Castle of Intellect, Castle of Force: The Worlds of Alfonso the Learned and James the Conqueror
BURNS, S.J., ROBERT I.
THE LIBRARY OF IBERIAN RESOURCES ONLINE The Worlds of Alfonso the Learned and James the Conqueror Princeton (1986)
King alfonso and King James were born into a world of stunning change. Each was to accelerate that change within his own kingdom, and to contribute to it in the wider world. The immediate background of both men was the Iberian peninsula, at that time a patchwork of disparate countries, cultures, and languages crowded into a geography of contrasts. Castile and León occupied the center, Navarre and Aragon the mountainous upper right-center, Portugal the Atlantic side, Catalonia the Mediterranean flank, and Islamic al-Andalus the bottom third, with a symbiotic Jewish society inside each host country and culture. Societies of conquered Muslims lay embedded within the frontier Christian states like frequent raisins in a pudding; conversely, Christian communities survived within the Islamic south. Castile and León had tended to drift together in random pattern, but would permanently unite only during Alfonso’s lifetime. Upland Aragon was linked with coastal Catalonia into a common realm by the external factor of a shared ruler; otherwise the two were separated by language, economy, institutions, and mentality. Al-Andalus was the monolithic empire of the Almohad dynasty and religious orientation, centered on Marrakesh at the Sahara’s edge.