…And The Rest Is Conquered Land
There’s a popular saying in Spain, principally in Asturias, a province on the Bay of Biscay in Northern Spain, which goes:
Asturias es España, y lo demás tierra conquistada.
Asturias is Spain, and the rest is conquered land.
It makes reference to the Battle of Covadonga, 722 A.D. when the troops of Don Pelayo, king of Asturias, defeated the invading Moors. The battle is considered the starting point of the reconquista, the reconquest of Spain from the Moors (a long process of wars which ended with the taking of Granada in 1492). Legend would have it that Pelayo and his 300 defeated an army of 180,000 Moors. Historically speaking, it’s more likely that the Moors were not quite so numerous, nor Pelayo’s lot so few but – why spoil the legend? It’s still a famous victory for those defending their homeland.
As a consequence of Don Pelayo’s victory, Asturias has never been conquered by the Moors which explains the above saying.
I dragged my hard-tried family to Covadonga last summer. Similarly to the time when I dragged them (screaming) to Delphi, once again they couldn’t quite grasp why I wanted to visit some godforsaken historical site, but all my sins were forgiven once we got there.
When you see the location – a gorgeous gorge – you can readily understand how a small army could defend the place. The battle site is commemorated by a church, a statue of Don Pelayo and a little chapel on the other side of the valley (dedicated to the Virgen of the Battles who aided the forces of Pelayo) set into the Santa Cueva, the Holy Cave, right on top of a waterfall on Mt Auseva. All very spectacular and well worth a visit for the beauty & atmosphere of the location alone, even if you want to ignore the historical connotations.
(Click on the gallery to enlarge the pictures.)
Al Quama entered Asturias with 187,000 men. Pelayo was with his companions on Mount Auseva and the army of Alkama [sic] came to him and pitched innumerable tents in front of the entrance of a cave. Bishop Oppas climbed a hill opposite the cave and he spoke to Pelayo thus:
“Pelayo, Pelayo, where are you?”
The man so addressed appeared at a window and replied:
“Here I am.”
Then the bishop said:
“I judge, brother and son, that it’s not hidden from you how a little while ago the whole of Spain was united under the government of the Goths and shone more than other countries for her doctrine and science, and that, nevertheless, the entire united army of the Goths could not withstand the force of the Ishmaelites; can you defend yourself on this mountain top? It seems difficult to me. Listen to my advice: return to your agreement [ie. resume paying tribute to the Moors], you will enjoy many goods and enjoy the friendship of the Chaldeans.”
Then Pelayo replied:
“Did not you read in the Holy Scriptures that the church of the Lord will become like the mustard seed and grow again by the mercy of God?”
Alqama[sic] then ordered the combat to begin, and the soldiers took up arms. They raised the slings, the catapults were prepared, the swords flashed, the lances were brandished, and arrows were launched incessantly. But at once the magnificence of the Lord was shown: the stones that came out of the slings and arrived at the house of the Virgin Santa María, who was inside the cave, turned against those who shot them and killed the Chaldeans. And since God does not need spears, but gives the palm of victory to whomever he wants, the Chaldeans began to fly …
Chronicle of Alfonso III (Cronica Rotensis)
You may also like / Quizás también te gusta: ⇒ Asturias, el secreto mejor guardado de los españoles (Asturias, the best kept secret of the Spanish) ⇒ A Brief (Literary) History of the Reconquista - coming to this blog soon! ⇒ A Short Pictorial History of Ribadesella ⇒ The Chronicle of Alfonso III, Cronica Rotensis (in Latin) ⇒ Ulysses Found (or our trip to Delphi)