|Alfonso X in the monument in Plaza Nueva, Sevilla|
|The remains of the Moorish baths that were extant in Alfonso's time now house|
an Italian restaurant. www.sanmarco.es
|Only the lower three quarters of the Giralda|
bell tower existed in 1252.
The current cathedral in Sevilla is an enormous gothic masterpiece, started some 200 years after Alfonso's coronation. The cathedral in Alfonso's time would have been architecturally a mosque, hastily reconsecrated to the Christian faith. The minaret would subsequently be redesigned as a bell tower, but even today it preserves the wide ramps visitors can climb to stand under the bells and look out over the city. Originally, these interior ramps were intended to accommodate a muezzin, who would ascend to the highest point in Andalusia on horseback to perform the call to prayer.
|Fernando III as depicted in a 17th-century sculpture |
in the Sevilla cathedral treasury
With the city mourning the beloved king, and with the pragmatism that usually dominates Castilian politics, the coronation was probably not an elaborate affair. No descriptions have come down to us, but it likely took place in the morning hours and involved Alfonso's oath, a bishop placing the ceremonial crown upon Alfonso's head, and oaths of fealty from the many noble vassals present. Alfonso's biographer Ballesteros Beretta imagines that the spectators then lifted Alfonso on their shoulders and paraded him around the cathedral square. Did he look down and see the faces of the nobles who would revolt against him, or the brother who would conspire against the crown? Perhaps he looked into the bright sky of Sevilla and glimpsed the Virgin Mary smiling on him. The cult of Mary would be Alfonso's lifelong devotion.
At the end of a terribly busy and emotional June 1, 1252, Alfonso would have climbed into a bed supported on ropes and furnished with the softest ticking, the finest sheets, and the most luxurious pillows. Although most historians have tried to paint an unhappy picture of his marriage, the person most likely sleeping next to Alfonso was his consort, now Queen Violante. She would bear ten children who survived into adulthood. She would also become embroiled in the battles of royal succession that took place upon the death of her firstborn son. But on June 1, 1252, Violante assumed her new role with quiet dignity and stood by her husband in the cathedral, the square, and the palace.
A driven fiction writer, Jessica Knauss is also a freelance editor, a translator, and a founding partner and editor at Loose Leaves Publishing. Find out more about her historical novel here, and her other writing and bookish activities here. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter, too! She took five of the photos in this post in 2009 and can't wait to go back to Spain.