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CATALAN AND OCCITAN TROUBADOURS AT THE COURT OF ALFONSO VIII Antonio Sánchez Jiménez Miami University AJesfis Rodríguez Velasco. por su paciente e inteligente ayuda It is relatively unrecognized that it was a Catalan troubadour, Raimón Vidal de Besalú, who penned one of the most attractive and vivid descriptions of Alfonso VIII's court in the Castia Gilos. The text belongs to the narrative genre known as novas (Suzanne Fleischman 169),' and begins by depicting a literary soirée in which the royal patrons , Alfonso VIII the Noble, '"N-Anfós" (Manuel Mila i Fontanals 125), and his queen Eleonor of Aquitaine, "la reyn' Elionors" (Mila i Fontanals 126), listen attentively to the Catalan's poem. Raimon Vidal de Besalú dedicates die first fifteen lines of the Castia Gilos to praising Alfonso as a model of courtesy, and then proceeds to describe the graceful and beautiful queen and her rich garments: Estrecha vene en un mantel D' un drap de seda bon e bel Que hom apela sisclató Vermelhs ab lista d' argen fo E y hac un levon d' aur devis. (Milà i Fontanals 126) The Castia Gilos depicts how a Catalan troubadour visits the Castilian court and narrates to the king and his courtiers a poem in Provençal 1 The Castia Gilos, a long narrative poem in octosyllabic verses, is best described as belonging to the novas genre. Nevertheless, critics have used different words to describe the genre ofthe poem: Irenée Cluzel referred to it as a "fabliau", and Martín de Riquer called it "una novella" (Historia 1 16). La corónica 32.2 (Spring, 2004): 101-120 102Antonio Sánchez JiménezLa corónica 32.2, 2004 about die Aragonese vassal 'N-Anfós de Barbastre (Mila i Fontanals 127). Beside Vidal, many odier Catalan and Occitanian troubadours portrayed Alfonso's court as a golden age of courtesy and patronage, providing a wealth of information about the Castilian court during the late twelfth and early diirteenth centuries. Some of these troubadours were born in areas diatwe now consider part ofthepdisos catalans, which at the time belonged to die king ofAragon, count of Barcelona. Others were natives of small fiefs in the Aquitaine, a territory that lay witiiin Aragón's sphere ofpolitical and economical expansion until die disastrous battle of Muret in 1213.2 Although they lived in a region not normally associated widi Castilian culture, they obviously took an interest in Alfonso's court. This paper explores exacdy which troubadours , Catalan and Occitan, visited Alfonso Vili de Castilla's court, and why diese troubadours would be interested in Alfonso's virtues and die characteristics of his reign. This literary connection demonstrates Castilian-Aragonese cultural and political ties during die early thirteenth century. Specialists in medieval history and culture celebrate Alfonso VIII de Castilla (1 155-1214)3 for his many achievements and enterprises, both political and cultural. Alfonso's armies seized the provinces of Alava and Guipúzcoa from the kingdom of Navarra between 1 198 and 1200, and revitalized the Reconquista by defeating the Almohad Empire in die decisive batde of Las Navas de Tolosa in 1212. Alfonso also accomplished some impressive diplomatic triumphs: he engineered the definitive union of die kingdoms of Castilla and León, and played a decisive role in the peace and prosperity of die Christian regions of Western and Central Iberia. In addition to these political achievements, Alfonso's reign saw many cultural advancements as well. The twelfthcentury Renaissance reached Castilla during Alfonso's rule (José Angel García de Cortázar 167): circa 1212, Alfonso founded the Peninsula's - The count-kings dominated the land ofthe troubadours for a long time, and their influence peaked in Alfonso VIII's life. In 1 167, Alfonso II de Aragón (Alfons I in Cataluña) inherited the County ofProvence, and in 1 172 he received the County ofRoussillon. He also managed to obtain nearby Beam's and Bigorre's homage in 1 187. His son, Pedro II (Pere I in Cataluña), sought to secure his Occitanian possessions through a series ofdynastic marriages, but his premature death at Muret frustrated the Aragonese plans in Occitania...


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