Ramón Menéndez Pidal: Biography And Works

Ramón Menéndez Pidal (1869-1968) was an outstanding Spanish writer in the study of various disciplines, among which philology and historiography stand out. He was part of the so-called Generation of 98 and had the privilege of, in his university formative years, receiving the knowledge of Marcelino Menéndez Pelayo, an illustrious person in the areas in which Pidal developed. His association with this scholar had a profound influence on his career.

It was customary for him to move from one country to another, both for work reasons related to his father, and for reasons associated with his studies. He obtained positions of great responsibility, importance and significance during his life. He belonged, repeatedly and as director, to the Royal Spanish Academy.

Perhaps his most valuable work was that of having taught the new generations everything in which he was cultivated, becoming, through it, a reference of dedication and mastery for later philologists and historians of Europe and the world.


Ramón Francisco Antonio Leandro Menéndez Pidal, (the full name under which he was baptized), saw the light of the world for the first time on March 13, 1869, in La Coruña, Spain.

Family tree

His parents were magistrate Juan Menéndez Fernández and Ramona Pidal, both Asturian. He had two brothers: Juan and Luis. His mother was the sister of Alejandro Pidal y Mon, who made political life in Spain.

Academic training

It is unknown in which institution he attended his initial and primary education. What is public knowledge is that he did it in Oviedo, a city to which he had to move almost as a baby due to the suspension of his father’s position as magistrate.

In this city he spent his early life. When he was barely seven years old, he came to live in the most populated town in Andalusia, Seville, where his father was sent after the restoration of his post in the teaching profession.

When he was 10 years old, again for work reasons of his father, he moved to Albacete, where he attended the first year of high school.

Later he moved to Burgos and there he continued his studies until completing the second year. He then returned to his breeding city, Oviedo, where he finished the third and fourth years. Culminating that formative stage in Madrid, in 1883, at the Instituto Cardenal Cisneros.

His higher studies in Philosophy and Letters began and ended at the University of Madrid. Among his closest teachers stands out, as mentioned above, Marcelino Menéndez Pelayo.

First charges

By 1899 he began to teach Romance Philology classes at his alma mater, a role he played until his retirement in 1939.

Thanks to his work in the construction of the successful Catalog of General Chronicles of Spain (1898), on October 28 of the following year he obtained the position of temporary assistant in the Royal Library of the Royal Palace of Madrid, in order to work on the creation of the Catalog of manuscripts.

Unfortunately this work was not completed. However, what he had done increased his knowledge of history and poetic compositions, which of course contributed to his later works, such as those related to the history of his country.

Although during his performance in this position he saw the need to be absent on several occasions, due to travel reasons throughout the American and European continents, he remained there until 1911, specifically until April 5 of that year.

Among his most important positions, the one he obtained from the hand of King Alfonso XIII in 1904, as general commissioner in the course of making a decision about the border situation between Peru and Ecuador stands out. This appointment meant a considerable advance in his career.

Marriage and a journey of revelation

He married in 1900 with the also philologist and writer María Goyri, who established herself as the pioneer in her genre in having completed higher studies.

During their honeymoon they undertook a journey through the valleys of the Douro River. The objective of this adventure was to know and analyze first line the geography of the place where the poem of the Cantar del Mío Cid was set.

While there, they met a woman who was washing clothes in the mentioned river, she began to recite a poem that they had never heard. Upon hearing it, it was his wife who could realize that this romance was the story of an epic event belonging to Spanish history.

And in fact, after having studied it, they confirmed that it was a romance born in the 1500s.

It was this fact that made them discover that within the lyrical creation of the Spanish peoples, the transmission of knowledge was still maintained, and in this case the romances, orally and from generation to generation.

This fact led them to collect a large number of these popular lyrical creations. To achieve their mission, they walked through the corners of what was called “Old Castilla” at that time, and which currently constitutes three autonomous communities: Castilla y León, Cantabria and La Rioja.

By 1901, the philologist and historian was chosen to enter the Royal Spanish Academy, the reception speech being carried out by Marcelino Menéndez Pelayo.

After having recognized that the romances were still being maintained, he then began his journey through Spanish-speaking American towns, in order to expand his knowledge in those countries regarding this type of poetic composition.

It is important to note that he made the aforementioned journey when he had already finalized his judgment in accepting the situation of the boundaries between Ecuador and Peru.

Presence in educational establishments

Menéndez Pidal was in charge of positions of great importance in different training institutions, which followed the educational parameters and concepts of the so-called Free Institution of Education.

In 1910 he was elected to chair the steering committee of the “Residencia de Estudiantes” education center, created that same year. This educational center was originally thought of as a complement to the university.

For the year 1914 he founded the renowned  Revista de Filología EspañolaFive years later he began to serve as director of the Center for Historical Studies. In this house of teaching he was able to instruct those who today are remembered as great philologists of Spain.

Among his most recognized students are: Tomás Navarro Tomás, Américo Castro, Dámaso Alonso, Rafael Lapesa and Alonso Zamora Vicente.

In 1925, he became a board member of the Royal Spanish Academy.

In May of the following year, he became vice president of the Board for the Expansion of Scientific Studies and Research.

Actions during the Civil War

During the events of the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) he decided to move from Madrid to Havana, Cuba, where he dedicated himself to giving talks about various aspects of the history of his native country.

Then he did the same in Bordeaux, France. Where he also began to give the first letters to a work entitled History of the Spanish language.  Later he settled in New York, where by 1937 he made his way into one of the most prestigious university institutions in the world, Columbia University.

In it he taught courses on his studies in the area of ​​narrative, romantic creation and the literary history of Spain. She was also a teacher at that institution for a period of one year.

After completing his activities in that house of studies, he returned to Spain and settled in Burgos, where he was accused of having contributed to the achievement of the so-called “anti-Spain”.

That accusation led him, in May 1938, to move to France, where he invested his time conducting research at La Sorbonne, the Paris university of letters. In July of the following year he was allowed to return to Spain.

Farewell to the Royal Spanish Academy

He abandoned his duties as director at the Royal Academy in 1939. The general cause was his disagreement with the verdicts by the Government regarding some of his colleagues at the institution. Despite this, he resumed the position 8 years later, holding it until the day of his death.

Featured Awards

Menéndez Pidal’s hard work earned him a large number of very important awards.

In 1952 he was awarded, from the hands of the President of Italy, the Feltrinelli Prize, for his literary and critical history .

Four years later he won the Juan March Foundation award for literature, which prompted him to carry out a course based on his studies in the philological and literary area.

In 1964 he was awarded the Balzán Prize, in History of Literature.


Menéndez Pidal had two children, Jimena Menéndez-Pidal Goyri and Gonzalo Menéndez-Pidal Goyri. The first dedicated her life to the study and exercise of education, doing it in two roles: teacher and pedagogue.

The second followed in his footsteps and became a historian, and performed his duties at the Royal Spanish Academy: the same institution to which his father belonged in the management area. Both were born and died in Madrid, in advanced ages.


The exact cause of death of this renowned philologist and historian is currently unknown. However, it is presumed that the reason for his departure may have been age, —and all the consequences that this entails— since at that time it had 99 years of existence.

It is also important to note that prior to his death he suffered from kidney problems, a paralysis of a part of his body and a fall that prevented his mobilization for a long time, which may have aggravated his situation.

November 14, 1968 was the date on which this illustrious of letters said goodbye to this earthly plane, at his home in Madrid, Spain.

His body was buried the day after his death in the Sacramental Cemetery of San Justo, San Millán and Santa Cruz. The reins of the burial were carried by Dr. José Luis Villar, who attended as a symbol of the president.

On behalf of his family, his son Gonzalo, his wife María and his grandchildren Fernando and Elena were present at this event.

Among the figures of public importance who attended the burial are Agustín de Asís, the general director of High School; Carlos Arias Navarro, magistrate of Madrid; Vicente García de Diego, acting director of the Royal Spanish Academy; among others.

Next to the corpse of Menéndez Pidal, beautiful floral arrangements and wreaths were placed, brought by studios at the Estudio School, whose direction was in charge of his wife and daughter Jimena.


The number of works that Menéndez Pidal made is extensive and that made him worthy of numerous awards by the Royal Spanish Academy.

They are listed below:

– Legend of the seven infants of Lara  (1896).

– Catalog of the General Chronicles of Spain  (1898).

– Anthology of Castilian prose writers  (1898).

– Notes for the romancero of Count Fernán González  (1899).

– Poem by Yuçuf  (1902).

– Elementary manual of Spanish historical grammar  (1904).

– The Leonese dialect  (1906).

– The Castilian epic through Spanish literature  (1910).

– Cantar del mio Cid: text, grammar and vocabulary  (1908–1912).

– Origins of Spanish  (1926).

– New flower of old romances  (1928).

– The Spain of the Cid  (1929).

– The imperial idea of ​​Carlos V  (1938).

– The Spanish language in its early days  (1942).

– The language of Christopher Columbus  (1942).

– The language of Christopher Columbus and other essays  (1942).

– History and epic of the origins of Castile  (1942).

– History of the Cid  (1942).

– Ibero-Basque toponymy in Celtiberia  (1950).

– Relics of Spanish epic poetry  (1952).

– Hispanic pre-Romanesque toponymy  (1952–1953).

– Hispanic ballade  (1953).

– Hispanic pre-Romanesque toponymy  (1953).

– Castilla, tradition, language  (1955).

– Minstrel poetry and minstrels  (last written in 1957).

– Around the Basque language  (1962).

– Father Las Casas: his true personality  (1963).

– Crestomatía of medieval Spanish  (1965–1966).

– History of Spain  (started in 1935 and completed in 2004).


  1. Ramón Menéndez Pidal. (S. f.). (n / a): Wikipedia. Recovered from: wikipedia.org
  2. Catalan, D. (Sf). Ramón Menéndez Pidal. Spain: Royal Academy of History. Recovered from: rah.es
  3. Ramón Menéndez Pidal. (Sf). Spain: Royal Spanish Academy. Recovered from: rae.es
  4. Ramón Menéndez Pidal. (Sf). (n / a): Biographies and Lives. Recovered from: biografiasyvidas.com
  5. Fernández López, J. (Sf). Ramón Menéndez Pidal. (n / a): Hispanoteca. Recovered from: hispanoteca.eu

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