Wednesday 30 June 2010


Why did all this happen in the first place? What was it they wanted from Diego? This remains an interesting question and to answer it we have to give up a few assumptions.

First of all, while he certainly performed an ecclesiastic role, Diego Gelmirez was more than just a raised cleric. He was powerful, almost as powerful as the queen, and far more powerful than any single lord of Galicia, the Duke of Traba included, and remember it was he who was the keeper of Alfonso Raimundez, the future king. Diego Gelmirez claimed vast units of property: castles and lands which stretched far outside Galicia. He even owned his own navy: an armada thought to be the first in Spain. Perhaps he was the prototype for that bishop of your chessboard who is second in power only, really, to the queen...

What's more, Diego also had no difficulty with the idea of nepotism. Half his family it seems were under his employ: he used his brothers as ambassadors to foreign courts. One, Gudesindo, he made “villicus” of the town – a position once enjoyed by Diego himself.

One “nephew”, Pedro, was made Prior of the Chapter. (This enigmatic figure of whom we know almost nothing will become a key character in my new book Compostela.) For many, Diego was a hated figure. There seemed no end to what he would do to bring fame and glory to himself, and his cathedral city, but clearly not all of it trickled down to the nobility. If Diego had pretensions to becoming the Spanish "pope", he certainly chose who would likely benefit the most. And who would not...

If all this were not enough, Diego Gelmirez, Bishop of Compostela, turned his nose up at all things Galician; such was too provincial for his way of thinking. No doubt it was to a man who loved French ways in all things. He made key positions available to French clerics; trusted his official records to a Frenchman. And when he made his escape from Santiago in 1117, it was to a French town he fled.

He may have been born Gallego, but Diego Gelmirez had French pretensions. Not surprisingly, it was not liked.

Friday 25 June 2010

A Revolting Tale Part 2

Having been promised safe conduct, Urraca was allowed to leave. But there’s no saying what will happen under mob rule. The queen was physically attacked, possibly even stripped of her clothes before being able to escape the city. Diego Gelmirez, who seems to have had more lives than a cat, somehow managed to escape the burning tower, we are told, through the mediation of the abbot of San Martín Pinario. But others were less fortunate. In the fracas, at least four people were killed, most likely including members of Diego’s cathedral chapter. The fire was so hot that the cathedral bells melted in the blaze. So says the HC.

Diego and Urraca escaped separately to the hills outside Compostela. Five armies converged upon the city, and the insurgents surrendered.

Not surprisingly, the queen wanted blood! (or large sums of money in lieu of, no doubt). Diego was more moderate. He knew that the point had been made, and more importantly, he was the one who had to put the city back together. Urraca could return to Leon or wherever she chose. The bishop had to stay and live with the aftermath.

A court was convened. The ringleaders were sent into exile and the remainder heavily fined. For a while at least, Diego could breathe easy.

Friday 18 June 2010

A Revolting Tale Part 1...

When Urraca learned that Arias Perez and his associates had disregarded her orders for peace in Compostela, she sent an armed detachment to disarm them and just to make sure that everyone recognised that the Queen’s orders were not to be questioned, she came with them herself. The Historia Compostelana doesn’t tell us exactly what happened, but the attempt went drastically wrong.

The Brotherhood and their militia turned on the queen and she and Diego were forced to flee to safety. They chose the bell tower of the cathedral. It was a mistake!

The besiegers set fire to the lower storeys no doubt helping themselves to the timber which lay scattered around: the building material for the cathedral which was still in construction. The bishop and queen were trapped.

“I don’t know what you're worried about,” said a frightened Diego to the queen. “It’s me they want. Not you!”

Monday 14 June 2010

A Royal Tap on the Wrist...

Finally! I'm back with more stories to tell.

Urraca had enough on the royal plate with the Battler without that upstart in Compostela challenging her authority and so she sought to humble her bishop with a little warning. She needed to look no further than the brotherhood who were more than happy to oblige. Diego was suitably “embarrassed”: in fact he lost all control over the town, virtually besieged in is own Episcopal palace.

Of course, he threatened the wrath of God, but his excommunications remained unheeded. Eventually, with rental income from the suffragens effectively cut off, and having suffered continued attacks upon his palace which was badly damaged, Diego Gelmirez saw that discretion was indeed the better part of valour. After 6 months he gave in to the queen, and to Arias Perez who it shall be seen, let this momentary victory go to his head. He forgot the fact that his help had been enlisted by Urraca.

In order to re-ingratiate himself with the people of Compostela, Diego made a big show of translating new relics given to him by the queen as a peace offering. His congregation may have been impressed. But the Brotherhood were not about to give up so easily what they had gained.

(P.S. It's a pumpkin!!!)