Biography of Alfonso II. King of Asturias (ca. 760-842)

Alfonso II, King of Asturias.

King of Asturias Oviedo-born around the year 760 and died in the same city on 20 March of the 842.

Biographical synthesis

King's son, had to wait for long time and four reigns in 791 could be crowned, after having been away from the throne in 768 and deposed in 783. It requested assistance to the powerful franco monarch, Charlemagne, against the Muslims of al - Andalus, which attacked him on numerous occasions throughout his reign (he sacked Lisbon in 798), and against the adoptionist heresy. Guidance of the desire to link the Asturian monarchy with the Visigoth ("neo-Gothic") undertook a major reform of his Kingdom: created new institutions of Government; He/She promoted the repopulation, although without conquering any territory; It gave Oviedo, where the capital, many buildings that made build or reform moved and reorganized the Asturian Church, creating an episcopal see in the city. In its time, was believed to discover the grave of the Apostle Santiago, already then become destination for pilgrims in Galicia. By not having married never had the nickname of "the chaste" (this King is not to be confused with Alfonso II el Casto of Aragon, King of century XII).

The struggle for the throne

He was the son of the Asturian King Fruela I and the captive Basque Munia; He/She had a sister, Jimena, who was Abbess at the monastery of San Juan Bautista. In 768, being still an infant, died murdered his father. While the Asturian throne was occupied by a cousin of Fruela I, Aurelio, the small Alfonso was sent to the Galician monastery of San Julián de Samos, by have been favored by his father offered security guarantees. There he/she was educated and acquired some devotion to the owner of the monastery, San Julian, and Santa Basilissa. Years later, already reigning Silo and Adosinda uncles (Adosinda was the sister of Fruela I), was called to the Court from Pravia; He/She came to share with them Government jobs, and when Shiloh died in 783, his aunt, and part of the nobility placed him on the throne.

Alfonso II el Casto. Miniature of the book of Testaments of the Cathedral of Oviedo

However, was immediately overthrown by a half-brother of Silo called Mauregato, illegitimate son of Alfonso I. On this occasion, Alfonso took refuge in Álava, alongside the semi-autonomous Basque relatives of his mother. In general, historians have seen this dethronement an act of the fight between the supporters of Pact with Muslims (Mauregato and ancestors) and the fight against them (Alfonso II). In any case, if the second was temporarily away from the Crown, in the long run would be a winner: after the death of Mauregato, after five years of Government, was elected King Vermudo I, brother of Aurelius, that all three (791) abdicated in Alfonso II after a defeat against the Muslims in Burbia (León). Was anointed King, new fact among the Asturian Kings, on 14 September of that year, undertaking since then a profound restructuring of the Kingdom in all aspects. This was facilitated by a long reign of somewhat more than half a century: when he/she ascended the throne had around thirty years of age.

Initial difficulties and request for assistance to Charlemagne: the adopcionismo and Islam

Very soon transferred the capital to Oviedo, small population that already existed since some time; not only was where he/she was born and been baptized, but that it was well protected by the nearby mountains and located in the most central position to the previous capitals, Cangas de Onís and Pravia, dominated the steps towards Western Asturias, Cantabria and the Plains on the other side of the mountains of the South. Shortly after, in 794 and 795, suffered there same first Muslim attacks various faced during his reign, sent by the powerful Emirs of Córdoba. Oviedo, without possible defense, was abandoned to its fate and destroyed and looted by the Arab leader Abd al - Malik. On the first occasion, 794, on the way back the Muslims were surprised and defeated in mourning. In the second, 795, though happened the same thing to another Islamic army which entered into Galicia simultaneously to the incursion of Abd al - Malik on the Asturian capital, this came out in Chase of Alfonso II, and was about to capture him; If it failed, it became instead with a great booty. The Kingdom was in a difficult situation. Thus, Alfonso II requested aid to Charlemagne, not only in search of new means of defence, but also to provide a solution to the adoptionist heresy. Arising out of the doctrine of Elipando, Archbishop of Toledo, threatened to extend to Asturias (and the Frank Kingdom) despite the hard refutation of the monk Beatus of Liébana.

Before the third Embassy sent to Aachen, Carolingian capital, for such purposes (there were known in 795 and 797 contacts), the Asturian King starred in 798 an exceptional deed of arms in this moment, the looting of the then distant Lisbon. This Embassy brought part of the loot as a gift to Emperor franc. 801 or 802, after a new Muslim expedition, this time to Alava, was dethroned for the second time, but now briefly: retired to the monastery of Abelania (of uncertain location, perhaps Ablaña, near Oviedo, or Bethlehem, a variant of "Liébana"), was replacement by Teuda noble, who was faithful to him. It seems that this new deposition was carried out by some nobles afraid of the Kingdom of Asturias to remain under the vassalage of Charlemagne. This fact did not take place, and yes the opening, by brief that outside, political relations with Europe.

Secured the throne, he/she could muster enough forces to soften, since not prevent periodic incursions of Islamic, usually during the summer (aceifas) and to the ends of the Kingdom, Galicia and Alava-castilla, more vulnerable and visible from the South to Asturias. Raids which, moreover, were not of conquest but of looting, limited to pillage, destroy crops and make prisoners. The emir Hisham I had sent them in 792 to Alava and, as mentioned, in Alava and Asturias 794 and 795 Asturias (that not returned home to suffer no assault). His successor al-Hakam I preferentially attacked to the East: in 796 to Cantabria, at 801 to Alava, Castile 805 and 816 to Alava. Finally, Abd al-Rahman II ordered his warriors in 823 to Alava and Castile, in Álava and Galicia 825 at two different points in 838 to Galicia and Castile, in 839 to Alava, and in 841 to Galicia. Sometimes Alfonso II met with simultaneous attacks which had as their object divided his forces, like those of 825 and 838. Precisely between both double campaigns, there was a period of peace because of various internal problems in al - Andalus.

The reforming work of Alfonso II in the Kingdom of Asturias: the neo-Gothic

But mostly Alfonso II was devoted to strengthening the internal structures of the Kingdom, work that usually has been synthesized in a sentence of the Chronicle Chronicles of his reign: "Omnemque gotorum ordinem, sicuti Toleto fuerat, tam quam palatio in Ovetao Ecclesia in cuncta statuit" (' all the ceremonial of the Goths, as it had been in Toledo, restored entirely in Oviedo)(both in the Church and in the Palacio'). Aside from specific facts, these words suggest the close bond that has been seen among the Asturian monarchy and the Visigoths, heiress of the second first. A "neo-Gothic" who, born in their time, would be more complex with Alfonso III (second half of century IX).

The administration of the Kingdom: new institutions and repopulating advance

Alfonso II, according to this ideal, created the Palatium, a new Court inspired in the Aula regia Visigoth but more rudimentary, with few heroes or magnates (lay and ecclesiastical advisers), a steward (rector's Palace), a notary, a strator or groom and one or several palatial counts (retinue real, probably without defined function). In front of each of the mandationes (territorial divisions) existing registered an iudex or count with military and judicial powers. In the field of Justice applied, with limitations, the use of the Forum iudicum, a variant of the Liber iudiciorum Visigoth.

Alfonso II did new conquests, so the dimensions of his Kingdom were those that had under his immediate predecessors: Galicia and Castile and Alava, with mountains as southern border in General (usually speak already for this time of the existence of a "strategic desert" or no man's land between the mountains and the river). Yes on the other hand, encouraged the repopulation of their domains, directly through personal concessions (the less), or indirectly through the confirmation of the frequent private or monastic settlements. Galicia, the Bierzo, Liébana, Álava and the most northerly Castilla received then Asturian, Cantabrian, or even Mozarabic settlers arriving from the South. Result of population growth was, for example, the Foundation in the first free English bishopric of Valpuesta, 804 to give spiritual care to the newcomers. Also Brañosera, in Palencia, obtained their Charter puebla in 824.

Oviedo, the new capital

He rebuilt and enlarged Oviedo, the "new Toledo", according to a real monumental plan, using a building style directly inspired by Roman models (renovatio). These were the origins of the Asturian art. As well, he/she built a palace that included the Holy Chamber (Chapel Shrine which still exists today, where they were kept, as well as relics brought from the South, the valuable Cruz of Ángeles donated by the King the year 808, and that was a place of pilgrimage), with the Cathedral of San Salvador to the North, and next to it the real iglesia-panteon of Santa María del Rey Casto and San Juan Bautista (today San Pelayo). To the Southwest, the Church of San Tirso. On the other side was the monastery of San Vicente, primitive origin of the city and therefore prior to Alfonso II; They were the Palace and the Cathedral, but in this case the monarch raised them again almost in full. This whole was surrounded by a wall. Out of it, but in the vicinity, the Church and Royal residence of San Julián de los Prados (Santullano), one of the most important examples of somewhat more remote, and Asturian pre-Romanesque art of San Pedro de Nora and Santa María de Bendones.

The reorganization of the Asturian Church and the discovery of the grave of the Apostle Santiago

Finally, in the religious aspect, revitalized the Church in his Kingdom. At the end of the century VIII, when he/she began to rule, the adopcionismo threatened to break the unity of the faith, had many Episcopal seats without resident holder (only Lugo and Iria had Bishop) and evangelization was still incomplete in some regions. Condemned the adopcionismo in subsequent synods, their doctrine was gradually losing strength in the early years of the century IX; in any case, Alfonso II dissociated himself is from the heretical Church Toledo, instead creating a new headquarters in Oviedo; for the monarch, and according to the aforementioned ideal neogoticista, it wasn't but a restoration. In 812 the King endowed the Cathedral of San Salvador with everything you need for your operation. It seems that a Council in which all the Bishops of the realm confirmed the Constitution of such cosmopolitan headquarters and studied how to reactivate the diocese without a Shepherd was held in this city in 821. Although the accuracy of the minutes of the Council has been discussed or at least considered certain only halfway, not fit doubt that in times of Alfonso II was reorganized the ecclesiastical hierarchy of the Kingdom of Asturias. Thus, the prelates and monks of the new monasteries (for example, San Emeterio de Taranco in Castilla, Santa Eulalia de Triurico in Asturias and San Vicente de Vilouchada in Galicia) spread Christianity by the regions in which it was still weak.

In the revitalization of piety was essential role the discovery of the grave of the Apostle Santiago in Compostela (which were or not, it was momentous for medieval religion and culture). Towards the year 829 Teodomiro, Bishop of Iria, believed, after examining a few tombs that told you a hermit called Pelayo, have found the remains of Santiago el Mayor in a place located about fifteen kilometers northeast of its headquarters. Teodomiro there moved its headquarters and Alfonso II made official the discovery to build a simple temple over the graves. The news spread quickly even more beyond the Pyrenees, organizing still in life of this Monarch the peninsular pilgrimage, the first routes of the known "Camino de Santiago".

Death and succession of the chaste King

Shortly before his death, in 840, Alfonso II had to suppress the only internal revolt that is news during his reign, that of Mahmud, an Andalusian that had rebelled against Abd al - Rahman II in Merida and had been completed by take refuge in Christian lands. Dedicated in Galicia to the looting, along with other Muslims, was besieged in a Castle by Asturian troops and died at the end. The King died two years later, surely with over eighty of age, being buried at the foot of the Church of Santa María de Oviedo, in a place that is still recognizable. Not married, despite some claims of later times, claiming that he/she did it with a free Princess, Berta or Bertinalda. Having no children did in the throne Ramiro I, that it was his predecessor Vermudo I, not without that count Nepociano was to take the Crown. The Chronicle of Alfonso III and the Chronicle Chronicles, the historiographical sources closer to his life (both from the end of the century IX), he/she was called "great" and "pious"; but the nickname that stuck was which was applied for the first time in some annals of century X, then repeated in later works: "chaste", in reference to her single never abandoned status.

Links on the Internet ; Page with a virtual visit to the camera Santa of the Cathedral of Oviedo (in Spanish). ; Page with information on pilgrimages to Oviedo (in Spanish). ; Page with a short biography on Alfonso II (in Spanish). ; Page with extensive information on the Church of San Julián de los Prados (in Spanish).


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