CANTIGAS OF ANDALUCÍA
Alfonso X, justly known as the Wise, was an eminent poet, historian and musician. A
scientific intellectual, he was learned and curious and created a body of knowledge that
was unequalled in his time. He considered his work to be a tribute to humanity in close
communication with God. As a protector of the wise and active publisher, he revised
and corrected books himself, improving their language and style, and illustrating them
with beautiful miniatures. He chose the Romance vernaculars (Castilian and Galician)
instead of Latin for literary and artistic expression.
The Cantigas de Santa Maria form a collection of 427 hymns on the subject of miracles
through the intercession of the Virgin Mary, and are Alfonso’s great poetic work. They
are based on the extensive European repertoire of miracles of the Virgin, which were
prepared to be sung to melodies created with beautiful musical notation in parchment
codices featuring excellent miniature paintings.
The Cantigas are a "spiritual autobiography" of Alfonso X (Snow), expressing his hope
that the Virgin, as his advocate, would intercede for his success as King and for his
salvation after death. The Cantigas provide a valuable historical source and testimony
to facts written in the first person, with contemporary events and details of how Alfonso
suffered in body and soul as an indication of his illnesses (cantigas 209, 235, 279, 354,
366 and 367).
This selection of Cantigas of Andalusia is from the last of the codices. They reflect
Alfonso’s wish to expel the Moors from Spain and the wars against Granada and
Morocco (Cantigas 169, 181, 215, 323, 345, 360, 401 and 406). Some of the 24
cantigas of the sanctuary of El Puerto de Santa Maria that had not yet been recorded
have also been included.
His poetry is "realistic, devotional, theological, humorous and satirical" (O'Callaghan),
written in the language of the troubadour who declares his love for Holy Mary, creating
an "unparalleled artistic treasure" in Western civilization.
These cantigas in Andalusian territory complete the cantigas recorded and published
earlier by Pneuma: Cantigas de Sevilla PN2-590, Cantigas de Jérez PN-570, Puerto de
Santa Maria 1 PN-220, Cantigas de Murcia PN-1560 and others contained in the CDs
Remedios Curativos PN-240, Bestiario PN-340 and Cantigas de Extremadura PN-420.
In general, the themes of these cantigas are closely related to the biographical events
of the King and his court in Seville.
THE SPANISH CRUSADE FOR AFRICA AND THE REVOLT OF THE MUDÉJARS
The presence of many Mudejars (Andalusian Muslims) living in the interior of the newly
conquered kingdom of Andalusia, was one of Alfonso X’s greatest problems. In the
Lower Guadalquivir and the region of El Guadalete and Cadiz, the Mudejars retained
their civil order and religious practices, in exchange for a tribute paid to the Crown of
Castile. The new borders were not safe. There were uprisings in La Tablada in 1252,
and in Jerez in 1255-61. Three unstable Muslim vassal states remained: one ruled by
the King of Niebla; one by Ibn Hud, the King of Murcia; and the new Nasrid Kingdom of
Granada created after the Treaty of Jaén in 1246.
With the support of Don Lope, bishop of Morocco, Alfonso X appealed to Pope
Innocent IV in 1252 and to Pope Alexander IV in 1255, to convert the Castilian project
to attack the north of Morocco and stop new invasions from Africa, into a Pontifical
crusade, with plenary indulgence in the same category as the Crusade in the Holy Land. The crusade was preached in the Courts of Toledo of 1254, in the south of
France, Italy and England. Ten galleys were obtained from Pisa and Marseille in 1256,
and Alcanate (al-Qanatir), with the new name of Puerto de Santa Maria, was chosen as
a naval base on the Atlantic, although not without the protests of the Moors of the
kingdom of Jérez. After Jerez, the Kingdom of Niebla and the city of Cadiz were
suppressed, only the Kingdom of Granada, a vassal state of Castile, remained as the
border with peninsular Islam. The African crusade began in 1260 with the expedition to
plunder Salé (cantiga 324), near Rabat, recently taken from the Almohads by Abu
Yusuf Yaqub ben Abd al Haqq and his Marinids.
However, in March 1264, the crusade project was suddenly interrupted when the
Mudejars of Andalusia and Murcia revolted, with the support of the King of Granada. In
three weeks, Alfonso X, who was on his way to lay claim to the crown of the Holy
Roman Empire, lost his eldest son and heir, Prince Fernando, and 300 towns, castles
and fortresses. In the autumn, his second son Sancho intervened and crushed the
revolt in lower Andalusia. Alfonso X, with the help of his father-in-law Jaime I of
Aragón, and of his son-in-law Alfonso III of Portugal, won back Murcia, and then
Cordoba and La Vega of Granada. Later, he reconquered Calatrava, Villa Real and
In 1265, Clement IV extended the Bull of the Crusade to Andalusia, diverting support in
the Holy Land in favour of the struggle against the Mudejars of Castile, contributing
ecclesiastical tithes for the battles. The King of Granada requested help from Abu
Yusuf and his Marinids of Morocco, but Alfonso X managed to weaken Granada, as
Málaga and Guadix asked Alfonso X to create an alliance to defend them against the
invasion of the Moroccans. Finally Granada signed new truces declaring vassalage to
Castile in 1267.
When the wars were over, the King encouraged the repopulation of Andalusia, in
particular Murcia, El Puerto de Santa María and Cádiz. This can be appreciated in
Cantigas 169 of Arreixaca in Murcia and the 24 dedicated to the Miracles of Holy Mary
in the church of El Puerto de Santa Maria, which were intended to attract people to the
town. Pope Urban IV raised Cádiz to episcopal rank in 1263, by transferring the seat of
the Bishopric from Medina Sidonia in 1267. But new Marinid invasions devastated the
area in 1277, and the city of Cádiz and the entire region (cantiga 345) were not safe
King Alfonso X’s illnesses became worse in Seville (cantigas 348, 366, 367 and 386).
The balance of the borders was again in danger, as the great nobles of Castile and
León (Lara, Haro, Castro, Roa, Cameros, etc.), discontent after the loss of privileges
and increased taxes for war, conspired with Abu Yusuf and the King of Granada
against their King. Alfonso X once again attacked Granada and after the defeat of the
Castilians in Algeciras, when Granada and Abu Yusuf were at war, the people of
Granada called for an alliance with Alfonso X.
In the later years of his life, when his son and heir, Sancho, and the rest of the royal
family, nobles and bishops revolted, Alfonso X sought help from his eternal enemy Abu
Yusuf with the sole support of Seville and Murcia, in exchange for allowing looting in
Cordoba, Toledo and Madrid. Reconciled with his son, Alfonso X died in Seville in 1284
aged 62. He had enjoyed a dense 32-year reign, consolidating the conquests of his
father Fernando III and repelling new attempts by the Moroccans to invade. All this,
together with his extraordinary cultural achievement, makes him one of the greatest
kings of medieval Spain. His cantigas, and in particular these of Andalusia, confirm