The Legend of Bernardo del Carpio 3: The Three Chronicles

There are only three chronicles which seem to present independent accounts of Bernardo’s life. All later works, with the possible exception of a few ballads, derive from the chronicles of Lucas of Tuy, Rodigo of Rada, and Alfonso the Wise.

SECTION 1

LUCAS OF TUY

Lucas of Tuy was born in Leon and grew up to be well-learned and well-traveled, having been to Jerusalem, Constantinople, Rome, and Paris, among other places. In 1239 he was elected bishop of Tuy, which position he held until his death in 1249. Besides his Chronicon Mundi (1232-1237), he was also author of De miraculis sancti Isidori (1220-1235), and of De altera vita, in three books against the Albigensians (1230-1240). A Vita sancti Isidori and a Historia translationis sancti Isidori were once wrongly attributed to him, but in fact predate him.

The Chronicon, written for Alfonso VIII’s daughter Berenguela, is divided into four books, the first three of which are copied straight from Isidore, Ildefonso of Toledo and others. Not until the fourth book does Lucas present any original material, though still drawing largely on the Chronicle of Alfonso III and the Historia Silense, and others. He gives no source for his information about Bernardo.

Lucas’ chronicle was printed in Volume IV of Hispaniae illustratae seu rerum, urbiumque Hispaniae, Lusitaniae, Aethiopiae et Indiae scriptores varii, Frankfurt, 1608. Pages 1-116. A modern critical edition forms Volume 74 of the Corpus Christianorum Continuatio Medieavalis.

Book IV, Section 14: The king’s sister Xemena is impregnated by Count Sanctius and brings forth Bernaldus. King Alfonso, furious, imprisons the Count in the Castle of Luna, swearing that he will never come out alive. He confines his sister to a nunnery and raises the boy as his own. The lad grew up to be a strong and daring knight.

Section 15: In those days Charles the Great, King of France and Emperor of Rome, expelled the Saracens from Burgundy, Poitou, and all Gaul, and then crossed the Pyrenees via Roscidevallis to continue the war. He brought under his yoke the Goths and Spaniards who lived in Catalonia, in the Basque mountains, and in Navarre, and ordered Alfonso to become his vassal. Bernaldus was indignant at the suggestion, and formed an alliance with the Saracens. Charles at that time was besieging Tudela, which he would have captured if not for Galalon’s treason. Charles did, however, take Nájera and Monte Jardín, and then prepared to return to France.

The barbarian King Marsil of Saragossa rallied an army of Saracens and allied with Bernardo and his Navarrese, and fell on the Frankish rear as they passed through Rocidevallis, killing Prefect Rodlandus of Brittany, Count Anselm, Egiardus the Steward, and many more. King Charles later had his revenge on the Saracens, killing a great number of them, [it is not clear if this is the second battle in the Song of Roland or an entirely new expedition]. After his revenge Charles went on pilgrimage to Saint James, made peace with King Alfonso, rebuilt the city of Iria, and obtained from Pope Leo III for Compostela to be elevated to a metropolitan [archbishopric]. He then returned to Germany with Bernaldus and died soon after, at Aix, where he was buried. Bernaldus served in the imperial household even after Charlemagne’s death, under Louis the Pious (814-840) and Lothair I (840-855). [Bernardo now passes from the story until the reign of Alfonso III (866-910)].

Section 16. Alfonso, in the 47th year of his reign, made an alliance with a Moorish emir named Mahomet against the Moorish king Abd-er-Rahman, and returned to Oviedo with great spoils, after which he married Berta, sister of King Charles of France, but as he never saw her, he was called the Chaste. After 52 years of reigning, he died and was laid in Saint Mary’s church in Oviedo.

Section 20: Alfonso III fought a battle against the Saracens at Toledo, in which Bernaldus’ assistance was invaluable. After the battle, Bernaldus built the castle of Carpio near Salamanca, and rebelled against King Alfonso, on account of his father’s imprisonment in the Castle of Luna. The Saracens seized this opportunity to attack Astorga and Leon and lay them waste with fire and sword. King Alfonso promised Bernaldus his father’s liberty if he would make peace, which was done, and they fell upon the Saracens, who had split into two parties. Alfonso massacred them at Polvorosa, and Bernaldus chased them away from Valdemora. Afterwards, the Saracens laid siege to Zamora, so Alfonso and Bernaldus defeated them there, too. Bernardo at this battle killed Alchamam, a heathen prophet. King Alfonso married Xemena, who was first cousin to Charlemagne [she wasn’t; in reality, she was a princess from Pamplona].

Section 21: Emperor Charles III (the Fat, not the Simple, r. 881-888) invaded Spain, attacking Christians and Muslims alike [this never happened], but Bernaldus raised an army of Christians and allied with King Muza of Saragossa, and turned back Charles’ army before they had even crossed the Pyrenees. Charles made alliance with Alfonso, who restored the Mozarabic rite in the churches of Spain. Charles went on pilgrimage to Santiago and San Salvador, and obtained from Pope John Metropolitan [archepiscopal] privileges for those two sites. Bernaldus returned to his fatherland, laden with spoils. Lucas explains that there were three Emperors named Charles: Charles the Great, who lived in the days of Pope Leo and Alfonso the Chaste; another Charles who lived in the days of Pope John, and Charles the Hammer, who succeeded him.

Section 22: The Saracens laid siege to Leon, under two dukes named Ymundar and Alcatenetel, but Bernaldus captured them. Alfonso did many other works [related in detail] including building the church of San Salvador in Zamora, and around that time Bernaldus died. [We are never told if Count Sancho was actually freed or not]. Shortly after his death, Queen Xemena began her rebellion.

SECTION 2

RODERICUS XIMENIUS DE RADA1

Rodricus Ximenius de Rada, or Rodrigo Jiménez (1170-1247), born in Navarre, studied in Bologna and Paris, returned to Castile, where he was elected Archbishop of Toledo in 1207. He took part at the famous battle of Las Navas de Tolosa in 1212, attended Lateran IV in, and died on June 10, 1247.

He was the author of numerous histories, of the Romans; Ostrogoths; Huns, Vandals, Sueves, Alans and Silongorum; Arabs; the Catholic Church; and that with which we are concerned, Historia de Rebus Hispaniae, sive Historia Gothica. This last chronicle is mostly compiled from Jordanus, Isidore, the Mozarbic Chronicle, those of Alfonso III, Sampiro, Najera, Pelagius, and Lucas of Tuy.

For his history of Alfonso II, he draws on the Chronicles of Alfonso III, Najera, and Lucas. For Alfonso III, he draws from Sampiro and Lucas. He also adds many details of his own, some apparently drawn from popular tradition, others likely his own invention. In many ways his history is a rival to Lucas’. Lucas, Bishop of Tuy, was in the archdiocese of Compostela, and hence accepted the legend of Charlemagne’s pilgrimage to that shrine, and the myth that he had bestowed upon it the primacy over Spain. Rodrigo, archbishop of the much older see of Toledo, denies the whole legend and devotes an entire chapter to refuting Turpin’s account of Charles’ conquest of Spain. He generally portrays kings in a more favorable light than his sources do (such as attributing the victory at Roncesvalles to Alfonso), and plays up the Reconquista spirit (such as minimizing the Moors’ role at that battle).

There are several old printings, including Volume II Hispaniae illustratae, page 25 sq.. and Sanctorum Patrum Toletanorum Opera, Vol. III, pp. 1-208. A modern critical edition forms Volume 72 of the Corpus Christianorum Continuatio Medieavalis. Old Spanish translations were made by various hands, but none, to my knowledge have been printed.

Book IV, Chapter 9: Alfonso II’s sister Semena secretly marries Count Sancius and bears him a son, Berinaldus. The king, learning of this, imprisons the Count in the Castle of Luna and his sister in a nunnery. As he is childless, he raises Berinaldus as his own son, and the boy grows up to be a fine knight.

Chapter 10: Alfonso, old and tired of reigning, secretly sends word to Charles, Emperor of Italy, Germany, and Gaul, to offer him the throne. Charles drives the Arabs out of France and then sends some men over the Pyrenees, subduing Catalonia. At this juncture, Alfonso’s men, led by Berinaldus, learn of his offer and force him to rescind it or they will depose him. They say they would rather die as free men than live as vassals of the Franks. Charles is furious, and abandons his war against the Arabs to attack Alfonso. As the bulk of his army is crossing the Pyrenees into Spain, they are met with Alfonso’s army, gathered from Asturias, Alava, Biscay, Navarre, Ruchonia, and Aragon. The Spaniards meet Charles’ vanguard, [not rearguard] in Hospita Vallis, also called Val de Carlos, and destroy it, killing Rollandus, Anselmus, and Egiardus, among others. Charlemagne, coming upon the aftermath, blows his horn to rally the survivors. They return to Germany, where Charles plots his revenge, but dies before he can carry it out and is buried at Aachen in a magnificent tomb.

Some of the Franks thought, in their panic, that Bernardo was with an army of Muslims in the Spanish rearguard and led them through Aspae Pass [Somport] and Secolae Pass [Soule]. In reality, however, he was always with Alfonso in the van.

Chapter 11: Rodrigo devotes this chapter to refuting Turpin’s account of Charles’ adventures in Spain. He goes through Turpin’s list of conquests city by city and explains when each of them were really retaken. He also denies that Charles was the founder of the Way of Saint James, though he admits that Charles spent time at King Galafre’s court in his youth and married his daughter Galiana, and perhaps he hence had some influence on Spanish affairs.

Chapter 15: Alfonso III fought a battle against the Saracens at Toledo, in which Berinaldus’ assistance was invaluable. After the battle, however, Berinaldus, because his father was still imprisoned, built the castle of Carpio in the land of Salamanca, and allied with the Saracens to harry Alfonso’s borders. He attacked Astorga and Leon and laid them waste with fire and sword. King Alfonso made peace with Berinaldus by pardoning his father. Alfonso and Berinaldus then fell upon the Saracens, who had split into two parties. Alfonso massacred them at Polvoroso, and Berinaldus at Valdemora. Only ten survived Polvorosa, by pretending to be dead.

Chapter 16: Later, the Saracens were laying siege to Zamora, so Alfonso and Berinaldus defeated them there, too. Berinaldus at this battle killed Alchamam, a heathen prophet. The Saracens were obliged to make peace with Alfonso. In those days, some say, Alfonso fought the battle of Roscide Vallis against Charles the Hammer, but this is an error, and the truth is that that battle was fought against Charles the Great. This, at least, is what Rodrigo thinks most likely, but he says he is open to correction. Alfonso engaged in many other wars, the details of which are given. [Berinaldus does not feature, and disappears from the chronicle].

Chapter 17: Pope John grants the privileges to Alfonso without Charles III’s intercession.

SECTION 3

PRIMERA CRÓNICA GENERAL

The Estoria de España, also known as the Primera Crónica General, is a history of Spain commissioned by King Alfonso X the Wise of Castile, and written in the vernacular. This massive undertaking draws primarily on Lucas and Rodrigo, but also on other chronicles (both Latin and Arab), saints’ lives, cantares de gesta, and generally anything Alfonso’s men could get their hands on. The first edition was completed in 1271, but Alfonso ordered a revision in 1282. A further revision was made by his son Sancho IV in 1289. These versions all continued to circulate, and there are a bewildering number of further revisions, combinations, and additions, which mercifully need not concern us here, as the section about Bernardo remained unchanged. Alfonso’s men did their best to reconcile Lucas and Rodriguez, and added incidents and details from other versions they knew, which seem to have included both cantares de gesta and a now-lost prose history.

Chapter 617: In the 21st year of Alfonso’s reign [803], the 5th of Charlemagne’s [804], AD 800, his sister Ximena secretly married Count San Diaz of Saldaña, and bore him a son named Bernaldo. The king, on hearing the news, held a court, and sent Orios Godos and Count Tiobalte to bring the count to him. The count came, suspecting no ill, but Alfonso had him arrested. His men bound the count so tightly he bled, and Alfonso approved thereof. He imprisoned San Diaz in the Castle of Luna, and his sister in a nunnery. The only thing San Diaz asked was that Alfonso would treat Bernaldo well. Alfonso agreed, and raised the boy as his own, and he became a good knight. Some say in their cantares et fablas, however, that Bernaldo was son of Charlemagne’s sister Timbor, who was raped by San Diaz as she returned from a pilgrimage to Saint James. Alfonso adopted their son, since he had no heir of his own [The implication, though this is not stated until later, is that Alfonso was married to Charlemagne’s other sister Berta, as in Pelagius of Oviedo].

Chapter 618: Deals with Abderrahmen and Anbroz’ attack on Toledo.

Chapter 619: In the 27th year1 of Alfonso’s reign [809], the 12th of Charlemagne’s [811], AD 806, Alfonso, being old and childless, sent to Charles offering him his throne, if he would help him fight the Moors. Charles expelled the Moors from Provence, Bordeaux, Piteos, and Aquitaine, and then crossed the Pyrenees to Spain, conquering Catalonia. Lucas of Tuy says he also conquered Gascony and Navarre. The men of Spain, however, led by Bernaldo, learned of Alfonso’s offer and forced him to rescind it, or else they would depose him. Bernaldo formed an alliance with the Saracen King Marsil of Saragossa. Charles at that time was besieging Tudela, which he would have captured had it not been for Count Galaron’s treason. After taking Nájera, Charles and his army went into the mountains of Spain, where the Christians had fled to escape the sword of the Moors. They all declared, however, that they would rather die than submit to the Frankish yoke, and the men of Asturias, Alava, Biscay, Navarre, Ruconia (the Basques) and Aragon united under Alfonso’s banner against Charles, whose rearguard they encountered in Val Carlos in the Pyrenees. There Alfonso, Marsil, and Bernardo defeated the Franks, killing Don Roldan, Count Anselmo, Guiralte the Steward, and many more. Don Rodrigo says Bernaldo fought with Alfonso in the vanguard. Don Lucas says he fought in the rearguard with Marsil. Be that as it may, Charles hurried back to the valley, but when he saw his men dead, he blew his horn to gather the survivors, and they retreated to Germany to plot his revenge.

620: The Moors of Cordova rebel against Alhacan their lord, who puts them to the sword with the help of Abdelcarin.

621: In the 28th year of Alfonso’s reign [810], the 12th of Charlemagne’s [811], AD 807, two of Bernardo’s kinsmen, Blasco Meléndez and Suero Velásquez, having sworn an oath to Alfonso not to tell Bernardo about Count Sancho, make a plan with two of their kinswomen, Maria Meléndez and Urraca Sánchez. The women play chess with Bernardo, let him win, and then inform him how his father languishes in durance vile. Bernardo asked Alfonso for his father’s liberty, which was refused, but Bernardo swore he would nonetheless stay faithful to his king.

In the 29th year of Alfonso’s reign, nothing of interest happened.

622: In the 30th year, King Alhacan of Cordova died.

623: In the 31st year [813], the 15th of Charlemagne’s [814], AD 810, Charlemagne died [really 814]. His tomb was covered with lavish ornament, save for the side which looked towards Ronçasvalles, which was left blank. But Don Lucas says that after that loss King Charles laid siege to Saragossa, took Bernardo prisoner, and killed King Marsil. Then they returned into France together, and Charles eventually freed Bernardo and bestowed gifts on him. But at last he returned to Spain and fought many battles and died, as we shall relate. But some say in their cantares and fablas de gesta that Charles conquered many cities in Spain and founded the Way of Saint James, but this is a lie. [An account of the Reconquista follows, agreeing with Rodrigo’s IV:11]. It is certain, at any rate, that Charles and his host were defeated at Ronçasvalles, whether by Christians or Moors, and hence he cannot have opened the Way of Saint James, though he may have exerted his influence at King Galafre’s court. Don Lucas says that Charles made peace with Alfonso and then went on pilgrimage to Saint James and San Salvador, and obtained privileges for them from the Pope, and King Alfonso imposed the Hispanic rite on all Spain.

624: Year 31. King Abderrahmen of Cordova captures Barcelona.

Year 32 to 37, nothing interesting.

Chapter 625: Year 37, a Moor of Merida, named Mahomad, went to war against Abderrahmen of Cordova, and lost, and King Alfonso let him live in Galicia (?)

Years 38-39, nothing interesting.

Chapter 626: Year 40, the 9th of Louis the Pious’, AD 819, [822] Mahomad betrayed King Alfonso and rebelled against him, but Alfonso slew him.

King Alfonso was married, but never saw his wife. Don Lucas says his wife’s name was Berta, the sister of Charlemagne.

Chapter 627: Year 41 [823], the 10th of Louis the Pious [824], AD 820, Alfonso died and was buried in Saint Mary’s. [Really died 842. Don Ramiro succeeds to the throne, and Bernardo is not mentioned again until the reign of Alfonso III.]

Chapter 643: Alfonso III the Great becomes king, AD 837 [really 866], 1st year of Lothair’s reign [840].

Chapter 648: Year 4, AD 840 [869], 4th of Lothair [843]. A great army of Moors from Toledo raided the Christian lands. King Alfonso defeated them by the river Duero, with the help of Bernaldo.

Chapter 649: Year 5, AD 841 [870], 5th of Lothair [844]. King Ores of Merida invaded Christendom and laid siege to Benavento. King Alfonso rode to the rescue and personally killed Ores. Bernaldo was there, too, and fought well. King Alchaman laid siege to Zamora, but Bernaldo killed him.

Chapter 650: Year 6, AD 842 [871], 6th of Lothair [845]. Some Moors invaded again, and split into two parts. One went to Polvorosa, and the other to Valdemoro. Alfonso slaughtered one division by the River Orvego, and Bernaldo in Valdemoro. The king returned to Toro, laden with loot and glory.

Chapter 651: Year 7, AD 843 [872], 7th of Lothair [846]. Don Bueso of France invaded Spain. King Alfonso meets him in battle by Ordeion in Castile, near a castle called Amaya. Some say in their cantares segund cuenta la estoria that Buseo was Bernaldo’s cousin. Bernaldo killed Bueso in the fray. After the battle, Bernaldo kissed Alfonso’s hand and asked for the liberty of his father, and called to mind all the times he had helped him against the Moors. But Alfonso refused, and Bernaldo renounced his service, and did not go to war or court for a year

Chapter 652: Year 8, AD 844 [873], 8th of Lothair [847]. King Alfonso held court at Pentecost, to which came, among others, Orios Godos and Tiobalt. But Bernaldo did not come, until the Queen promised him that she would ask for his father’s liberty. He came, and she asked, but Alfonso refused, and Bernaldo denounced and insulted him in front of the whole court, reminding him of all his faithful service, prompting Alfonso to banish him. His kinsmen Blasco Meléndez, Suero Velásquez, and Nuño de Leon left with him. They retreated to Saldaña, whence they made war against Alfonso for two years.

Chapter 653. Year 9. King Mahomet of Cordova makes war against Toledo.

Chapter 654. Year 10, AD 846 [875], 10th of Lothair [849]. Bernaldo was joined by many men from Benavente, Toro, and Zamora, who swore not to leave him until his father was free. With his new army, Bernaldo marched on Salamanca. He advanced with a small division, and then retreated, luring Alfonso’s troops into an ambush, where Orios Godos and Count Tiobalte were captured. Bernaldo then founded El Carpio near Salamanca. He made alliance with the Muslims and raided Astorga and Leon, prompting Alfonso to lay siege to El Carpio. Bernaldo freed Orios Godos and Count Tiobalte, but Alfonso still refused to free his father. Bernaldo, in revenge, raided Salamanca, but cautioned his men not to go overboard plundering it, lest there be nothing left to take in the future.

Chapter 655: Year 11, AD 847 [876], 11th of Lothair [850]. Alfonso’s men at last prevailed upon him to release San Diaz. Bernaldo agreed to this, and handed over his castle of El Carpio. Alfonso sent Orios and Tiobalte to fetch Count San Diaz, but they arrived three days after his death. They say in their songs that Alfonso ordered the corpse to be cleaned, mounted on a horse, and paraded before Saldaña. Bernardo surrendered the city and went forth to meet his father. When he realized he had been deceived, he rounded on the king with fury, and the king banished him again.

They say in cantares that Bernaldo went to France, where King Charles the Bald welcomed him, but Timbor’s son rejected him. Despairing, Bernaldo left the court. Charles gave him horses and arms, but Bernaldo still ravaged the land as he returned to Spain, where he founded Canal de Jaca, married Doña Galiana, daughter of Count Alardos de Latre, and begot on her Galín Galíndez, who grew up to be a fine knight in his own right. Bernardo fought three great battles against the Moors before his death. Some say that it was Alfonso III who fought at Ronçasvalles, but the best authors, French and Spanish, say it was Charlemagne and Alfonso II.

Chapter 656. Year 12. Irrelevant to us. Years 13-20. Nothing interesting. Year 21, AD 857 [886]. Bernardo del Carpio died, as Don Lucas says.

For the curious, Bernardo is seven at the battle of Roncesvalles [!], forty-three when he vanquishes Don Bueso, forty-seven when he frees his father, and fifty-seven at his death.

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