While exploring the beautiful town of Burgos in northern Spain, the traveler will be struck by the many medieval sites, including the monumental Cathedral and the ruins of the fortress. In addition to the remnants of actual structure from the medieval periods, many plaques, street names, pamphlets, and books that one encounters throughout Burgos celebrates the medieval history of the town, with particular attention to the deeds of its past kings, nobles, and prominent citizens.
(Catedral de Santa María in Burgos, constructed between the early 13th and 16th centuries . Source)
The past week (March 23rd to be exact) marked the 650th anniversary of the assassination of Pedro I of Castile-León (r. 1350-1369), one of medieval Iberia’s most controversial, enigmatic and interesting sovereigns. For some, he represents a vicious tyrant whose repressive policies were catastrophic for Castile. Meanwhile, others have memorialized him as a sovereign who promoted a culture of toleration, employed Jews and Muslims in significant numbers within his administration, and sought to curb the power of the nobility. Far from attempting to grapple with or unpack his complex legacy, this post introduces the English-speaking reader to this complicated sovereign in order to encourage further inquiry into his life and times.
This is the third and final installment of my short series on the Chronica Adefonsi Imperatoris (for part I: https://ballandalus.wordpress.com/2015/05/08/the-coronation-of-1135-and-the-question-of-empire-in-kingdom-of-castile-leon-in-the-12th-century/ and part II: https://ballandalus.wordpress.com/2015/05/11/the-chronica-adefonsi-imperatoris-ca-1148-cluniac-historiography-and-imperial-sovereignty-in-12th-century-iberia/) which has sought to explore some of the implications of Alfonso VII’s imperial coronation in 1135 in both contemporary chronicles as well as modern scholarship. In this piece, I want to look a bit more concretely at how the Chronica seeks to represent the authority of Alfonso VII by looking particularly at two elements: the role of military leadership and the role of Alfonso VII as a “holy warrior” against Islam in the Iberian peninsula.
Royal Authority and Rebellious Nobles: Alfonso VII as Virtuous Christian Prince and Pacifier of the Realm
From the outset, it is important to note that the Chronica Adefonsi Imperatoris is not the only source in which Alfonso VII is designated as imperator, since this title appears to have been utilized quite regularly from 1126 onwards in royal charters issued in the kingdom of León.  However, the Chronica is perhaps the most important twelfth-century text which clarifies in concrete terms what this title was intended to convey with regard to royal sovereignty. The chronicler declares that God worked His will through Alfonso VII “so that the salvation of the people of Christ in the midst of the earth might be achieved” in order to underscore the relationship between his sovereign’s reign and the divinely-ordained destiny of the Christian peoples in the Iberian peninsula. Alfonso is also depicted as succeeding his mother, Queen Urraca (r. 1109–1126), and acceding to the throne of León with divine endorsement. He is represented throughout the text as a just sovereign who is concerned with peace and security throughout the realm since it was conducive to Christian unity in the face of an increasingly-powerful Muslim threat.
One of the most important Andalusi cultural and historical monuments in Zaragoza is the Aljafería Palace (or Qasr al-Ja’fariyya). This fortress-palace complex was built between the ninth and eleventh centuries and was the political and administrative center of the northern parts of al-Andalus (thaghr al-‘ala). Although most of it was built during the second half of the 11th century during the period of the ta’ifa Kingdom of Zaragoza of Al-Andalus, later additions were made by Christian monarchs, who made it their northern residence in Spain. In the 11th century, it was the residence of the Banu Hud dynasty during the era of Abu Ja’far al-Muqtadir (r. 1046-1081). The palace reflects the splendor attained by the Kingdom of Zaragoza (1013-1110) at the height of its grandeur and provides a magnificent example of Islamic architecture during the early period of al-Andalus. The Aljafería Palace is one of the only royal residences from 11th-century Iberia to have been preserved almost perfectly until the present. The palace currently contains the Cortes (regional parliament) of the autonomous community of Aragon. This makes it one of the oldest structures in the world with a continuous use as a political center
The following are some pictures taken during my trip to the site in 2012 (I’ve also included a few higher-resolution pictures found online):