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Alfonso V of Aragon (the Magnanimous) (1396–1458)

Alfonso V of Aragon (the Magnanimous) (13961458)

King of Aragon and Naples, and an important Renaissance patron of the arts and scholarship, Alfonso was the son of Ferdinand I of Aragon and the adopted son of Joanna II of Naples, who made him the hereditary king of her realm. This queen, who had no direct heir, allied with Alfonso against Louis III, a prince of Anjou, whom Alfonso defeated on the battlefield in 1421. In this way Naples, then one of the wealthiest states in Europe, was made part of the Spanish realm of Aragon. In 1423, however, Joanna and Alfonso broke off their alliance and in 1435 the queen abdicated the throne of Naples to Louis, who had the support of Pope Martin V.

To contest Naples, Alfonso hired the mercenary Braccio da Montone to lead his forces. Joanna's captain Muzio Sforza then defeated Alfonso and the queen officially named Louis III as her heir. After the death of Louis in 1434, Joanna named Rene of Anjou as her heir in her will. She died in 1435, leaving Naples as a prize for any ruler with the ambition and the manpower to capture it. Alfonso led his forces into Italy, capturing the important towns of Capua and Gaeta, but was then defeated and taken prisoner. A persuasive speaker, he convinced his captors in Milan to release him, then gathered another fleet and returned to Naples. He besieged the city in 1441 and finally captured it the next year. The pope formally recognized him as the king of Naples in 1443. Alfonso left the rule of Aragon to his wife and brother and lived in Naples. He beautified and improved the city, repairing aqueducts, paving streets, and building monuments. Alfonso introduced Italian Renaissance humanism to Spain and made Naples the center of the Renaissance by patronage of artists such as Francesco Laurana.

Alfonso founded the academy of Naples and commissioned from Laurana a triumphal arch for his entrance into the city in 1443, which formed part of the Castel Nuovo. An important patron of the arts and literature, Alfonso held the classical Roman writers in reverence and set an example for future princes of Italy, who considered patronage of great art and architecture a way of making their permanent mark on the states they ruled.

See Also: Naples

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