Queen as King

Politics and Architectural Propaganda in Twelfth-Century Spain


Queen as King traces the origins of San Isidoro in León as a royal monastic complex, following its progress as the site changed from a small eleventh-century palatine chapel housed in a double monastery to a great twelfth-century pilgrimage church served by Augustinian canons. Its most groundbreaking contribution to the history of art is the recovery of the lost patronage of Queen Urraca (reigned 1109-1126). Urraca maintained yet subverted her family’s tradition of patronage on the site: to understand her history is to hold the key to the art and architecture of San Isidoro. This new approach to San Isidoro and its patronage allows a major Romanesque monument to be understood more fully than before.


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Biographical Note

Therese Martin, Ph.D.(2000), University of Pittsburgh, is an Associate Professor of Medieval Art History at the University of Arizona. Her research focuses on royal architecture and female patronage.

Review Quotes

'...Thanks to Therese Martin's sweeping and accessible study of the royal family of León and its patronage of a series of monuments in their capital city, Spain's art historical isolation through the early twelfth century has been breached. Informed by the last two decades of feminist scholarship, Martin has shone a very revealing light on a series of, until now, misunderstood monuments, and put in high relief the contributions of Spain's royal women to the development of its artistic, and political, traditions.... This is an astoundingly synthetic work. Martin draws on the evidence of chronicles, inscriptions, manuscript painting, sculptural and architectural style, iconography from sculpture and paintings, archeological remnants, and mason's marks.'... Diane Reilly, Medieval Feminist Forum, 2007. '...Martin's meticulous analysis of the structure of the church and the work of its masons is impressive, and she may be correct in re-assigning the patronage of this important church...' Rose Walker, The Medieval Review, 2007. ...Therese Martin has written a fascinating, intricate study. … With its engaging text, lavish illustrations, informative appendices, and exciting interpretations, Queen as King is a real pleasure to read and savor.... Ernest E. Jenkins, Bulletin of the Society for Spanish and Portuguese Historical Studies, vol. XXXII, 1 and 2, 2007Using a rich mixture of evidence, art historian Therese Martin persuasively makes the case that Queen Urraca of Castilla-León (r. 1109-1126) was one of the most significant patrons of San Isidoro of León. Martin effectively incorporates the technical aspects of architectural history into a larger narrative of political history... Queen as King grapples with the relationship between architecture, gender, and history, and significantly adds to the historiography of Queen Urraca, an important ruler of the Spanish Middle Ages.” Miriam Shadis, American Academy of Research Historians of Medieval Spain, Newsletter: Spring – Supplement "The study of medieval queens as agents in European political life and as patrons of visual culture has mushroomed in the past decade from an obscure subject to a lively field. Therese Martin's book makes valuable contributions to the topic, for her study is at once a comprehensive monograph of a key Romanesque monument, San Isidoro de León, an analysis of the decisive impact of the female patronage in the construction and cultic identity of the church, and a consideration of the rulership of one of the key patrons of San Isidoro... One of the most valuable contributions of Martin's volume is her survey of literature not widely known beyond Hispanic specialists. In addition to a rich bibliography on San Isidro and related monuments, Queen as King offers access to valuable resources for Spanish royal women... " Kathleen Nolan, Speculum, 2008 '...Martin's is the first study to unite the analysis of archaeological data, the study of chronicles and charters, epigraphy, stylistic analysis, the politics of patronage, and a feminist perspective... Looking hard at evidence often skimmed over by previous scholars, she builds a convincing case that the present structure was largely completed under the patronage of Queen Urraca (r. 1109-26), who ruled the unified kingdoms of Spain as an independent monarch, an unprecedented role for a woman in medieval Iberia... An important contribution to both the history of art and the understanding of medieval queenship...' Alexa K. Sand, Sixteenth Century Journal, XXXIX/2 2008

Table of contents

Acknowledgements Chapter One From Patron to Harlot: How Did Queen Urraca Get Here from There? Chapter Two The Establishment of San Isidoro as a Palatine Chapel: Fernando I (d. 1065) and Sancha (d. 1067) Chapter Three The Power of the King’s Sister: The Infanta Urraca (d. 1101) and Alfonso VI (d. 1109) Chapter Four Dynastic Propaganda in a Queen’s Patronage at San Isidoro: Urraca of León-Castilla (reigned 1109–1126) Chapter Five The Painted Cycle of the “Pantheon,” c. 1109 Chapter Six The Infanta Sancha (d. 1159), Alfonso VII (d. 1157), and Construction of the Monastic Complex Chapter Seven Queen as King: Urraca of León-Castilla (d. 1126), Matilda of England (d. 1167), and Melisende of Jerusalem (d. 1161) Appendix A Capitals Appendix B Masons’ Marks Bibliography Index


This work will be of interest to scholars of art history, gender studies, cultural studies, Spanish history, military history, and social history.