Thursday, March 26, 2015

Loyal Peak castle: Peñafiel

It’s open for visitors, and 100,000 come every year – for the wine. 

In 1917, it became a national monument.


Few castles in Spain – and Spain has thousands of castles – are as striking and well-preserved as Peñafiel. It rises along the length of the tallest butte-like peak in Valladolid Province beside the River Duero. From there it can control movements in three river valleys, protecting an enclave at its feet.

Construction began in the 10th century at the site of an earlier fort known as Peña Falcón, “Falcon Peak.” The castle was taken and held by the Muslim ruler Almaznor for twenty years, and finally reconquered by Count Sancho García in 1013, who said, “Desde hoy en adelante esta será la peña más fiel de Castilla.” (“From now on this will be the most loyal peak in Castile.”) And so it became Peñafiel, Loyal Peak.

Over the next few centuries, the castle was expanded and often put to use. In 1112, King Alfonso I “The Battler” was besieged there by his wife, Queen Urraca, and in 1451 its owner, Juan of Aragón, led a revolt against Juan II of Castile. Although at times it served as a royal residence, it never lost its character as a military fortification.

Built directly on living rock, the castle takes the elongated shape of a ship: 150 meters/490 feet long and about 20 meters/66 feet wide. A three-storey high keep rises in the center.

These days it attracts visitors not just to admire its mighty stone walls. The north end of the castle houses the Provincial Wine Museum, which offers information about the history and culture of Ribera del Duero wines, along with guided tastings.


 Vistor information
 Location: 41.596574, -4.113969

 and Video

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Chapter 78 [part 1 of 3]

How the Knight of the Green Sword, who was at that time called the Greek Knight, Sir Bruneo of Bonamar, and Angriote de Estravaus traveled together by sea accompanied by the very beautiful Grasinda on their way to the court of King Lisuarte, who was determined to send his daughter Oriana to the Emperor of Rome to become his wife; and what happened when Grasinda declared her quest. 

[Medieval ships portrayed on postage stamps from the Republique de Burundi.]

The Knight of the Green Sword, Sir Bruneo of Bonamar, and Angriote de Estravaus, sailed the sea with Grasinda, sometimes with good weather and sometimes with bad as God sent, until they arrived at the ocean along the coast of Spain. When he of the Green Sword saw that they were nearing Great Britain, he gave profound thanks to God for letting him escape so many dangers and storms as they had crossed the seas, and for bringing him to the land where his lady was. Great joy overcame his heart.

Then he happily ordered all the ships to draw together and asked everyone to call him by no other name than the Greek Knight, and ordered them to hasten to land at Great Britain. Then he sat with Grasinda at her estrado and told her:

“Beautiful lady, the time you have wished for will come soon and, if God pleases, your heart’s desire shall be fulfilled. And truly, my lady, believe that neither for toil nor for danger to my person shall I fail to repay you for some of the kindnesses ye have shown to me.”

“Greek Knight, my friend,” she said, “I have such faith in God and His guidance that if your will were not so, He would not have given me such a knight as you to protect me. And I thank you for what ye have told me, because my heart burns twice as bright being so close to the challenge.”

The Greek Knight ordered Gandalin to bring him the six swords that Queen Menoresa had given him in Constantinople, which Gandalin did. The Greek Knight gave one to Sir Bruneo and one Angriote, who were astonished by how richly they were decorated. He took another one for himself and ordered Gandalin to put his green sword where no one could see it and to put the other one with his arms. He did this because he was going to King Lisuarte’s court and wish to do so undercover, and he did not want to be recognized by that sword.

By then it was between three and six o’clock. Grasinda, who was seasick, had the Greek Knight and Sir Bruneo and Angriote take her to the railing of the ship because she would feel relieved to see land. The four spoke of whatever pleased them most, continuing on their voyage, and as the sun began to set they saw a ship becalmed in the sea. The Greek Knight ordered to sailors to head toward it.

When they were close enough to hear each other, the Greek Knight told Angriote to ask the men in the ship if they had any news. Angriote greeted them courteously and said:

“What ship is this and who is in it?”

When they heard the question, they answered:

“The ship comes from Firm Island and two knights travel in it, who shall tell ye what ye may wish to know.”

When the Greek Knight heard Firm Island mentioned, his heart felt happy, as did the hearts of his companions, thinking they might learn what they had hoped to hear. Angriote said:

“My friends, we ask if these knights might please come forward so we may ask them about news we wish to learn. And if ye please, tell us who they are.”

“We shall not give their names, but we will tell them your request.”

They called the two knights, who came beside their men. Then Angriote said:

“My lords, we wish to know where King Lisuarte is, if by chance ye know.”

“We shall tell you everything we know,” they said. “But first we wish to ask about something we have toiled hard to learn, although we expect even more toil before we succeed.”

“Ask what ye please,” Angriote said, “and if I know, ye shall learn it.”

They said:

“My friend, what we wish to learn is news about a knight named Amadis of Gaul. All his friends are wandering and dying in foreign lands to find him.”

When the Greek Knight heard this, tears immediately came to his eyes from the great pleasure his spirit felt to know that all his relatives and friends were so loyal, but he remained quiet. Angriote told them:

“Now tell me who ye are, and I shall tell you what ye wish to know.”

One of them said:

“Know that my name is Dragonis, and this is my companion, Enil, and we plan to sail through the Mediterranean Sea and its ports from one end to another to try to learn news about this man of whom we ask.”

“My lords,” Angriote said, “may God give you good news about him. People from many lands are on these ships, and I shall ask to see if one of them knows anything, and I shall gladly tell you it.”

He said this on orders from the Greek Knight, and he told them:

“For the moment, I ask you to tell me where King Lisuarte is, and what news ye know of him and of his wife, Queen Brisena, and of his court.”

“I shall tell you,” Dragonis said. “Know that he is in a town called Tagades, and it is a large seaport facing Normandy. He has called all his noblemen to court for their counsel on whether to give his daughter Oriana to the Emperor of Rome, who has asked to have her for his wife. Many Romans are there to take her, and among them the greatest is Salustanquidio, Prince of Calabria, and many others whom he commands, who are esteemed knights. They have a Queen with them named Sardamira to accompany Oriana, whom the Emperor is already calling the Empress of Rome.”

When the Greek Knight heard this, his heart shook and he felt faint for a time. But when Dragonis began to describe how Oriana was bitter and weeping, and how she had sent her complaints to all the noblemen of Great Britain, his heart became quieter and strong, since she was sorrowful. He realized that the Romans could not be so many or so mighty as to prevent him from taking her by sea or land, and since he would do that for the poorest damsel in the world, what ought he do for she whom if he were to lose for only a moment, he could not live?

He gave great thanks to God because he would arrive in that land where he could repay his lady for some of the great favors she had given him, and if he took her, he would have her as he wished with no shame on her part. And with that idea he became as happy and joyous as if it were already accomplished and done.

He quietly told Angriote to ask Dragonis where he had learned that news. When he was asked, Dragonis said:

“We have left from Firm Island, where four days ago, some knights arrived: Sir Cuadragante and his nephew Ladin, Gavarte of the Fearsome Valley, Madancian of the Silver Bridge, and Helian the Lighthearted. These five came to hold counsel with Florestan and Agrajes, who are there, about how they should begin the quest for Amadis, he whom we search for. Sir Cuadragante wanted to send someone to King Lisuarte’s court to learn if the foreigners there had some news about the valiant Amadis. But Sir Florestan told him not to because he had just come from there and they had no news. His squires told of a contention Florestan had with the Roman, and how his praise shall be sung as long as the world endures.”

When Angriote heard this, he said:

“My lord knight, tell us who this man is and what praiseworthy things he did.”

“He is a son of King Perion of Gaul,” Dragonis said, “and he is very much like his brothers in his great skill at arms.”

And he told everything that had happened with the Roman knights as Queen Sardamira watched, and how he brought their shields to Firm Island with the names of their owners written in their blood.

“And this Sir Florestan recounted the news that we told you, and how Queen Sardamira’s knights were in such poor shape that she asked Sir Florestan to guard her until she reached Miraflores, where she went to see Oriana, King Lisuarte’s daughter.”

The Greek Knight and his friends were very happy about Sir Florestan’s good fortune. And when the Greek Knight heard Miraflores mentioned, his heart jumped and would not be still as he remembered the delightful time he passed with she who was his lady. He left Grasinda and the other knights, drew aside Gandalin, and told him:

“My true friend, thou hast heard the news about Oriana, and if it were to come to pass, she and I would meet our deaths. I ask thee to be extremely careful with what I send thee to do, which is this: that thou and Ardian the dwarf bid me farewell, saying that you wish to go with the men in the ship to search for Amadis. Tell my cousin Dragonis and Enil all the news about me, then go back to Firm Island. And when thou arrivest there, tell Sir Cuadragante and Agrajes that I beg them not to leave there, for I shall be with them in two weeks and they should keep with them all those knights there who are our friends and send for more of them if they know where they are. And tell Sir Florestan and thy father Sir Gandales that they provision all the ships they have there with viands and arms because I must use them to go to a place were I have promised to be, which I shall tell them about when I see them. Take great caution in this for thou knowest what it means to me.”

Then he called the dwarf, and told him:

“Ardian, go with Gandalin and do as he tells thee.”

Gandalin, who was eager to fulfill his lord’s orders, went to Grasinda and told her:

“My lady, we wish to leave the Greek Knight to join the search with those knights in that ship, who are looking for Amadis, and may God thank you for the kindnesses that we have received from you.”

And in the same way they bid farewell to the Greek Knight, Sir Bruneo and Angriote, commended them to God, and boarded the other ship.

Angriote told them:

“My lords, ye see there a squire and a dwarf who share the same search as you.”

But when they saw that they were Gandalin and the dwarf, they were very happy. And when they learned their news, their galley left the fleet and took them toward Firm Island.


Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Chapter 77 [part 2 of 2]

[How Oriana sought help from Sir Florestan, and how he promised to give it.] 

[Detail of a tower at the Lesser Quarter side of the Charles Bridge in Prague, Czech Republic, showing a poor woman. Bridge construction began in 1357. Photo by Sue Burke.]

Then they all went to the Queen’s chambers, which were delectable, with trees and fountains and fine rooms. Leaving her there with her ladies and damsels and Sir Grumedan, who remained to serve them, Oriana returned to her chamber. In private with Mabilia and the Damsel of Denmark, she said she truly believed that the knight whom Queen Sardamira spoke of was Amadis. They said they also thought so and were sure of it.

Mabilia said:

“My lady, now I understand a dream I had last night, in which it seemed we were in a locked and enclosed room, and we heard a great noise from outside that terrified us. And your knight broke down the door and shouted for you, and I showed him where you were lying on an estrado. He took you by the hand and brought us all from there and put us in a marvelous high tower and said:

“ ‘Wait here in this tower and fear no one.’

“And that is when I awoke. And that is why, my lady, my heart is full of courage. He will save you.”

When Oriana heard this, she felt joyful and embraced her, weeping, tears falling down her beautiful cheeks, and told her:

“Oh, Mabilia, my good lady and true friend, how well you come to my aid with your courage and fine words! And may God order in His mercy that your dream will come true as you told it. And if this is not His will, may He make it so that Amadis will come and we will both die together and neither of us will remain alive.”

“Let us not speak of this,” Mabilia said, “for God, having made him so blessed in the wonderful things he does for others, will not forsake him in his own needs. And speak with Sir Florestan, showing him great affection, and ask that he and his friends do everything they can so that you are not taken from this land, and ask him to tell that to Sir Galaor on your behalf.”

But I tell you that Sir Galaor, without anyone having spoken to him, already felt this concern and had so counseled the King, and we shall tell you how he did so. Know that King Lisuarte was hunting with Sir Galaor, and after they had hunted, the King was heading toward a valley. He reigned in his palfrey, and after all the others had passed on ahead, he called Sir Galaor and told him:

“My good friend and loyal servant, I have never asked for your counsel about anything in which your advice did not serve me well. Ye already know of the great power and high standing of the Emperor of Rome, who has sent for my daughter to be the Empress. In it I see two things to my great advantage. First, by marrying my daughter so honorably, making her a lady of such a great realm, I shall have the Emperor for my aid whenever I may need it. Second, my daughter Leonoreta will be lady and heir to Great Britain. I wish to speak of this to my noblemen, whom I have sent for, to see what they may advise about this marriage. And I would like you to speak to me here, where we have privacy, if ye please, about how this seems to you. I know you well and I know that ye will advise me about this matter in every sense that would be to my honor.”

Sir Galaor, after he heard this, spent a while thinking, then he said:

“My lord, I do not have a great mind, nor do I have a lot of experience in affairs of this type to know the ins and outs of such a great matter as this. For that reason, my lord, may I be excused, if ye please, because in these matters ye speak of, your lords are the ones with whom ye ought to consult, and they will tell you much better what would be to your honor and service, because they understand it much better than I do.”

“Sir Galaor,” the King said, “yet I wish you to tell me. If not, it would be the greatest sorrow in the world, especially since until today I have never received anything from you but great pleasure and service.”

“May God keep me from angering you,” Sir Galaor said, “but since ye are still pleased to test my simple mind, I shall tell you. And I say that although ye believe that ye would marry your daughter very honorably and to high estate, I think the opposite because she is your heir and successor to these reigns after your days, and ye could not do worse than to take them from her and put them under the subjugation of a foreign man over whom she will have no authority nor power. And if she achieves the goal of such ladies, which is to bear sons, and these sons marry, then she will be placed in even greater subjugation and poverty than before, seeing another empress reign.

“And regarding what ye said, that he shall help you, given that ye and your knights and friends are so worthy and have enhanced your dominions and your great fame in the world, I think, rather, it would diminish you to think and believe that ye could to turn to him in need. Given the arrogant ways everyone says he has, I think instead it would be the opposite, and ye would always suffer opposition and expenses without reward from him. The worst of this is that ye would be subject to being in his service and being judged as his servant, and ye would always be remembered that way in the books and chronicles. That is why, my lord, while ye see this to your greater honor, I see this as the greatest dishonor that could happen to you.

“And as to what ye say about your daughter Leonoreta inheriting Great Britain, this is a very great error, and from it many other errors would follow if discretion did not intervene. If ye, my lord, were to take this reign from a daughter so outstanding in the world, who rightly deserves it, and give it to one who ought not have it, may it never please God for me to advise you to do so. I do not say this about your daughter, because even the poorest woman of the world should not have what is hers taken from her. I say this for the loyalty I owe to God and you and my soul, and your daughter, for I hold myself as your vassal and hers.

“I am leaving tomorrow, God willing, for Gaul, to see my father the King, who for some reason has called for me. If ye please, I shall leave a letter explaining all that I have said under my name that ye may show to all the noblemen. If there is a knight who says otherwise, holding himself to be wiser, I shall fight him and make him know that what I have said is the truth.”

The King, having heard this, felt unsatisfied by his reasoning, although he did not show it, and he said:

“My friend Sir Galaor, if ye wish to go, leave me the letter.”

But he did not plan to show it to others unless it became very necessary.

And so as ye have heard, King Lisuarte rode with Sir Galaor until they arrived at his palace, and that night they rested with pleasure, everyone talking about the wedding, especially the King, who felt very eager for it. The next day Sir Galaor gave him the letter, said farewell to him and the noblemen, and left for Gaul. And know ye that the intention of Sir Galaor at this time was to prevent that wedding because he did not think it was to the advantage of the King, and he also suspected an affair between Amadis and Oriana, daughter of King Lisuarte, although no one had told him about it. He wished to go far away where he would no longer hear it spoken of, knowing that the King was already totally determined for it to happen. And Oriana knew nothing of this, and this is why she asked Sir Florestan to speak about it on her behalf with Sir Galaor, as ye have heard.

So that is how the day passed, as ye hear, at Miraflores. Queen Sardamira was very astounded by Oriana’s great beauty and could not believe that any mortal could be so lovely, although her beauty had been greatly diminished due to the great anguish and tribulations her heart gave her, fearing the marriage to the Emperor and hearing no news from her beloved friend Amadis of Gaul. And she did not wish for the Queen to speak to her about the Emperor but rather of other news and pleasure. But the next day she did speak of him, and such was the reply of Oriana, although with honor and courtesy, that she did not dare to speak of it again.

Then Oriana, knowing that Sir Florestan wished to leave, took him and went beneath some trees where there was a very fine estrado, had him sit facing her, and told him plainly and with her entire will about how her father was forcing her to be disinherited and sent to foreign lands, and she hoped for no other thing but death. And she wished to express her grievances not only to Sir Florestan, who loved her so well and in whom she had all hope and faith, but to all the grandees in all the kingdom, and to all the knights-errant, so they would have sorrow and pity for her and beg her father to change his mind.

“And ye, my good lord and friend Sir Florestan,” she said, “ask to advise him so he will understand the great sin that he is doing to me with this great cruelty and offense.”

Sir Florestan said:

“My good lady, without a doubt ye may well believe that I must serve you in everything that ye may order with the same will and humility as I would do for my father and lord King Perion. But I could not request this of your father at all because I am not his vassal nor would he take me into his counsel knowing the disdain I have over the ills he has done to me and my lineage. If he has had some service from me, he has no reason to be grateful to me, since I did it on the orders of my brother and lord Amadis, whom I could never contradict. It is not because your father the King would have lost these lands in the battle of the seven kings but because ye would have, Amadis placed himself in that battle and brought King Perion and myself with him, as ye know.

“He did that because he holds you to be one of the finest princesses in the world, and if he knew now about how ye are being coerced and wronged against your entire volition, my lady, believe that, with all his strength, he and his friends would put it right. I do not say this because ye are the high lady that ye are, since he would do this for the poorest woman that could be found in the world. So, my good lady, have hope, for there is still time to save you, if God wills, and I shall not stop until I am at Firm Island, where the knight Agrajes is, who is very willing to serve you because his father and mother raised you and because of the great love ye have for his sister Mabilia. And there we shall meet and decide what we can do.”

“Do you know,” Oriana said, “if Agrajes is there for certain?”

“I know it,” he said, “for Sir Grumedan told me he knew it because he sent a squire of his to him.”

“May God have mercy and guide him,” she said, “and give him my greetings. And tell him that I have great hopes in him and I rightly ought to. In the meantime if ye hear some news about your brother Amadis, let me know so I can tell it to his cousin Mabilia, who is dying from loneliness for him. May God guide you and Agrajes to come to a good agreement about my situation.”

Sir Florestan kissed her hands and said farewell. He took Sir Grumedan with him and went to Queen Sardamira and told her:

“My lady, I wish to go, and wherever I go I am your knight and servant, so I ask ye to think of me as such and order me to do anything that may serve you.”

The Queen said:

“Any woman who would not wish the service and honor of a man of such worth as you, Sir Florestan, would be foolish, and if God wills, I shall not fall into such great error. Instead, I receive your fine courtesy and I thank you as much as I can, and I shall always remember to ask you for anything you could do.”

Sir Florestan, who was studying her closely, said:

“May God, who has made ye so beautiful, thank you on my behalf for your answer, since I can give you nothing now more than my will and my word.”

And with that, he said goodby to her and to Mabilia and all the other ladies that were there, and he asked Sir Grumedan that if he heard any news about Amadis, to send it to him at Firm Island. He went to his lodging and armed himself, mounted his horse, and, with his squires, took the road that went straight to Firm Island, where he wished to speak with Agrajes and arrange with his friends to save Oriana if her father were to give her to the Romans.


Thursday, February 26, 2015

“What it is to be a knight”

“There is no other beast that so befits a knight as a good horse.” 

Cover of El Vitorial (The Unconquered Knight), from the Biblioteca Nacional de España.

When the Spanish knight Sir Pero Niño went to war, he was accompanied by Gutierre Díez de Games, a childhood friend. In the 1430s, Games began to write a chronicle of Niño’s life, The Unconquered Knight, a book that became key in the literature of medieval Castile.

In addition to the story of Niño’s deeds, it includes careful descriptions of the code of conduct of the era. Here is an excerpt about knighthood, translated by Joan Evans. In Spanish, a knight is a caballero – a man on a horse (caballo) – but having a horse is not enough.


Now it is fitting that I should tell what it is to be a knight: whence comes this name of knight; what manner of a man a knight should be to have a right to be called a knight; and what profit the good knight is to the country wherein he lives.

I tell you that men call “knight” the man who, of custom, rides upon a horse. He who, of custom, rides another mount, is no knight; but he who rides upon a horse is not for that reason a knight; he is only rightly called a knight who makes it his calling. Knights have not been chosen to ride an ass or mule; they have not been taken from among feeble or timid or cowardly souls, but from among men who are strong and full of energy, bold and without fear: and for this reason there is no other beast that so befits a knight as a good horse.

Thus have horses been found in the thick of battle that have shown themselves as loyal to their masters as if they had been men. There are horses who are so strong, fiery, swift, and faithful that a brave man, mounted on a good horse, may do more in an hour of fighting than ten or mayhap a hundred could have done afoot.

For this reason do men rightly call him “knight.”

What is required of a good knight? That he should be noble. What means “noble” and “nobility?” That the heart should be governed by the virtues. By what virtues? By the four I have already named. [Justice, prudence, fortitude, and temperance.] These four virtues are sisters and so bound up one with the other that he who has one, has all, and he who lacks one, lacks the others also.

So the virtuous knight should be wary and prudent, right in the doing of justice, continent and temperate, enduring and courageous; and withal he must have great faith in God, hope at His glory, that he may attain the reward for the good that he has done, and finally he must have charity and the love of his neighbor.

What profit is a good knight? I tell you that through good knights is the king and the kingdom honored, protected, feared, and defended. I tell you that the king, when he sends forth a good knight with an army and entrusts him with a great emprise, on sea or on land, has in him a pledge of victory. I tell you that without good knights, the king is like a man who has neither feet nor hands.