The Emperor Alfonso VII’s dinner.

Category: Edad Media

Before the construction of the Cathedral, the main church of the city was a Romanesque one, raised at the end of the XIth Century over the ruins of the church that Almanzor destroyed. There are no traces of his Romanesque cathedral, where in 1135 took place the coronation of Alfonso VII, the "Emperador de las Españas" (Emperor of all the Spains). This was one of the glorious moments of the city in its whole history as head of the kingdom.

The Emperor’s entourage

The urban development in those days had crossed the Roman walls and new suburbs were born, such as Barrio de San Martín, Barrio de los Francos, until they completed a new zone, known as el "Burgo Nuevo". Monasteries and churches took it in turns with new civil constructions. The distance with the Moslim frontier brought peace and progress to the city, that already had more than 2000 inhabitants, which was quite a lot for a Christian city at that time, although the inhabitants could feel envious, for their enemy’s kingdom capital, Cordoba, had 100 000 inhabitants and a splendour that the austere Leónese lacked.

San Isidoro’s premises held also the Kings’ Palace, where Alfonso VIIth arranged a splendid dinner to celebrate his appointment as an Emperor, after the coronation ceremony. The journalists of that days wrote about the celebration that took place in León on May 26th 1135, a Whit Sunday : “Archbishops, Bishops, the nobility, plebs and all the people met at the church of Santa Maria with the king García from Navarra and the princess Doña Sancha (Alfonso VII’s sister). It was proposed under divine inspiration to crown the king Alfonso as Empiror, to whom the Saracen’s king Zafadota, the Count of Barcelona, named Ramón Berenguer, the Count Alfonso de Tolosa and many other counts and dukes from Gascoigne and France promised vassalage”.

After the "Te Deum" inside the Cathedral, the procession marched towards San Isidoro, where the pagan celebration was programmed. “The Emperor held there a huge dinner in which counts, princes and dukes served as waiters the king’s table”. León lived a happy event and became as well the head city of the Empire. Alfonso VIIth, king of Galicia, Castilla and León had reasons to be crowned as Emperor, because he had the hegemony over the Christian kingdoms, he leaded the war against the almoravids, and agreed with the Catalonian-Aragonese crown the “distribution” of the land that had been re-conquered. The Emperor took for Castilla and León the re-conquer of the region that today makes Andalucía. Valencia and Murcia remained for Aragón’s Crown.

Alfonso VII’s stained-glass window

The Castilian-Leónese expansion towards Andalucía was the Kingdom’s greatest glory, had as a consequence that, a Century after, Seville took from León the privilege of being the capital of the Empire. That happened in 1248. Fernando III El Santo, that laid the new Cathedral’s foundations, extended the Castilian-Leónese hegemony towards the South until reaching the sea; he organized a fleet that went up the Guadalquivir and landed to take the Sevilian countryside. Seville surrendered to Fernando in November 23rd 1248, and the king decided to install his court there to easily continue with his expansion from there. León was not the capital of the Kingdom anymore.

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