Legends of Medieval Spain

Spanish culture is rich with legends, many of which originate from the epic poems of the middle ages and the 19th century Romance movement. Many of these legends, although by no means all of them, refer to medieval heroes and battles and it can sometimes be difficult to be sure exactly where the truth ends and the legend begins.

The Legend of  How King Roderick Lost Spain to the Moors

Legend has it that the city of Toledo was founded by Hercules who built a tower on a bend in the river Tajo in which to store his treasure. The heavy doors of the tower bore an inscription which read:   "King of Spain, if you open these doors – on your head be it."   This message was taken seriously by successive kings who one buy one added another lock to the door to ensure the safety of their kingdom. In the end the act of adding another lock to the doors became a part of the coronation ceremonies.

All was well in Spain until the coronation of King Roderick, who had long coveted Herclules’ treasure. On the day of his coronation instead of adding another lock he ordered his blacksmith to remove all the existing locks and open the doors to the tower.The king entered the tower and found that it was empty apart from an enormous painting. The painting depicted a besieged castle whose occupants were fleeing from an invading army. In the middle of the painting, discarded amongst the carnage of battle, lay the abandoned flag and coat of arms of Spain. Obviously the king was shocked by this and forbade that anyone else but him should enter the tower.

In the months that followed the king visited the tower every afternoon to worry about the problems that had started to befall his kingdom. Some time later Count Julian, the governor of Ceuta, came to Toledo to visit the king. As well as his servants and soldiers, he brought with him his beautiful daughter Florinda.

One afternoon Florinda went down to the river to bathe. By chance the king, who was in the tower, saw her bathing naked and fell in love with her. The pair became lovers which angered the count who returned to Ceuta where he betrayed the king and plotted with Tariq bin Zayad.

Tariq bin Zayad and his troops then invaded Spain and defeated the Spanish army at Guadalete. During the battle King Roderick took off his armour, threw down his sword and fled to live out the rest of his life as a hermit in a cave. As the Muslim armies spread across the country Count Julian was forced to flee to the North of Spain. Fearing for his life he hid his treasure in the lake at  Taravilla. Both he and his daughter were later killed by the Moors . Legend has it that the ghost of Florinda returned to haunt the river Tajo until she was finally exorcised several centuries later. The Count’s treasure however, still remains in the lake where he hid it.

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