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
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
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
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.
Castilian dominion over lands south of the Guadarrama would soon suffer
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.
"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.
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
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
But now, present-day historical research comes to explain to
us in a rational way, an event that tradition once judged only portentous.
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.
- Clothing from the 11th and 12th centuries.
man is dressed with a "ciclaton" or long garment adorned with
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
- 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
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
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