Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date

Fall 2021

Publication Title

La corónica: A Journal of Medieval Hispanic Languages, Literatures, and Cultures


Global Languages


College of Humanities and Fine Arts


This article argues that the Libro de Alexandre was likely composed in 1233 as a critique of Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II, whose Constitutions of Melfi (1231) challenged papal authority on natural philosophical grounds. The article interprets the poem's recurring sun-moon motif as an allusion to the sun-moon allegory whereby medieval popes asserted that their authority exceeded that of an emperor to the same degree that the size of the sun exceeded that of the moon. Key to this interpretation is an analysis of the eclipse episode in which Aristander erroneously describes the moon as larger than the sun in precise numerical terms that invert the dimensions found in a gloss on the sunmoon allegory by Laurentius Hispanus (died 1248), a canonist who calculated that a pope's authority was forty-eight times greater than an emperor's by comparing the sizes of the sun and moon. The episode thus forms part of a pattern of coded critiques of the Holy Roman Emperor that culminates in God's [End Page 13] condemnation of the prideful Alexander the Great as a "lunático," a vicarious epithet for Frederick whose Constitutions contravened hierocratic ideology by positing that the lunar power of an emperor superseded the solar power of a pope.


This is a peer-reviewed article published by Modern Language Association Forum in La corónica: A Journal of Medieval Hispanic Languages, Literatures, and Cultures, available at



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