Blessed Oveco of Valcavado

Oveco or Obeco was a monk of the monastery of Valcavado, in Palencia, Spain. He lived several generations after St. Beatus of Liébana. As a scribe and limner, he was assigned to make a copy of Beatus’ Commentary on the Apocalypse, along with a text on the Visions in the Book of Daniel.

A note on the manuscript says that Oveco started work on June 8, 970, and finished by Sept. 8, 970 (the feast of the Virgin Mary’s birthday). That is a truly incredible pace, and yet it’s very clear that the entire manuscript was copied in a single hand.

We know the names of the people involved in the project because Oveco told us: “Hoc opus ut fieret praedicatus abba Sempronius instantia egit, cui ego Oveco indignus mente obediens devoto depinxi.”

After his death, Oveco began to be revered as a saint because of his holy life. His monastery duly transferred some of his relics to the shrine of the Virgen del Valle in Saldaña, (one of Palencia, Spain’s important cities), and the relics are still there. Fittingly, it’s a reliquary for his right hand and forearm. The goldsmith seems to have put a fair amount of effort into sculpting an individual-looking hand, so it seems safe to say that he was working from Oveco’s actual hand.

I have to say that Bl. Oveco sounds like a good patron for those of us wanting to get projects finished!

The Beatus of Valcavado is at the Biblioteca de la University of Valladolid. It contains various marginal notes both by Oveco and by later users of the book. One reader even scribbled an entire cantiga (medieval Spanish song) in the margins!

The Virgen del Valle (Our Lady of the Valley) is actually a title used for Mary in many places in Spain and South America, as well as being the patron saint of Eastern Venezuela. Here’s a page about Saldaña’s shrine. The shrine was established by King Alfonso I in 754, in thanks for capturing the castle from Muslim forces. Her feast day is September the 8th, which may explain why Blessed Oveco’s arm was felt to belong there. There’s also a big feast day celebration on Sept. 9 for St. Isidore the Farmworker‘s wife, St. Maria “de la Cabeza” (“of the Head”) (her maiden name was Maria Torribia). She’s another pre-conciliar saint, just like her husband San Isidro Labrador, so it’s pretty silly that the Wikipedia page is going on about her not being canonized yet. However, the picture was clouded by the fact that after being venerated for centuries in Spain, Pope Paul V and Pope Gregory XV decided to beatify and canonize San Isidro. (Whereas it would have been more logical just to put him in the saint list of the Martyrologium Romanum, since he was already on the Spanish bishops’ calendars.) But the actual rule is that preconciliar saints are also saints. Period. If you’re listed on a preconciliar calendar or in a preconciliar martyrology as a saint, you’re a saint.

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