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Moorish guitar and Latin guitar (from the cantingas of Alfonso el Sabio)
Troubadour music, so loved in the courts of Aragon, Castilla, and Navarra during the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, Contributed in the highest degree to the promotion of Spain's musical culture, to the extent, as has already been stated, that, Spain in this regard occupies first place among European nations. Troubadour music also increased the fondness and knowledge of musical techniques, which, judging from the scenes of musical performances they portrayed, our thirteenth century painters had to be acquainted with.

What is suspected, is that the painters of these scenes, as the men of nobility, as princesses, and as the ordinary people themselves, who came to discover in music the adequate frame of reference for their traditions and concerns, were not strangers to the art of playing the various string instruments. It is found that Spain offers a large number of graphic scenes containing musical instruments that appear on the architectural and sculptured monuments of the Visigothic, Romanesque, and Gothic art; and especially in the pictorial art conspicuous in the admirable Beato of the ninth to twelfth centuries.

"Interest in our (Spain's) medieval organ arose, thanks to the musicians, who, in the court of King Savio wrote the old manuscript of the Poetical Compositions of Holy Mary and the Book of Chess, which up to now, constitute the most valuable sources for the study of the medieval instruments used in Europe. By employing the graphic material of the eras, one can construct a history of the Spanish musical instruments in the Middle Ages. Introduced were those used in the performance of sacred dances in the churches. Minstrel music, which was incorporated in these performances, had to be restrained and even prohibited by the Councils, in peninsular churches." (H. Angles, Spain's Glorious Contribution to Universal Music.)

This is what don Ramon Melendez Pidal confirms in his Minstrel Music and Minstrels, saying: "At the beginning of the thirteenth century, the faithful followed the custom of taking Saracen and Jewish minstrels to play instruments and sing at evening vigils observed in the churches."

According to what we know, on specific occasions, in the beautiful church of St. John of Kings, in Toledo, the presence of minstrels, who played their instruments, was permitted (also, in their locked cages which were suspended from the walls, birds, and a profusion of flowers and plants which lended to the area an unequaled charm.)

And even today, in a small village bordering Segovia, the shepherds who participate in offering a lamb to the Christ Child on Christmas Eve, perform some graceful and ingenious dances in the interior of the church, with the accompaniment of their musical instruments. In the Book of Apolonjo, an anonymous poem from the master of clerecia (a type of literature cultivated by the clerics or learned people of the Middle Ages), is clearly indicated to us, as a sign of the refined ideal of those thirteenth century courts, the fact that the highest aspirations of the spiritual character were enclosed by musical art, poetry, love and adventure. The Book of Alexander, also of the same period - the middle of the thirteenth century - by the author, cleric Juan Lorenzo de Astorga, enumerates, in a chapter concerning poetry, the following string instruments: simfonia (type of lyre); farpa (harp); giga (three-string viola); rota (small harp); alboguer (flute); salterio (sound box with many strings); citola (derived from the zither); and viola (small violin).

Some years later, in the fourteenth century, The Poem of Alfonso XI, which tells of this king's marriage, as celebrated in 1328, relates how, in the Monasterio de Las Huelgas in Burgos - founded by Alfonso VIII, in 1180 - minstrels played these different instruments.

14th century miniaturist: Musica and musicians

In this fourteenth century, all classes of Spanish society endorsed music and musical instruments, which they all enjoyed simultaneously. The people listened to music, played it, or sang on the smallest occasion. The entire society expanded their more intimate feelings through dance, song, and instrumental music, associating the pleasing sounds, tuneful verses, and rhythmical dances with their respective states of spirit and using them to arouse the feelings of the soul or marital zeal in the war already begun against the Moors - a war during which minstrels accompanied military expeditions.

Schools of artists, wind-instrument players, or minstrels of the lute and guitar, were formed in the Courts of Aragon, Navarra, and Castilla. "So great was the role which instrumental music played in the royal, religious, and popular celebrations during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, that the multitude of instruments noted in the records of the Catalonian chancellor was an increase over those noted in the Cantigas." (H. Angles)

"The most typical case of a fourteenth century European prince who wished to see himself always surrounded with good musicians, we have in the person of Juan I, the Lover of Gentility (1351-1395), king of Aragon, who searched for the best instrumental musicians of Europe, even though they were serving in other courts, and promised them salaries and splendid gifts, provided that he see them in his presence; and without counting foreign minstrels, there was a time during which he had registered in his palace, some twenty instrumental musicians 'charged with playing for him, the most select compositions from both the old and modern instrumental repertoire known in France, Flanders, and Germany."

"Meanwhile, Prince Carlos - later, Carlos III el Noble, King of Navarra - with great generosity, repaid six wind-instrument players in his service." The kings, princes, and eminent persons - as, for example, the infant don Juan Manuel, the constable don Alvaro de Luna, and many other noblemen - boasted not of favoring instrumental music, but of cultivating it for themselves.

In these times of "geniality and merriment," the number of minstrels had to have increased, if we are to judge by the ending to some of the verses by the Arcipreste de Hita, cleric Juan Ruiz, which state: "the hills are full of minstrels." With the increase in minstrels, aided by the promotion of music in the castles, palaces and universities, the number of string instruments and their innovations also grew, with such a profusion of them as to make one think the people of those times spent their lives with the sound of the musicians and the noise of the soldiers.

"The art of the minstrels became the most dangerous fancy of the kings, since it caused them to forget about public business, as the General History of Alfonso X expresses Nevertheless.... "as the minstrels were the chief decoration of the court, their songs, sonnets and instruments were included by the Partidas among the merriments the king had to make use of when trying to forget his cares and sorrows." "And so it is that the minstrel, with, his pleasing art makes literature and music attain the status of the most favored subjects for man - subjects useful in forcing sadness from a wounded heart, and dissipating the melancholy of a fatigued spirit." (Menendez Pidal)