The conquest of Madrid by the Christians, while on their road of victory toward Toledo, must have seemed a natural fact to the Castilian-Leonese troops of King Alfonso VI.

Alfonso VI (1040 - 1109) King of Castile and Leon,
conqueror of Madrid in the year 1083.

By the last years of the 11th century, and despite present-day authors who like to depict Moslem Madrid as outstanding, the "almudena" of our city could not have amounted to much, for otherwise, its entry into the Christian world would have been lauded to the skies by chroniclers and such writers.

Whereas, the transfer of Madrid into Christian hands was an event that achieved only silence in our annals of history.

Christians entered the city of Toledo about the year 1083, but the castle-fortress at Madrid, the Alcázar, with its immediate "medina", could well have fallen before that, a place taken en route, or right afterwards, as any satellite city falls when a great central region collapses.

There were writers of the 16th and 17th centuries who disputed greatly an exact answer for the "when," question, that is, whether it was the year previous to or a year after 1083, each disputant supporting his own version in the debate.

Be it what it may, to us this is now far in the past, and what is important is the transfer itself, that Madrid did change hands. What is very difficult today, is to ascertain the timing.

Although the military garrison was new, which was lodged in the castle-fortress after the population passed from being a dominate one to a dominated, it is little likely that any sudden and significant changes were introduced into the look and customs of the tiny city.

The greater portion of Moslem inhabitants probably continued to live within the walls, fearful and hoping for new events, trusting that the situation would be reversed and their former chiefs might return, a thing that never did happen.

A certain part of the populace must have fled into exile before or after the enemy conquest, and the Jewish community almost surely celebrated the change.

Although the Christian conquerors proceeded immediately to the replacement of religious symbols as an open show of their power, Madrid would continue to be a "medina" wherein Moslem customs, language, characters and architecture held sway.

Aside from the substitution of flags, emblems and standard atop the fortress, one of the first acts of Christians in cities which they conquered, was to purify and consecrate the main mosque and other temples of the locale to the Christian faith.

This act took on a great deal of solemnity, in which persons of prestige joined, and persons of increasingly higher rank in the hierarchy, according to the importance of the place. In Madrid, the ceremonies must have run along a normal course, within the prudent moderation that surrounded the taking over of our town by the Christians.

Their most important act was to consecrate the main temple to Our Lady, protectress and guardian of the Christian Reconquest. In set cases, the cathedral or principal temple could be consecrated to some saint or apostle.

In our city, as in so many, many others, it was the Virgin Mary who received the honor of being patroness of the main temple.

Images of Mary were placed in a main chapel or on a main altar, in some very visible place. and the liturgy was said in front of them. Frequently also, the image of a crucifix was placed there, to preside over the chancel and almost always hanging from the back of the wall over the main altar.

These images were almost always brought from faraway places and were ordered from lands to the north, or more commonly were brought by the conqueror himself, who counted beforehand on the consecration of all temples in cities conquered by the Christians.

In most Castilian and Andalusian cities, the patron saint has always had an origin in the period of the reconquest, and many of the images, according to tradition, were brought or given by the particular monarch who took the locality.

However, Castilian dominion over lands south of the Guadarrama would soon suffer reverses.

Invasion by the Almoravids of Al-Andalus at beginnings of the 12th century, created great risks for the new Christian territories. A chieftain of the Almoravids, akin to all those others in his distinction as a terrible, harsh leader, was the scourge of the central lands of the Meseta, and laid siege to Madrid in the year 1110.

If for the Castilian-Leonese forces, Madrid had not been an important point, it certainly was for the Moslems.

The "almudena" of Madrid was famous for its superb fortress, the Alcázar, for whose construction the Arabs felt pride, and whose importance and strategic value were perfectly well recognized.

The prestige and significance of the castle-fortress at Madrid will become a common topic in Moslem texts. If for the Christians it was essential to keep Toledo, the old Visigothic capital on the Tagus, for the Moslem world the key of the whole schematic plot was called Madrid.

The Moor Alí ben Yusuf placed his camp on an esplanade at the foot of the mythical fortress and near the river Manzanares, on a place that would pass into historical nomenclature with the name of Campo del Moro.

It is not known with exactitude what were the intentions of the beleaguers nor for how long a time they were ready to sustain their efforts. But now, once more, legends and traditions come to our aid.

A legend tells us that, as the months went by, those troops of Alí ben Yusuf who were besieging the Alcázar and its immediate medina, became discouraged little by little in face of the fact that the besieged were enjoying an abundant water supply, an element essential to defense or abandonment of a place.

And so, the Almoravids struck camp and went away, giving up their plans for again gaining possession of Madrid.

The legend has it that an abundance of water was coming from a well discovered by the people of Madrid, who in their despair, had commended themselves to the grace of their patroness, Our Lady of the Almudena.

But now, present-day historical research comes to explain to us in a rational way, an event that tradition once judged only portentous.

As historians of our times have shown, because the interior itself of the "almudena" seemed to lack water, the Arabs at the height of their dominance, had worked out a complex network of subterranean conduits which brought water to the almudena and adjacent areas, proceeding from very distant springs and wells, kilometers away, through long underground passages, hidden and quiet.

This hypothesis is not contradicted by the constant presence of water in places relatively close to the Alcázar, such as Barranco de las Hontanillas or Barranco de San Pedro, whose supplies of water could be in habitual use in times of peace, but could be cut off easily by besiegers, as those places were outside the walled area.

Water would arrive through the "water routes" which the people had long found useful, and into the interior of the almudena. Hence, Alí ben Yusuf and his Moorish hosts could not at all fathom its sources. Although the origins of these water-conduits were Islamic, their existence was not well known in the Moslem world, information on them being limited to set regions and circumstances.

THE PICTURES:

- Clothing from the 11th and 12th centuries.
The man is dressed with a "ciclaton" or long garment adorned with geometric designs.
The woman is wearing a hood, under which she has a wide cloak that could, at times, be a poncho.

- A woman dressed according to customs of the 12th century.

- A knight of the 12th century, armed with sword and short coat of mail.
The shield is held with thongs from the neck, given its weight.
Changes in warrior vestment develop after the 11th century due to French influences.

- A knight at the beginning of the 13th century.
He wears a "pellote" or overmantle made of leather or cloth, very common at that time.

- A knight of the middle years of the 13th century.

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