Thursday, 23 May 2013

Knights and Statues

A seated statue of St. James has been preserved in the Abbey of Las Huelgas (Burgos), where knights of the Order of Santiago armed themselves. The sculpture’s right arm could be moved by means of a cord, and was used in the ceremony of adoubement in the mid-thirteenth century.  The saint tapped the side of the sword’s blade onto the king’s shoulders when the ceremony was performed, as knighthood could not be conferred by anyone of lower rank. Tradition says that it was the invention of Saint Ferdinand III. Four other kings of Castile were armed in this way, as well as Edward I of England. Afterwards, - on November  1, 1254 - Edward and Eleanor of Castile were married in the Abbey of Santa María la Real de Las Huelgas.
The main character of The Youthful Deeds of Rodrigo advises King Ferdinand I the Great to be dubbed a knight by St James (in Santiago de Compostela), as the only way to gain authority. Consequently, he would  recognize no authority other than the Apostle’s. Rodrigo mentions the patronage of St. James and the prayer vigil, and tells the king “to arm himself during the Mass.” (“Rey, fasta que non te armases non devías tener reinado; /ca no esperas palmada de moro nin de christiano, / mas ve velar al padrón de Santiago; / quando oyeres la missa, ármate con tu mano (…)” (1) 

There is also another remarkable reference to a statue in this epic poem. The Castilians carved a stone sculpture featuring count Fernán González; then they swore loyalty to it and, therefore, became its vassals. Hence they could not recognise another lord – even the “original” one – until they had broken their symbolic links to the stone.

 (…) the Castilians (…) / neither kissed his hand nor called him their lord, / as they had paid homage to a stone; they carried it around in a cart / as their lord, until they met the count [Fernán González]” [(…) los castellanos (…) / no l’ bessaron la mano, nin señor no l’ llamaron, / ca avían fecho omenaje a una piedra que traxieran en el carro, / que traían por señor, fasta que fallaron al conde (Fernán González).”] (2)

(1) Épica medieval española (Carlos Alvar, Manuel Alvar eds.); Madrid: Cátedra, 1991, 138, vv. 653-56.

(2) Ibíd., 106, vv. 9-12.

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