Thursday, May 7, 2009

The legend of the Alcázar of Segovia

How King Alfonso X the Wise earned the wrath of God, and how we can still see his penance when we visit the castle.

[The Hall of the Cord in the Royal Castle of Segovia. The Franciscan knotted cord can be seen in the plaster-work above a 16th-century panel depicting four saints. Photo by Katheline Vernati-Finn.]


Perched on a rocky prow overlooking the confluence of the Eresma and Clamores Rivers, the Segovia Alcázar (royal castle or palace), is renowned worldwide for its beauty and history. Fortifications existed as early as the 1100s, but its splendor began during the reign of King Alfonso X. He was known as "the Wise" for his great learning, and he even had one of the towers converted into an astronomical observatory.

In 1258, he called his Court to meet at the alcázar, and during that meeting, part of the building collapsed.

Legend says it happened because the King was boasting of his wisdom. He had dared to say that the Creator would have made a better world if He had consulted with him. A Franciscan friar named Antonio begged the King to retract his words, but he would not — and a huge storm came and destroyed the room where the Court was meeting.

Alfonso had those parts of the castle rebuilt, and as a sign of penance, he had a Franciscan-style cord included in the plasterwork around the wall of a room off the new hall for the Court, which he used as an office.

Or so the legend says. Though damaged in a fire in 1862, the room's original friezes have been faithfully restored.

No castle would be complete without at least one legend.


Many fine photos of the alcázar are at:ázar_of_Segovia

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