King Alfonso X had been fond of the city of Murcia since his youth, holding it in high
regard, and this is reflected in the poetry of the Cantigas on this recording. It is not
widely known that his heart is buried in the Chevet of the Cathedral. Murcia was the
first city that he conquered and was, together with Badajoz and Seville, one of the few
that remained loyal to him. Alfonso X wanted to be buried in the Holy Land, but that, in
the end, was not to be. His heart and entrails were buried in Murcia and his body in
Seville, where he died in 1284.
"The Heart of Alfonso X" is a selection of cantigas telling stories which unfold in
Murcia, such as one that takes place in the church at Arrixaca or another about the
oath to Santa Maria de Murcia. Other cantigas are about the king’s feelings (his heart),
in his thoughts and prayers to the Virgin Mary. Cantigas set at the time of the conquest
of Murcia and the Mudejar uprising in the Wars of Granada, complete the programme.
The Cantigas de Murcia form part of Pneuma's project to record a retrospective of the
entire collection of the Cantigas de Alfonso X.
The Cantigas de Santa María, contained in four 13th century parchment codices, is
considered to be medieval Spain’s most important lyrical work. Written in Galician-
Portuguese, there are four hundred and twenty-seven poems that have been handed
down to us with their corresponding musical notation and extraordinary
embellishments and miniatures. They combine tales of miracles popular in the Middle
Ages with praises to the Virgin Mary and are a testament to the Marian devotion that
developed in parallel to the construction of the Gothic cathedrals.
The Cantigas are considered to be Alfonso X’s most personal work and although they
came from different sources and diverse collaborators a structured order is evident.
Since the songbook was first written in about 1260, the presentation has always
reflected the original personal verse and coherent symbolic design. A late troubadour,
Alfonso chooses the tradition of “courtly love” as a way of giving his Lady the
parchment codices with the songs dedicated to her.
The miniatures of the Cantigas de Santa María constitute a beautiful document in
themselves, not only because of the perfection of the drawing and colour, but also
because of the information that they give about daily life in the medieval Spain of the
Three Cultures – Christian, Arab and Jewish. They are also of great iconographic value
as they include many drawings of musical instruments. Scenes of chant and dance
appear in some of the narrative and today constitute the principal source for the
reconstruction of the instruments used in the performance and the recreation of the