ART DURING THE REIGN OF ALPHONSO X (13th CENTURY)
Alphonso and his collaborators composed a set of poems written in the Galician-Portuguese language addressed to noblemen. The style of these "cantigas d'escarnho" is burlesque and ingenious. They had a satirical tone against the opponents of the king.
His main lyric work was the "Cantigas de Santa Maria", lyrical masterpieces of the Wise King. Many of the songs in this book were composed by Alfonso X of his own hand; in fact a personal tone is perceived in some of the songs, which were hymns of praise to the Virgin. Likewise, the monarch himself or his relatives appear as main characters of some of the Cantigas. They constitute one of the master-pieces of the Spanish medieval music.
Work in prose
During Alphonso X, the literature was of great importance. He composed, juridical, historical, scientific and recreational works. Alfonso X sponsored, supervised and often participated with his own writing and in collaboration with a group of Latin, Hebrew and Arab intellectuals (known as the Toledo School of Translators) in the composition of an enormous literary work. The manuscripts are volumes of great calligraphic quality and were illustrated profusely with miniatures.
There are many works in prose. One of them is a book of exemplary stories called “the Calila and Dimna”. This is one of the first examples of adapting Arabic books to Spanish literature. The king also created religious prose work, which was a compilation of biographies of saints.
Some works of great interest were lost, such as the version of the Arab legend of Mohammed's vision of heaven and hell. The text had great diffusion in the Spain of century XIII.
Alphonso wrote two main works of history.
1. The "Estoria de España", which constitutes the first Spanish History in Castilian. To tell the story of Spain, Alfonso X goes back to the origins, found in the biblical sources, to Moses, and he used myths and legends of ancient Greek and Latin history. As the tale progresses, the prolixity of detail increases, especially from the Germanic invasions to Fernando III, where the most abundant sources are chronicles and songs of Peninsular deeds. It served as canon of Spanish historiography well into the Modern Age.
2. The General Estoria, also called Great and General Estoria, was a very ambitious work telling world history from the creation of the world up to his time.
The are many books of science, astronomy, and astrology (which at the time was a discipline superior to mathematics):
"The Lapidary" combines the study of the properties of stones with medicine and astronomy. The book is a compilation of Greek, Hellenistic and Arab treatises compiled by Yehuda ben Moshe, a royal physician and prominent astronomer.
There are also other important books: "The Picatrix" is a treatise on Hellenistic magic of Neoplatonic roots, "The Book of the knowledge of astrology" gathers several treatises on the manufacture astrolabes, and "The Book of Crosses deals with Judicial Astrology.
The most influential work was the "Tables Alfonsíes", which were astronomical tables that had wide diffusion all over Europe. They are astronomical tables containing the exact positions of the celestial bodies observed in Toledo from January 1, 1252, the year of the coronation of King Alfonso. For a long time they were the basis of all the ephemeris that were published in Spain, and were used by Christopher Columbus on his way to America.
Alfonso X wanted to unify the varied codes of legislation that were used in the kingdom of Castile. For this purpose he used a code inspired by the Justinian Law. It promulgated norms were clearer, more concise and more just than those which governed the great cities of the Kingdom of Castile.
The 'Speculum' set the theoretical legal basis for constructing a juridical corpus. It never got promulgated and the circumstances of its composition are not clear.
The "Seven Partidas" is the most ambitious work of Alfonso X. It formulates a legal code of universal character and general application for the kingdom of Castile. It regulates the life of Castile in all the areas, both religious and civil. This legal basis lasted for centuries, and its influence reaches to our days.
There were many books about sports or recreation of nobles, like "the Book of the hunted animals", and a book about games.
"The Book of the chess, dice and tables" is the oldest chess treatise conserved in Europe and consists of 98 pages illustrated with numerous miniatures that show the positions of the game. It says the rules of medieval chess, which was introduced into the Christian kingdoms from Islam.