The haunting beauty of the “Cantigas” of Alfonso X never ceases to amaze.
Alfonso X, known as “The astronomer” or “El sabio” (The Wise), was the king of Castile, Leon, 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), converting Castilian into the main language of higher education, science and law in his kingdom and beyond.
King Alfonso was a prolific writer in many different fields, including poetry, law, science and history. The “Cantigas de Santa María” (“Songs of the Virgin Mary”), famous for their musical notation and literary merit, are commonly attributed to him.
These cantigas are one of the most important collections of medieval songs. They are composed of 420 poems, each of which mentions the Mother of God. There are four manuscripts that contain the Cantigas: two in El Escorial, one in the National Library of Madrid, and one in Florence.
You can listen to the Cantigas de Alfonso X, performed by the Capella Reial de Cataluña, directed by Jordi Savall, in the video below: