Thursday, January 28, 2010

Xacobeo 2010

Now is when, Galicia is where.

[Apostles in the Pórtico da Gloria of the Catedral de Santiago de Compostela. Photo by Pedronchi.]


You can't understand medieval Europe without understanding the Way of St. James, el Camino de Santiago — a medieval institution that you can still be part of. This pilgrimage route through northern Spain became the "main street" of Europe in the 12th and 13th centuries, when up to a quarter million people traveled the Camino each year to the city of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, the northwest region of Spain.

"Santiago" means "Saint James." Legend says that the Apostle St. James the Great preached in Iberia. After he returned to Jerusalem, he was beheaded, then his body was taken to Spain in a stone boat and buried in a necropolis eventually called Compostela. Sometime between 820 and 830 AD, his body was rediscovered by a hermit following a star. Soon St. James began appearing as a knight to aid Christian forces in their reconquest of the Iberian Peninsula from the Moors.

A church was built over his remains, eventually a basilica, and finally a massive cathedral. Pilgrimages began in the 10th century. In the 11th century, they were promoted by Iberian kings and religious leaders including Archbishop Gelmírez of Santiago de Compostela, various Popes, and the French Benedictine Abbey of Cluny.

Churches, monasteries, hospitals, hostels, refuges, souvenir sales, and other services for pilgrims were created in Spain. Many still exist. New towns were founded, and cities were expanded. The military Orders of Saint John, Saint James, and the Knights Templar protected pilgrims.

Most important of all, people from across Europe met on the Camino and exchanged ideas about developments in Romanesque and Gothic architecture, Carolingian script, Gregorian Reform church rites, art, and sculpture. The presence of more than 300 troubadours has been documented, and they brought tales of chivalry from France to Iberia, where they took hold.

Centuries later, the pilgrimage was slowed and nearly eliminated by political events including the Protestant Reformation, the Napoleonic invasion of Spain, and subsequent wars. The Camino was revived in the final decades of the 20th century.

Since the 15th century, a Holy Year for the pilgrimage occurs when the Feast of St. James, July 25, falls on a Sunday. Pilgrims can receive special Indulgences. In Spain, the Jacobean year is known by its Galician name: Xacabeo. This year, 2010, is a Xacabeo. Santiago de Compostela is prepared for hundreds of thousands of pilgrims and millions of visitors. The next Xacabeo will be in 2021.

The pilgrimage is open to people of all faiths or lack thereof. You must travel at least 100 km by foot or horseback or 200 km by bicycle to Santiago de Compostela to be certified as a pilgrim. It takes about a month to hike from the French border.

The route is marked by yellow arrows or a scallop shell whose groves come together to point the way. But there is no official Camino. You can leave your home and just start walking. Any route you take is a pilgrim's path.

Still, it pays to take a traditional route. First, you'll enjoy an infrastructure of services and accommodations, many at modest prices. Second, you can visit medieval churches and cross medieval bridges erected just for you, the pilgrim.

Many excellent websites offer information about the Way of St. James. Here are a few:

You will be told by every site you visit that Galicia is beautiful and green, its food is delicious, its culture is delightful, the history of the Camino is fascinating, and the Cathedral of Santiago is moving. They will say that rain is an art form in Galicia and that the stones speak. I've been there. It's all true.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Chapter 26 [first half]

Which recounts what happened to Amadis as he chased after the damsel that the knight was carrying off and mistreating.

[The duel between Islan the Monk and Volker the Minstrel from Rosengarten zu Worms, a 13th-century German chivalric epic.]


Amadis chased after the knight who was carrying off the damsel by force and mistreating her. He galloped a long way to try to catch them, but before he could, he met another armed knight on horseback who said:

"What great concern do ye have that ye are in such a hurry to get there?"

"What does it matter to you if I go fast or slow?" Amadis said.

"If ye are fleeing someone, I ought to help you."

"I do not need your protection now," Amadis said.

The knight took the bridle of Amadis's horse and said:

"Ye should tell me, or ye are in battle."

"I would be more pleased at that," Amadis said, "because it would take longer for me to tell you than to get you out of my way. With your behavior, I think I could not tell you anything without ye wishing to know even more."

The knight drew back and then came at him as fast as his horse could go, and Amadis came at him. The knight struck him squarely on the shield and his lance few to pieces, but Amadis hit him so hard that he knocked him to the ground with his horse on top of him, and the knight's leg was so badly injured that he could hardly get up.

Amadis went past him on the road. This was the knight who would soon set loose Sir Galaor's horse.

Amadis traveled so fast that he caught up with the knight who was carrying off the damsel, and said:

"Ye have been behaving discourteously for a long time, and now I ask ye to stop."

"And what discourtesy am I doing?" the knight said.

"The worst ye could do," Amadis said, "for ye carried off a damsel by force and even injured her."

"It seems that ye wish to tell me what to do," the knight said.

"I do not. I am only telling you what is in your own good."

"I think it would be good for you to go back to where ye came from."

Amadis became angry and approached the squire, saying:

"Set the damsel free. If not, ye are dead."

The squire, in fear, put her on the ground. The knight said:

"Lowly knight, ye are mad."

"Now we shall see," Amadis said.

And lowering their lances, they struck each other such that both lances were broken and the other knight went to the ground, but he got up as fast as he fell. Amadis came at him planning to hit him with the chest of his horse. The other knight said:

"Stay, my lord, for although I was discourteous, ye should not be. Have mercy on me."

"Then swear," Amadis said, "that ye shall not force neither lady nor damsel to do anything against her will."

"Very willingly," the knight said.

Amadis approached to take his oath, and the knight, who had his sword in his hand, used it to slash the belly of Amadis's horse and make it fall. Amadis quickly jumped off, put his hand on his sword, and charged at the knight with extraordinary fury. The knight told him:

"Now I shall make you see that ye came at a bad moment."

Amadis was too angry to respond, but he hit him on the helmet under the visor and cut so deeply that the sword reached flesh and cut off his nose and half his face, and the knight fell. But Amadis, not content, cut off his head.

He put his sword in its scabbard and went to the damsel. It was now well into night and the moon shown brightly. She told him:

"My lord knight, may God grant you honor for the help ye have given me, and more if ye finish your help and take me where I wish to go, though now is not the time to begin any trip for any reason."

"Damsel," he said, "I shall take ye anywhere willingly."

At this moment, Gandalin arrived, and Amadis told him:

"Give me the horse of that knight, since he killed mine, and take the damsel with thee on thy palfrey, and let us travel to wherever she guides us."

And so they left that road to take another that the damsel knew. Amadis asked her if she knew the name of the dead knight under the tree at the crossroads. She said she did, and told him everything about him and his death, which she knew well. By then they had arrived at a riverbank, and since it was midnight and the damsel felt very sleepy, at her request they agreed to rest there a while. They dismounted and laid out Gandalin's cloak for her to sleep on. Amadis laid down with his helmet under his head near her, and Gandalin on her other side.

While they were sleeping, as ye have heard, a knight happened to arrive coming upriver, and when he saw them, he leaned over while on his horse and put the handle of his lance between the arms of the damsel to wake her up. When she saw the armed knight, she thought it was the one protecting her, and she got up sleepily and said:

"My lord, do ye wish to go?"

"I do," said the knight.

"In the name of God," she said.

The knight leaned down, took her by the arm, put her ahead of himself on the horse, and began to leave.

"What is this?" she said. "It would be better for the squire to take me."

"He shall not," he said, "since ye wished to go with me."

She looked around and saw Amadis sleeping soundly, and shouted:

"Oh, my lord, save me, for someone I do not know is taking me!"

The knight spurred his horse and left with her as fast as he could. Amadis awoke at the shouts of the damsel and saw that the knight was taking her away. He was distressed to see it. He quickly shouted to Gandalin to bring him his horse while he laced on his helmet and took up his shield and lance. He mounted and rode in the direction he had seen the other knight go, but he did not get far before he found himself in a thick woods where he lost the road.

He did not know where to go, but as he was the knight most true to his word in the world, he grew angry at himself and said:

"Now I say that the damsel could well claim that I did her as much harm as good, for if I defended her against one rapist, I let her fall into the hands of another."

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Summary, Chapters 21 to 25

A reprise of the most recent adventures of the greatest knight in the world.

[A 14th century manuscript initial depicting Edward III of England with his son the Black Prince kneeling in front of him.]


Amadis and Princess Oriana are secretly in love, so to be near her, he has placed himself at the service of her mother, Queen Brisena, wife of King Lisuarte of Great Britain. The Queen sent him to search for his long-lost brother Galaor in Chapter 17. Amadis has had many adventures during his travels; meanwhile, so has Galaor and other characters in the novel. Intertwining plot-lines are a standard feature of medieval stories.

You can find a synopsis of Chapters 0 to 20 here, and a list of the major characters here.

Chapter 21

A knight tricks Galaor out of his horse, so Galaor catches up with him and kills him. However, a damsel in league with the knight then tricks Galaor into granting her a boon in revenge, and she travels with him, insulting him continuously.

Amadis sees a mysterious carriage being drawn through a field near a castle and defeats the knights guarding it to see what is inside: the marble coffin of a king with his crown and head split in half, along with a beautiful girl, and a lady who is understandably angry with Amadis. He leaves, but later the lady sends a knight to ask him to come to her castle so she can make amends.

But that turns out to be a trick. The lady's knights attack Amadis. Although he fights valiantly, he would have been defeated, but the beautiful girl releases two lions to frighten his attackers, and he escapes and closes the gate, leaving the lions loose inside the castle. The girl persuades Amadis to open the gate to let the lions out, and the whole thing turns out to be a test to find a knight brave enough to avenge the beautiful girl's father's death. He was a king who was killed by his brother, who split his head with the crown on it in half and took over his kingdom. The girl barely escaped to the protection of her aunt, the lady. Amadis agrees to return in a year to win back the girl's kingdom for her.

Chapter 22

Amadis rides off, but soon he encounters an armed knight, riding with a damsel, who attacks a dwarf who had become Amadis's vassal in Chapter 19. Amadis defends the dwarf, but the other knight as as strong and skilled as he is, and the fight goes on for hours. Then another knight, Balais, comes along and talks with the damsel. It turns out that the damsel is the niece of the Sorcerer Arcalaus. Amadis had fought him in Chapters 18 and 19 and freed many knights and men from Arcalaus's hellish prison. The damsel has demanded a boon from Galaor: to give her the head of the dwarf. She hopes that Amadis and Galaor will kill each other in the fight. With their helmets on, they don't recognize each other.

Balais, however, is one of the knights Amadis had freed from the prison, so as thanks, he draws his sword, lops of the damsel's head, makes Amadis and Galaor stop fighting, and takes them to his castle to recover from their wounds.

Chapter 23

The knights Galvanes, Agrajes, and Olivas arrive at Windsor Palace. Agrajes talks to Princess Olinda of Norway, his secret love, and other people catch up on news. As dinner is about to begin, the knight Angriote arrives; he had fought with Amadis in Chapter 18 but then turned into a loyal ally; he brings some news about Amadis, which everyone is waiting for. Then the dwarf arrives to say that Amadis has found Galaor and will return to Windsor soon. There is much rejoicing.

Chapter 24

Amadis, Galor, and Balais set out for Windsor, and although Amadis had hoped for a quick and uneventful journey, they discover a murdered knight laid out beneath a tree. Galaor declares he will not leave until he finds out what has happened. While they are waiting, a knight rides past beating a damsel, and Amadis, always ready to help a damsel in distress, rides off after them. Then a knight comes and attacks Galaor's horse, and Balais rides off after that knight.

Galaor is alone with the corpse during the night, falls asleep, and awakes to find it gone. He starts hiking to try to find out what has happened and eventually finds the knight, named Antebon, laid out in the courtyard of a castle. He learns that a knight had kidnaped Antebon's daughter, then foully murdered Antebon to prove his valor. Galaor vows to avenge his death.

Chapter 25

Galaor goes to the murderous knight's castle and kills him. In gratitude, Antebon's daughter jumps into bed with Galaor. This sort of thing happens to Galaor a lot.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Chapter 25

How Galaor avenged the death of the knight whom they had found wrongly killed at the tree at the crossroads.
[Statues of Margrave Ekkehard II and his wife, Uta, at the Naumburg Cathedral, Germany, carved in the 13th century. Photo by Linsengericht.]


They gave Galaor a horse and he left with the damsels. They traveled until they came to a forest, where they saw a fortress on a very high rocky peak. The damsels told him:

"My lord, there ye must avenge the knight."

"Let us go there," he said, "and tell me the name of he who killed him."


At that, they arrived at the castle and saw the gate closed. Galaor called, and an armed man appeared above the gate, who said:

"What do ye wish?"

"To enter here," Galaor said.

"This gate," the other knight said, "is only for those who leave."

"Well, where shall I enter?"

"I will show ye," the other said, "but I fear I shall do so in vain and ye will not dare to enter."

"May God help me," Galaor said, "I already want to be inside."

"Now we shall see if your bravery is equal to your desire," he said. "Dismount and go on foot to that tower."

Galaor gave the horse to the damsels and went where he had told. Soon he saw that knight and a bigger one, well armed, on top of the tower, and they began to unwind a winch and lowered a large basket tied by stout rope. They said:

"Knight, if ye wish to enter here, this is the way."

"If I get into the basket," Galaor said, "will ye pull me up safely?"

"Yes, truthfully," they said, "but after that, we make no promises."

So he got into the basket and said:

"Well, pull, for I take you at your word."

They began to pull him up, and the damsels who were watching said:

"Oh, good knight! God protect thee from treachery, for truly great courage lies in thy heart!"

Thus the knights pulled Galaor to the top, and when he was up there, he jumped quickly from the basket to join the knights on the tower. They said:

"Knight, ye must swear to help the lord of this castle against those who seek him for the death of Antebon, or ye shall not leave here."

"Is one of you he who killed him?" Galaor asked.

"Why do ye ask?" they said.

"Because I would have him know the great treachery that he committed."

"Are you mad?" the knights said. "Ye are in our power and ye threaten him? Well, now ye shall pay for your madness."

They put their hands on their swords and came at him angrily. Galaor took his sword in his hand, and they struck great blows on each other's helmets and shields. The two knights had courage, and Galaor, seeing himself in danger, tried to bring them death.

The damsels below heard the blows, and they said:

"Oh, God, what can be happening to the good knight that he is already in combat?"

And one of them said:

"Let us not part from here until we see how this ends."

Galaor fought so bravely that he put great fear into the knights. He ran at one and hit him with all his strength on top of his helmet. The sword reached his head and entered two fingers deep into it. He pulled his sword back and knocked the knight to his knees on the ground. Then he began to strike fierce blows, and despite the attacks from the other knight, he did not stop until he had killed him.

Then he turned to the other, who saw that he was alone and tried to flee. But Galaor pursued him, grabbed the edge of his shield, pulled so hard that he knocked him down at his feet, and gave him such blows with his sword that no surgeon could have saved him.

When this was done, he put his sword in its scabbard, threw the knights from the tower, and asked the damsels to see if one of them was Palingues. They said:

"My lord, they are too battered to recognize, but we are sure that neither of them is him."

Then Galaor went down a stairway in the tower. He entered a hall and saw a beautiful damsel who was saying:

"Palingues, why dost thou flee if thou wert courageous enough to kill my father in battle as thou hast said? See to this knight who is coming."

Galaor looked and saw a fully armed knight who was trying to open to the door to another tower but could not, and by the words of the beautiful damsel, knew he was as the one whom he sought. He felt pleased and said:

"Palingues, thou shouldst not flee nor take courage, for even if thou dost, thou shalt find no escape."

Then Galaor charged at him, and the other knight, who had no choice, turned to attack, and struck a great blow on the edge of Galaor's shield, but the sword sunk a palm deep and could not be withdrawn. Galaor struck him on the right arm, which was unprotected, and cut the sleeve of his hauberk, and his arm at the elbow, and it landed on the ground.

Palingues tried to flee into a chamber but fell as he crossed the threshold. Galaor grabbed him by the leg and dragged him back, pulled off his helmet and struck him with his sword, saying:

"Take that for the treachery thou didst to kill Antebon."

And he split his head down to his teeth. Then Galaor put the sword in its scabbard, and the beautiful damsel, who heard these words, came to him and said:

"Oh, good knight, may God give thee a life of honor, for thou hast avenged my father and the violence that was done to me."

Galaor took her by the hand and said:

"Surely, my lovely dear, it would truly be shameful to cause sorrow to someone of such seemly beauty, and may God help me, ye much more deserve to be served than troubled." He added, "My dear lady, are there any others in this castle whom I should fear?"

"My lord," she said, "only servants remain here, and they will all be at your disposition."

"Well," he said, "let us go and let in the two damsels that your mother ordered to guide me here."

Then he took her by the hand, and when they arrived at the gate of the castle, they opened it and found the damsels waiting, and one of them brought his horse. They had them enter, and when they had dismounted, they embraced their lady with great happiness and asked her if the death of her father had been avenged.

"Yes," she said, "by the grace of God and the good knight who avenged him, something one else could have done."

Then they went together to were Galaor was, who had by then removed his shield and helmet, and when they saw how young and how handsome he was, they were amazed. The damsel whom he had helped felt more tenderly toward him than anyone else she had ever seen, and embraced him, saying:

"My dear lord, I owe you more love than any other person, and would very much like to know, if it pleases you, who ye are."

"I was born in the same land as your father," he said.

"Then tell me your name."

"They call me Sir Galaor," he said.

"Thanks be to God," she said, "that the knight who avenged my father is you, for he often spoke of you and another good knight, your brother Amadis, and he said ye were sons of the King of Gaul, whose vassal he was."

At this point the two damsels went to search through the castle with other women to find them something to eat, leaving Sir Galaor and the damsel, who was named Brandueta, alone, conversing as ye have heard, and as she was very beautiful and he was eager for such sustenance, before the meal was brought and the table set, together they unmade a bed that was in the hall where they were and made the damsel a woman, which she had not been before, satisfying their desires, which had grown great during the brief time they had spent gazing at one another in the flourishing beauty of youth.

When the table was set and everything ready, Galaor and the damsel entered the courtyard, and under a tree that was there, they were served a meal. Brandueta told how Palingues had placed many guards at that castle out of fear that he and his brother Amadis would be most likely to avenge Antebon's death, since her father was also born in Gaul.

Afterwards, they rested with contentment, but Brandueta was anxious to leave the castle and go to see her mother. Galaor thought well of that and agreed to leave soon, although it was already late, so they mounted their palfreys. They took to the road and arrived at the house of the lady, her mother, two hours after nightfall. Because one of the damsels had ridden ahead, the lady already knew everything that had happened, so she and all the other residents of the castle, men and women, were waiting in the courtyard where Antebon lay dead, and cheered loudly because his death had been avenged so fully and honorably.

Galaor dismounted into the arms of the lady, who said:

"My lord knight, this castle is yours, and we shall do all that ye command."

Then she had him disarm and brought him to a rich chamber where there was a bed with beautiful bedding. There he remained that night, much to his pleasure, because Brandueta believed that leaving him alone would not be in keeping with the great honors that he deserved. When she saw that the time was right, she went to him, and at times sleeping and other times talking and enjoying themselves, they were together until nearly dawn, when she returned to her bed.