He is a dignified and somewhat enigmatical figure. A vague tradition had always assigned the title of emperor to the sovereign who held Leon as the most direct representative of the Visigoth kings, who were themselves the representatives of the Roman empire. But though given in charters, and claimed by Alfonso VI of Castile and Alfonso of Aragon the Battler, the title had been little more than a flourish of rhetoric.
Alfonso VII was crowned emperor in 1155 after the death of the Battler. The weakness of Aragon enabled him to make his superiority effective. He appears to have striven for the formation of a national unity, which Spain had never possessed since the fall of the Visigoth kingdom. The elements he had to deal with could not be welded together.
Alfonso was at once a patron of the church, and a protector if not a favourer of the Muslims, who formed a large part of his subjects. His reign ended in an unsuccessful campaign against the rising power of the Almohades. Though he was not actually defeated, his death in the pass of Muradel in the Sierra Morena, while on his way back to Toledo, occurred in circumstances which showed that no man could be what he claimed to be---"king of the men of the two religions." His personal character does not stand out with the emphasis of those of Alfonso VI. or the Battler. Yet he was a great king, the type and to some extent the victim of the confusions of his age--Christian in creed and ambition, but more than half oriental in his household.