LEON, Luis de

An Augustinian Scripture scholar, theologian, and poet, Luis de Leon epito­mizes the Spanish Renaissance. One of the most important lyric poets of Spain's Golden Age, Fray Luis is also considered the father of Spanish literary prose.
Fray Luis is closely associated with Salamanca. He began his studies at the University of Salamanca at the age of fourteen and spent most of his life there as a professor. His academic career was not without controversy. He spent al­most five years in prison while being investigated for heresy by the Inquisition before being exonerated and released. A renowned Hebrew scholar, he was accused of preferring the Hebrew text of the Bible to the Latin Vulgate trans­lation. He was also denounced for composing a literal translation of the Song of Songs for his cousin, a Carmelite nun. His difficulties arose as the Catholic church began to distrust Renaissance humanism after the Reformation.
Fray Luis defended the importance of providing religious materials in the vernacular, given that the Bible was only available in Latin in Catholic countries. De los nombres de Cristo (On the Names of Christ, 1583) and La perfecta casada (The Perfect Wife, 1583), his two most important prose works, are grounded in the Bible. By writing these books in Spanish, he greatly advanced the use of Spanish in expository prose and gained acceptance for its use in writing about theological topics. Fray Luis repeatedly expressed his desire to escape conflict through solitude and communion with nature. He prepared a translation with commentary on the Book of Job. In his Exposición del libro de Job, written over a twenty-year period, he interprets Job's misfortunes in terms of his own. His best-loved poems, "Vida retirada" and "Noche serena," also express his desire to escape the intrigues of enemies. In seeking refuge from city life, he hoped to be elevated spiritually by the contemplation of nature.
Fray Luis's work blends influences of classical antiquity and the Italian Re­naissance with the Jewish and Christian traditions. He combined the humanistic spirit of the Renaissance with religious faith at a time when Spanish society and the Catholic church cast doubt on such a possibility.
M. Duran, Luis de Leon, 1971.
Evelyn Toft

Renaissance and Reformation 1500-1620: A Biographical Dictionary. . 2001.

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