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Listen to King Alphonse X’s “Canticles of Holy Mary,” the most famous medieval collection of Marian songs and hyms

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These Cantigas are comprised of 420 medieval poems, all of which mention the Virgin Mary

Alfonso X, known as “The Astronomer” or “The Wise,” was the King of Castile, León and Galicia from 1252 until his death. He managed to build a cosmopolitan court that included Jews, Muslims, and Christians alike. In fact, he encouraged the translation of works from Arabic and Latin into the Castilian vernacular (nowadays standard Spanish), making Castilian the primary language of higher learning, science, and law.

King Alfonso was a prolific writer in many different fields including poetry, law, science, and history. The “Cantigas de Santa Maria (“Canticles of Holy Mary,” in English), famous for their musical notation and literary merit, are commonly attributed to him.

These Cantigas are one of the most important medieval songs collections. They are comprised of 420 poems and every single one of them mentions the Virgin Mary. There are four manuscript codices containing the Cantigas: two at El Escorial, one at Madrid’s National Library, and one in Florence.

You can listen to Alfonso X’s Cantigas, preformed by the Capella Reial of Catalonia, directed by Jordi Savall, in the video below:

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