Alfonso X (Castile)

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Alfonso X of Castile (illustration from the Libro de los juegos , 1251–1282)
Juan de Villanueva Barbales: Alfonso X (1753) in the Sabatini Gardens in Madrid
José Alcoverro: Alfonso X (1892) at the National Library of Spain in Madrid

Alfonso X. (called the Wise , Alfonso X «el Sabio» in Spanish ; * November 23, 1221 in Toledo ; † April 4, 1284 in Seville ) was King of Castile and León from 1252 until his death , where he was ousted in 1282 . He was also anti -king of the Holy Roman Empire from 1257 to 1275 . He was the first son of Ferdinand III. the saint and his first wife Beatrix von Schwaben , a daughter of the Roman-German King Philip of Swabia , could not prevail against Richard of Cornwall , who, unlike him, traveled to Germany and was crowned king.

Descent and Regency

His descent from Hohenstaufen by his mother Beatrix , a daughter of King Philip of Swabia , gave him the right to represent the Swabian line. The election of the elector in 1257, after the death of William of Holland (1256), in which he received the same number of votes (both three votes) as the opposing candidate Richard of Cornwall , seduced him to over the Roman-German kingship the prestigious To strive for imperial crown ; However, this was never realized because he could not raise the necessary money for a train to Rome . In order to receive money, he deteriorated the coins and then tried to keep the price increase under control through an idiosyncratic tax system. The small trade in his dominion was ruined and the citizens and farmers were badly damaged. The unanimous election of Rudolf I of Habsburg as Roman-German King in 1273 actually meant Alfonso was deposed as King of the Holy Roman Empire , which is why Pope Gregory X. declared him deposed. However, he did not give up his claim until 1275 when he was prevented from traveling to Italy to be crowned King of the Lombards , and subsequently Gregory X. declared the revocation of his claims.

Disputes over the throne

His second son Sancho made claims to the throne before the children of Ferdinand de la Cerda , his eldest son, who had died before Alfonso in 1275. By appointing Sancho as heir to the throne in place of Ferdinand's sons, Alfonsus provoked a civil dispute and war with France in 1275 when the French king Philip III. took care of his sister Blanka , Ferdinand's widow, and their children.

After the successful conclusion of the war against France, Alfonso tried, with the support of Aragon, Catalonia and Valencia, to reunite the nation by means of a crusade against the Moors , conquering Jerez , Medina-Sidonia , San Lucar , Cádiz , part of the Algarve and united Murcia with Castile. But when he allied himself with the rulers of Morocco , his son and the nobles who had supported the Moors denounced him as opponents of the faith.

When Alfons wanted to divide the empire in favor of his grandchildren, Prince Sancho and the Castilian greats revolted. In 1282 he was disempowered, but formally retained his royal title. A backlash in his favor only began in the last years of his life. Alfons died on April 4, 1284 after several unsuccessful attempts to regain power, beaten as a refugee and lonely in Seville . He left a will in which he tried to exclude Sancho from the inheritance and thus avoid a civil war.

Importance as ruler

As ruler, Alfonso X showed legislative skills and a desire to give his kingdom a code of law and a permanent legal system . He completed the Las Siete Partidas collection of laws , which his father had begun , but which only became general land law in 1501. The Fuero Real was undoubtedly his job. Alfons lacked the resolve of a regent who submits himself to an organization, as well as the combination of firmness and moderation to rule with his nobles. His nobles, whom he tried to intimidate with sporadic acts of violence, rebelled against him.

Scientific reputation

Alfonso X's considerable scientific reputation is based on the fact that he was the author of several major poems, as well as a chemical and a philosophical work, as well as promoting astronomy and the recognition of Ptolemaic cosmology , which had become known to him through the Moors . So he had the Ptolemaic planetary tables improved for 40,000 ducats, which were named after him the Alfonsine tables (1252). The Alphonsus crater on the moon is named after him.

In Toledo he founded a school of translators for Jews , Muslims and Christians, which achieved great achievements in imparting Arabic and Jewish knowledge to Christian Europe. Here the Old Testament was translated from the Latin version of the Vulgate into Castilian as well as classical works on astronomy, mathematics and philosophy.

Alfons is considered to be the founder of the Castilian national literature, although he himself also wrote in Portuguese- Galician language. He had his historiographers compile the first general history of Spain (Estoria de España) as well as a world history (General estoria) in Castilian and draft the public documents in the national language.

In addition to his other achievements, Alfonso X commissioned many literary works (if he did not collaborate on them himself), for example the Cantigas de Santa Maria , more than 400 Galician songs of European importance about the Virgin Mary , and in 1283 the Libro de los juegos ("Book of Games", also "Codex Alfonso"), which is considered the first and most important collection of chess problems from the Middle Ages and is now kept in the Escorial . Almost all of the 103 chess problems are Arab mansubs .


From the extramarital relationship with María Guillén de Guzmán:

  1. Beatrix of Castile

From the marriage with Violante of Aragón :

  1. Ferdinand, died young
  2. Berengaria of Castile (1253 – after 1284). She was with Louis , the son of King Louis IX. France , however, engaged, he died in 1260 and she entered the monastery of Las Huelgas a
  3. Beatrix of Castile (1254–1280) ∞ William VII of Montferrat
  4. Ferdinand de la Cerda (1255–1275) ∞ Blanche , daughter of Louis IX. from France
  5. Eleanor of Castile (1257-1275)
  6. King Sancho IV of Castile (1258–1295)
  7. Constance of Castile (1258–1280), nun
  8. Pedro of Castile (1260–1283)
  9. John of Castile (1262-1319) ∞ María Díaz de Haro († 1342)
  10. Isabella, died young
  11. Violante of Castile (1265–1296) ∞ Diego López de Haro († 1310)
  12. Jaime of Castile (1266-1284)


  • Alfons X. "The Wise": The Book of Games. Translated and commented by Ulrich Schädler and Ricardo Calvo . Lit Verlag, Münster 2009, ISBN 978-3-643-50011-3 .
  • Alfonso el Sabio: Libros de acedrex, dados e tablas. The Schachzabel book of King Alfonso the Wise. With 51 miniatures and panels. Edited and translated by Arnald Steiger . Librairie E. Droz, Geneva, Eugen Rentsch Verlag, Zurich-Erlenbach 1941.


  • The documents of Alfons of Castile (= Monumenta Germaniae Historica. Diplomata. The documents of the German kings and emperors. Vol. 19,1). Edited by Ingo Schwab with the assistance of Alfred Gawlik. Harrassowitz, Wiesbaden 2016, ISBN 978-3-447-10088-5 .


Web links

Commons : Alfonso X (Castile)  - Collection of images, videos and audio files


  1. Manfred Zucker : What is a chess problem (9th episode). In: chess . 5/1991, p. 50.
predecessor Office successor
William of Holland Roman-German (counter) king
Rudolf I of Habsburg
Ferdinand III. King of Castile and León 1252–1284
Blason Castille Léon.svg
Sancho IV.