This Week in History

San Fernando Conquers Cordoba:

June 29, 1236

The following is an excerpt from our text, Light to the Nations I: The History of Christian Civilization. For information on ordering this or our other texts, please go here.

Fernando III became king of Castile in 1217, at the age of 19, one year after the death of Pope Innocent III and five years after the Iberian Crusade. Thirteen years later, he inherited the crown of León. King Fernando III was a great war leader. Never once in his 35-year reign did he lose a battle against the Moors. But Fernando was more than a great warrior; he was a devout Catholic who fasted, did penances, and sometimes spent whole nights in prayer. It is for this he is remembered in Spain as San Fernando — St. Fernando.

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King Fernando III of Castile

King Fernando was also a just ruler. It is said of him that he was careful not to overtax his subjects, saying he feared the curse of one poor woman more than an army of Moors.

Fernando was at war with the Moors throughout his reign. One of his greatest triumphs was recovering the fabled city of Córdoba, the former seat of the caliphs of Al-Andalus. Córdoba had been the capital of the Islamic West, fabled for its wealth, its scholars, and the caliph’s huge library of some 400,000 books.

The reconquest of Córdoba began in an unexpected way. On their own initiative a small group of young Castilians, who lived in Ubeda on the Christian borderlands, attacked the great city in the off-season for war. Disguised as Moors, the men, led by a young knight named Domingo Muñoz, scaled the walls of Córdoba in the midst of a storm and took the city by surprise on the night of January 7, 1236. After gaining control of a major suburb, the intrepid group sent a messenger to the Castilian king. They would try to hold their precarious position, they told the king, until he could arrive with an army.


This Week in History

The Revolution Crushes the Socialists: June 23-27, 1848

The following is an excerpt from our text, Light to the Nations II:The Making of the Modern World. It continues the account of the 1848 revolutions in France that one may read here. For information on ordering this or our other texts, please go here.

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Alphonse de Lamartine, by Henri Decaisne

The leader arising from the confusion of the February revolution in Paris was an aristocrat who had become famous not only for his Romantic, meditative poetry but also for his eloquent opposition to Louis Philippe. A member of the Chamber of Deputies since 1833, Alphonse de Lamartine had been an important voice for government reform. He had opposed the death penalty, called for the emancipation of slaves in the French colonies, and backed other reforms. Though he had been a supporter of constitutional monarchy, he now led the Chamber in rejecting the Count of Paris as king.

The Chamber of Deputies had dissolved the monarchy and now appointed a provisional government. Lamartine, three other deputies, and the radical republican Alexandre Auguste Ledru-Rollin were to govern France until elections could be held for a new legislature. No sooner had these men been sworn in, however, than they learned that socialists and anarchists had seized Paris’s Hôtel de Ville and proclaimed their own provisional government. Undaunted, Lamartine set out for the Hôtel de Ville to speak with the socialist leaders. The result was an agreement by which the socialists and anarchists recognized Lamartine’s government, and Lamartine agreed to allow the socialist leader Louis Blanc to join the provisional government.


This Week in History

El Cid Conquers Valencia: June 15, 1094 

The following text comes from our text, Light to the Nations I: The History of Christian Civilization. For ordering information and this and our other books, please go here.

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A 12th century depiction of King Alfonso VI of Castile

Alfonso VI’s fame was surpassed only by one other man of his time, whom Spanish legend presents as a loyal soldier and vassal. He was Rodrigo Díaz, called El Cid Campeador, meaning, “the Lord, Master of the Battlefield.”

When the Cid was in his thirties, he had helped Alfonso’s brother – Sancho, then the king of Castile — to seize León, which belonged to Alfonso. When Sancho was slain, Alfonso, who became king of both Castile and León, held a grudge against the Cid. In 1081 the monarch banished the Cid, forcing him to earn a living in foreign lands.

The Cid and a few followers who went into exile with him became full-time, professional soldiers— mercenaries who hired themselves out to any lord, Christian or Muslim, who would pay them. The Cid and his men fought Al-Andalus Muslims, African Almoravids, and occasionally fellow Christians.


Of Oaks and Axes

St. Boniface is to Germany what St. Patrick is to Ireland. Like Patrick, Boniface brought the Catholic faith to a land and people not his own. Christened in England as Winfrid (“friend of peace” in his native Anglo-Saxon tongue) he was given the name Boniface (“doer of good” in Latin) by Pope Gregory II when he was consecrated bishop. Besides being a saintly man, Boniface was a well-educated man and a gifted teacher and preacher, famed beyond the monastery walls of his Benedictine abbey. Although the prospect of a great ecclesiastical career was before him; his compelling desire was to undertake the formidable missionary work of bringing the Gospel to the untamed and hostile territory of northern Germany. He was granted permission to leave his homeland in 719.
St. Boniface is often pictured with an oak tree and axe. These emblems come from a dramatic episode in his attempts to convert the pagans. Germanic pagans worshiped many gods, who represented the uncontrollable and powerful forces of nature. Sir James Frazer in his comprehensive collection of myths and religions, “The Golden Bough, writes:
“In the religious history of the Aryan race in Europe the worship of trees has played an important part. Nothing could be more natural. For at the dawn of history, Europe was covered with immense primaeval forests, in which the scattered clearings must have appeared like islets in an ocean of green. Down to the first century before our era the [European] forest stretched eastward from the Rhine for a distance at once vast and unknown; Germans whom Caesar questioned had traveled for two months through it without reaching the end. Four centuries later it was visited by the Emperor Julian, and the solitude, the gloom, the silence of the forest appear to have made a deep impression on his sensitive nature. He declared that he knew nothing like it in the Roman empire.”


This Week in History

Robespierre’s Supreme Hour:

June 8, 1794

The following comes from our book, Light to the Nations II: The Making of the Modern World. It continues a story we began last August, which you may read here. For ordering information on this text and our other books, please click here.

Maximilien de Robespierre

While Paris ran with the blood of patriots, French arms continued to achieve victories against the republic’s enemies. By the spring of 1794, the revolutionary army numbered 720,000 men, and the French navy had built ships of the line. The combined armies and navies of Great Britain, Austria, Prussia, Spain, and Piedmont-Sardinia were, of course, quite strong; but the allies were divided among themselves. They were not working together. Their efforts had become merely a selfish war of conquest.

In England, Prime Minister Pitt had decided to throw all his energy into the war against France. His efforts paid off when, on June 1, the British navy won a smashing victory over the French and thus gained control of the seas. But on land, the allied forces were everywhere driven back. In April, the French had seized important Alpine passes leading into Italy. By June the French had forced the Austrians to leave Holland. By July, the allies had abandoned all their conquests in France, and the French revolutionary army began its invasion of Holland. (more…)