Sunday, 8 November 2009

A bit more necessary history (bear with me!)...

In the early to mid-11th century, as if the threat from the Normans and Vikings was not enough, constant rivalry between the Kingdom of León and the Kingdom of Castilla opened rifts that could be (and were) exploited by outsiders, and so Sancho III "the Great", King of Navarre (1004–1035) took steps to eradicate the problem. This powerful king "absorbed" Castile in the 1020s, and added León in the last year of his life, driving King Bermudo of Leon back into Galicia which formed a part of his lands.

On Sancho's death, the kingdoms were once again divided, this time between Sancho's sons. At first it would seem that Bermudo took advantage of the situation and gained his Leonese territory back, but he could not hold it against the more powerful Fernando.

Castilla had fallen to Fernando, but for him that was not enough. He engaged Bermudo in battle and defeated him. In this way, Fernando was to remain the ruler of Castilla, Leon, and Galicia until his death in 1065.

But Fernando I seemed to have had very little interest in Galicia. At least it does not appear to have profitted in any way by his becoming king, and it would seem that Galicia had not forgiven Fernando for dethroning their own king, Bermudo. Rebellions broke out, although none very successful. For a while an uneasy peace was established. But the Gallego nobles had long memories.

Before Fernando died, he, like his father before him, divided his lands amongst his sons. Castilla went to Sancho who became Sancho II. Alfonso became King Alfonso VI of Leon, and finally, Galicia went to Garcia, the youngest of the brothers and perhaps the weakest. Nice guys finish last.

Garcia must have known that he could only rule his kingdom with the cooperation of his nobles and in order to placate them he undertook an oath: he swore he would be a good lord and would not deprive them of their lands. "...nor send them into exile; nor .....encourage their ill-wishers". The former was no doubt in response to the widespread rebellion by Count Muño Rodriguez, who had been imprisoned and stripped of his lands by Garcia's father, Fernando I.

But at the very least, Galicia had a king once more, and one it would appear it was willing to defend. Garcia seems to have made good upon his promises and attracted some loyal nobles to him although perhaps his zeal for reform did not endear many of his older subjects to him. But it wasn't to last for long. In true Mediaeval family tradition, Garcia was soon dethroned by his brother Sancho II of Castilla, who then met his own come-uppance when his lands were annexed by Alfonso. Alfonso then became King Alfonso VI of all the kingdoms formerly united under his father. Having seemingly formed an alliance with Sancho to remove their brother from his rightful inheritance, this may very well have been Alfonso's intention all along as in 1072 Sancho was dispensed with never to cause the new king any trouble again. Garcia fled to Sevilla, still then, in the hands of the Moors. Safety amongst nominal enemies seemed to be a better election than staying anywhere near his only remaining brother.

This may have simplified things historically, but things were still not happy in Galicia. In 1085, a further rebellion broke out, this time led by the Count of Lugo, Rodrigo Ovéquez. This revolt was no minor skirmish but a serious situation in which the disaffected aristocrats of Galicia, perhaps remembering only too well their own King Bermudo and his fate and more lately the self-imposed exile of their king, Garcia, posed a threat to Alfonso which had to be dealt with quickly and cleanly.

One man involved was not of the aristocracy, least not of the landed gentry. He was the Bishop of Compostela, a man who had received his see at the hands of King Garcia, and, it is almost forgotten, the first architect of the Cathedral. It is to him that we shall turn our attention next.

His name was Diego Pelaez...

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