- J. R. L. Highfield
[Alfonso, King of Germany]
(b Toledo, Nov 23, 1221; reg 1252–84; d Seville, April 4, 1284).
Spanish ruler and patron. He was a man of wide learning, a legislator and a poet. Although moderately successful in the Reconquest, following the tradition of his father Ferdinand III, King of Castile and León (reg 1217–52), he provoked opposition by raising taxes and seeking election as Holy Roman Emperor (1256).
Alfonso sponsored translations of Arab writings on astronomy and astrology. He himself composed works of history, poetry and law. His Cantigas de Santa María, a collection of over 400 poems, which survive in four manuscripts (Madrid, Escorial, Real Bib. Monasterio S Lorenzo, MSS B.I.2 and T.I.1; Madrid, Bib. N., MS. 10069; Florence, Bib. N. Cent., MS. B.R.20), were written in Galician over a period of 25 years ending in 1279. The songs of the Virgin are accompanied by an important and extensive series of over 1000 small genre scenes ‘structured like a modern comic-strip to tell the song’s narrative visually’ (Burns). Bullfights and street scenes are shown; battles depict both Christians and Muslims, and several pictures reveal Alfonso himself (he considered himself to be a troubadour of the Virgin Mary, ...