genil. It sits at an elevation of 738 metres above sea...

. In 1496 he published his Cancionero, a collection of dramatic and lyrical poems. He then applied for the cantor post at Salamanca Cathedral, but the part was divided among three singers, including his rival Lucas Fernandez.

While working for the Duke of Alba, Encina was the program director, of which Lucas Fernandez was a part of. Here Encina wrote pastoral eclogues, the foundation of Spanish secular drama. Encina's plays are predominantly based on shepherds and unrequited love.

Encina was ambitious, looking to be promoted based on preferment, so around 1500 he relocated to Rome
Rome is the capital of Italy and the country's largest and most populated city and comune, with over 2.7 million residents in . The city is located in the central-western portion of the Italian Peninsula, on the Tiber River within the Lazio region of Italy.Rome's history spans two and a half...

, where he apparently served in the musical establishments of several cardinals or noblemen. Encina was appointed Archdiaconate of Malaga Cathedral by Julius II in 1508.

In 1518 he resigned from position at Malaga for a simple benefice at Moron, and the following year he went to Jerusalem, where he sung his first mass
Mass (liturgy)
"Mass" is one of the names by which the sacrament of the Eucharist is called in the Roman Catholic Church: others are "Eucharist", the "Lord's Supper", the "Breaking of Bread", the "Eucharistic assembly ", the "memorial of the Lord's Passion and Resurrection", the "Holy Sacrifice", the "Holy and...

. He also wrote about the events during his pilgrimage to Jerusalem in Tribagia o Via Sacra de Hierusalem. In 1509 he had held a lay canonry
Canon (priest)
A canon is a priest or minister who is a member of certain bodies of the Christian clergy subject to an ecclesiastical rule ....

 at Málaga
Málaga is a city and a municipality in the Autonomous Community of Andalusia, Spain. With a population of 568,507 in 2010, it is the second most populous city of Andalusia and the sixth largest in Spain. This is the southernmost large city in Europe...

; in 1519 he was appointed by Leon for the priorship of Leon Cathedral. His last job was recorded as being in Leon, where he is thought to have died towards the end of 1529.

His Cancionero is preceded by a prose treatise (Arte de trobar) on the condition of the poetic art in Spain. His fourteen dramatic pieces mark the transition from the purely ecclesiastical to the secular stage. The Aucto del Repelón and the Égloga de Fileno dramatize the adventures of shepherd
A shepherd is a person who tends, feeds or guards flocks of sheep.- Origins :Shepherding is one of the oldest occupations, beginning some 6,000 years ago in Asia Minor. Sheep were kept for their milk, meat and especially their wool...

s; the latter, like Pládcida y Vitoriano, is strongly influenced by the Celestina. The intrinsic interest of Encina's plays is slight, but they are important from the historical point of view, for the lay pieces form a new departure, and the devout eclogue
An eclogue is a poem in a classical style on a pastoral subject. Poems in the genre are sometimes also called bucolics.The form of the word in contemporary English is taken from French eclogue, from Old French, from Latin ecloga...

s prepare the way for the autos of the 17th century. Moreover, Encina's lyrical poems are remarkable for their intense sincerity and devout grace.

Even though his works were dedicated to royal families, he never served as a member of a royal chapel. And even though Encina worked in many Cathedrals and was ordained as a priest, no religious musical works are known to still exist. Most of his works were done by his mid-30's, some 60 or more songs attributed to Encina, and another 9 settings of texts on top of that, to which the music could also be added, but not for certain. Many of the surviving pieces are villancicos, which he was a leading composer in. The Spanish villancico is the equivalent of the Italian Frottola. There are three and four voice settings that offer a variety of styles depending on the kind of text, with very limited movements in the voices in preparation for the cadence points. To make the text heard clearly, Encina used varied and flexible rhythms that are patterned on the accents of the verse, and used simple yet strong harmonic progressions.

Leonese times

Encina held the priorship of Leon Cathedral from November 1523 until his final illness in December 1529. Juan del Encina's will was presented on January 14, 1530, so the exact date of his death is not known, but it is thought to be in late 1529 or early 1530. In his will he noted that he wanted to be buried beneath the choir of Salamanca Cathedral, and in 1534 his remains were taken to the Cathedral.

Leones language influence

Juan del Enzina wrote in Castillian with Leonese language
Leonese language
The Leonese language is the endonym term used to refer to all vernacular Romance dialects of the Astur-Leonese linguistic group in the Spanish provinces of León and Zamora; Astur-Leonese also includes the dialects...

 influences or in Leonese in his pastoral eclogue
An eclogue is a poem in a classical style on a pastoral subject. Poems in the genre are sometimes also called bucolics.The form of the word in contemporary English is taken from French eclogue, from Old French, from Latin ecloga...

s. He was from Salamanca, a Leonese-speaking region and eventually arrived at the capital of the Kingdom of León
Kingdom of León
The Kingdom of León was an independent kingdom situated in the northwest region of the Iberian Peninsula. It was founded in AD 910 when the Christian princes of Asturias along the northern coast of the peninsula shifted their capital from Oviedo to the city of León...

, where he died.

Selected works

  • Triunfo de la fama (1492)
  • Cancionero (1496)
  • Tan buen ganadico (1496)
  • Más vale trocar (1496)
  • Triste España sin ventura (1504)
  • Plácida y Victoriano (1513)
  • Églogas
  • Oy comamos y bebamos (late 15th century)
  • Tribagia o Via Sacra de Hierusalem (1521)

External links