Tales from Christendom | The Conquest of Granada - PART 1
A long thread, adapted from the work of the American writer and diplomat Washington Irving.
Washington Irving is best known by his books "Rip Van Winkle" and "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow". He was the first American man of letters recognized in Europe and around the world.
He spent four years as an ambassador to Spain. During this time he wrote his books "The Conquest of Granada" and "Tales of Alhambra".
He actually spent a whole season LIVING in The Alhambra - a place once considered by the Ancient Muslim rulers to be Paradise on Earth.
The Muslim Moors invaded the Iberian Peninsula in 711 AD, and it took them some seventy years to conquer almost all of it.
The "Reconquista" by the Spaniards, on the other hand, took more than 7 centuries.
The Last phase of the Reconquista was the Conquest of Granada, the Last Muslim stronghold in al-Andalus.
This was undertaken by the Catholic Sovereigns, Queen Isabel of Castile and King Ferdinand of Aragon. They united all other Iberian kingdoms in a formidable, invincible Alliance.
At the start of today's short tales, most of Granada's kingdom has been vanquished, and Ferdinand's armies besiege the Moors capital.
We will see that, in their love for their Queen and the Blessed Virgin, those pious knights could only be pushed so far.
THE DARING EXPLOIT OF HERNAN PEREZ DEL PULGAR
King Ferdinand had assembled a mighty army, with devastating Lombards he had made in Austria, a voluntary corps of English Archers and yeomen, the flower of Andalusia's chivalry, and the fierce Castilian infantry.
Also, an armada of ships and galleys based in the Straits of Gibraltar scoured the Barbary coast and swept every Moorish sail from the sea, cutting their supply and reinforcement lines.
The King forbid individual combat, as he stressed that the Reconquista was a holy endeavor, not the place to be seeking individual renown by single exploits.
Also, those combats didn't always go the Christians' way.
Let's let Washington Irving take it from here:
"These bravadoes caused great irritation; still, the Spanish warriors were restrained by the prohibition of the king."
"Among the Moorish cavaliers was one named Tarfe, renowned for strength and daring spirit, but whose courage partook of fierce audacity rather than chivalric heroism."
"Nothing could equal the indignation of the Christian warriors at the insolence of the bravado and the discourteous insult offered to the queen."
"The renegade led them silently to a drain or channel of the river Darro, up which they proceeded cautiously, single file, until they halted under a bridge near the royal gate."
"Pulgar, guided by the renegade, made good his retreat by the channel of the Darro to his companions at the bridge, and all, mounting their horses, spurred back to the camp."
"The mosque thus boldly sanctified by Hernan del Pulgar was actually consecrated into a cathedral after the capture of Granada."
GARCILASSO BENDS THE KNEE,
AND BENDS THE KING'S RULE ON INDIVIDUAL COMBAT
Queen Isabel held the supreme authority on the Kingdom. She commanded an army of architects and builders that provided her armies with the infrastructure for the campaign.
She commanded thousands of pioneers. Hills were leveled, bridges were built, roads were cut into rugged mountain passes, even new cities sprung up almost overnight.
When the Queen came to a siege, it meant 2 things:
First: there was no going back - Spaniards were all in.
The most treasured institution in all Iberian Kingdoms just set camp outside your city.
Second: You could get much better terms for capitulation - no widespread looting or massacre of captives were allowed to take place when she was present.
But her presence also made the proud Spaniards more on edge, more prone to be taunted by the nearly defeated Moors, despite the King's prohibition of individual duels.
Back to Washington Irving's book:
"He was known by his device to be Tarfe, the most insolent yet valiant of the Moslem warriors — the same who had hurled into the royal camp his lance inscribed to the queen."
"As he rode slowly along in front of the army his very steed, prancing with fiery eye and distended nostril, seemed to breathe defiance to the Christians."
"Hernan was not at hand to maintain his previous achievement."
"The request was too pious to be refused."
"Garcilasso remounted his steed, closed his helmet, graced by four sable plumes, grasped his buckler of Flemish workmanship and his lance of matchless temper, and defied the haughty Moor in the midst of his career. "
"A combat took place in view of the two armies and of the Castilian court."
"But if Garcilasso was inferior to him in power, he was superior in agility: many of his blows he parried; others he received upon his Flemish shield, which was proof against the Damascus blade. "
"A cry of despair was uttered by the Christian warriors, when suddenly they beheld the Moor rolling lifeless in the dust. Garcilasso had shortened his sword, and as his adversary raised his arm to strike had pierced him to the heart."
“It was a singular and miraculous victory,” says chronicler Fray Antonio Agapida; “but the Christian knight was armed by the sacred nature of his cause, and the Holy Virgin gave him strength, like another David, to slay this gigantic champion of the Gentiles.”
Those were just two minute skirmishes in a long bloody war filled with the most desperate deeds of valor. A holy campaign linked to the symbolism of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Would you like to read more about this? Let me know.
In 1492, Los Reyes Católicos ended Muslim dominance on Europe, and also discovered the New World with Christopher Columbus.
What a year! I wonder what their New Year's wishes were for 1493!
That was "Tales from Christendom | The Conquest of Granada - PART 1", for today.
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