Wednesday, 18 November 2009

The bishop rebels...

By 1080, the Roman Liturgy was beginning to replace the old Mozarabic (Visigothic) rite. The influence of the Order of Cluny was starting to change the way that people in Galicia would worship from henceforth. And not all welcomed this change.

We are not sure if Bishop Diego Pelaez was one of these, but there can be no doubt that he would have felt the winds blowing from France. King Alfonso VI made Constance of Burgundy his queen, and as often happens, this seemed to involve importing a few relatives as well.

Up to this point, Toledo had been the capital of the old Visigothic kingdom for many hundreds of years. By the late 11th century it was still in Moorish hands, but this was all to change. Alfonso captured Toledo, making Bernardo, a Frenchman, its archbishop. Perhaps Diego Pelaez felt that Galicia was to slip into the backwaters with the new changes with the shrine of St. James assuming less and less importance.

The Infanta Urraca, Alfonso and Constance's only issue, was promised to Raymond, also of France. In the absence of male heirs, this meant that Raymond, a foreigner, would become king.

Perhaps it was all too much got the independent Galicians to bear. This increasing hegemony threatened a vanishing way of life. Before Galicia had been effectively cut off from the rest of the kingdom, yet retained its autonomy, even its king, in this case the imprisoned Garcia. Now, although the pilgrim road had opened Compostela up to the world, instead of achieving its rightful place as the Spanish rival to Rome, it was slipping behind the newly captured Toledo.

In 1087 Count Rodrigo Ovéquez led a rebellious force into Lugo, capturing the city, and his accomplice, it would seem, was none other than our own Diego Pelaez, Bishop of Compostela.

Of course, it was doomed from the start, a daring plan simply destined for failure.

Thirty years later, whilst Diego Gelmirez was archbishop, one of his clerics wrote that charges against Diego Pelaez had been that he had sought the assistance of William of Normandy, "The Conqueror" of England, and although it was not stated, it is impossible not to add: perhaps to free Garcia and re-establish him as the King of Galicia.

This is not as far fetched as it may sound. No less than three of William's daughters had been suggested as marriage partners for the three brothers. Prior to his bethrothal to Constance, Alfonso was to marry Agatha, but she died on route to her bridegroom. Another daughter, one Alberta, was mentioned in connection with Sancho, and may even have married him. What is interesting is that her name (William had a lot of daughters) also comes up in connection with Garcia, the youngest, the dispossessed king of Galicia. Was there some rivalry between the two brothers which history has swallowed up? A romance lost and forgotten? We will never know.

The rebellion lasted for two years. As it was it was all to come to naught. William died unexpectedly when a riding accident threw him onto the pommel of his horse. The ringleaders of the rebellion, including Diego Pelaez, were rounded up and thrown into prison.

The Historia Compostelana tells us that Diego Pelaez was brought in front of his accusers in chains. He was forced to declare himself unworthy of his office, to surrender his pastoral ring and staff. Much later he was banished, exiled, and he spent the rest of his days in Aragon at the court of Pedro who was no friend to Alfonso, and subsequently none to Diego Gelmirez either. But I am getting ahead of my story.

Building on the cathedral stopped. Maestro Esteban followed Diego Pelaez east and began to work on a new cathedral to be built at Pamplona. The masons dispersed. An angered pope tried to re-instate his bishop who meanwhile languished in the dungeons, but with no success. And the bishopric stayed empty for 12 whole years while Diego Gelmirez, moving his way up through the ranks, was happy to bide his time.

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