The army moved toward the hamlet of Zubia, built on the skirts of the mountain to the left of Granada, and commanding a view of the Alhambra and the most beautiful quarter of the city.
Continuing Spain Conquers Grenada,
our selection from Chronicle of the Conquest of Granada by Washington Irving published in 1829. For works benefiting from the latest research see the “More information” section at the bottom of these pages. The selection is presented in eight easy 5 minute installments.
Previously in Spain Conquers Grenada.
Place: Grenada, Spain
Nothing could equal the indignation of the Christian warriors at the insolence of the bravado and the discourteous insult offered to the Queen. Hernando Perez del Pulgar, surnamed “he of the exploits,” was present, and resolved not to be outbraved by this daring infidel. “Who will stand by me,” said he, “in an enterprise of desperate peril?” The Christian cavaliers well knew the harebrained valor of Hernando del Pulgar, yet not one hesitated to step forward. He chose fifteen companions, all men of powerful arm and dauntless heart. In the dead of the night he led them forth from the camp, and approached the city cautiously, until he arrived at a postern-gate, which opened upon the Darro and was guarded by foot-soldiers. The guards, little thinking of such an unwonted and partial attack, were for the most part asleep. The gate was forced, and a confused and chance-medley skirmish ensued; Hernando del Pulgar stopped not to take part in the affray; putting spurs to his horse, he galloped furiously through the streets, striking fire out of the stones at every bound. Arrived at the principal mosque, he sprang from his horse, and, kneeling at the portal, took possession of the edifice as a Christian chapel, dedicating it to the blessed Virgin. In testimony of the ceremony, he took a tablet which he had brought with him, on which was inscribed in large characters “Ave Marie,” and nailed it to the door of the mosque with his dagger. This done, he remounted his steed and galloped back to the gate. The alarm had been given — the city was in an uproar — soldiers were gathering from every direction. They were astonished at seeing a Christian warrior galloping from the interior of the city. Hernando del Pulgar overturned some, cut down others, rejoined his companions, who still maintained possession of the gate by dint of hard fighting, and all made good their retreat to the camp. The Moors were at a loss to imagine the meaning of this wild and apparently fruitless assault; but great was their exasperation, on the following day, when the trophy of hardihood and prowess, the “Ave Maria” was discovered thus elevated in bravado in the very centre of the city. The mosque thus boldly sanctified by Hernando del Pulgar was actually consecrated into a cathedral after the capture of Granada.
The royal encampment lay at such a distance from Granada that the general aspect of the city only could be seen as it rose gracefully from the vega, covering the sides of the hills with palaces and towers. Queen Isabella had expressed an earnest desire to behold, nearer at hand, a city whose beauty was so renowned throughout the world; and the Marquis of Cadiz, with the accustomed courtesy, prepared a great military escort and guard to protect the Queen and the ladies of the court while they enjoyed this perilous gratification.
A magnificent and powerful train issued forth from the Christian camp. The advance guard was composed of legions of cavalry, heavily armed, that looked like moving masses of polished steel. Then came the King and Queen, with the Prince and Princess and the ladies of the court, surrounded by the royal bodyguard, sumptuously arrayed, composed of the sons of the most illustrious houses of Spain; after these was the rearguard, composed of a powerful force of horse and foot; for the flower of the army sallied forth that day. The Moors gazed with fearful admiration at this glorious pageant, wherein the pomp of the court was mingled with the terrors of the camp. It moved along in a radiant line, across the vega, to the melodious thunders of martial music; while banner and plume and silken scarf and rich brocade gave a gay and gorgeous relief to the grim visage of iron war that lurked beneath.
The army moved toward the hamlet of Zubia, built on the skirts of the mountain to the left of Granada, and commanding a view of the Alhambra and the most beautiful quarter of the city. As they approached the hamlet the Marquis of Villena, the count Ureana, and Don Alonzo de Aguilar filed off with their battalions, and were soon seen glittering along the side of the mountain above the village. In the mean time the Marquis of Cadiz, the Count de Tendilla, the Count de Cabra, and Don Alonzo Fernandez, Senior of Alcandrete and Montemayor, drew up their forces in battle array on the plain below the hamlet, presenting a living barrier of loyal chivalry between the sovereigns and the city. Thus securely guarded, the royal party alighted, and, entering one of the houses of the hamlet, which had been prepared for their reception, enjoyed a full view of the city from its terraced roof.
While grim tranquility prevailed along the Christian line, there rose a mingled shout and sound of laughter near the gate of the city. A Moorish horseman, armed at all points, issued forth, followed by a rabble, who drew back as he approached the scene of danger. The Moor was more robust and brawny than was common with his countrymen. His visor was closed; he bore a huge buckler and a ponderous lance; his scimitar was of a Damascus blade, and his richly ornamented dagger was wrought by an artificer of Fez. He was Yarfe, the most insolent, yet valiant, of the Moslem warriors. 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.
But what were the feelings of the Spanish cavaliers when they beheld, tied to the tail of his steed, and dragged in the dust, the inscription “Ave Maria,” which Hernando Perez del Pulgar had affixed to the door of the mosque! A burst of horror and indignation broke forth from the army. Hernando del Pulgar was not at hand, but one of his young companions-in-arms, Garcilasso de la Vega by name, putting spurs to his horse, galloped to the hamlet of Zubia, threw himself on his knees before the King, and besought permission to accept the defiance of this insolent infidel and to revenge the insult offered to our blessed Lady. The request was too pious to be refused; Garcilasso remounted his steed; he 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.
We want to take this site to the next level but we need money to do that. Please contribute directly by signing up at https://www.patreon.com/history