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.
During the approximately 15 years the Cid spent in exile in the eastern part of the Iberian Peninsula, he remained faithful to Alfonso. When the king was tightening his grip on Toledo, the Cid was in the service of the Muslim ruler of Saragossa. The loyal Castilian exile made sure his employer never sent aid to Toledo and stayed away from Castile.
In 1092, the Cid besieged the rich Muslim-held city of Valencia on the east coast of Spain. For 20 months, the Cid fended off various armies, kept supplies from reaching Valencia by land or sea, and maintained the siege. The city finally surrendered on June 15, 1094, and the famous Castilian warrior entered the city in triumph. The reconquest of Valencia was the Cid’s greatest military accomplishment. He held Valencia until his death in 1099.
The Cid’s contemporaries were amazed because he did not set himself up as an independent ruler in Valencia. Instead, El Cid Campeador ruled Valencia as a vassal of Alfonso VI and Castile. Alfonso’s misjudgment and mistreatment of the Cid were a blotch on his successful reign of over 44 years. On the other hand, the Campeador’s loyalty to his unsympathetic sovereign enhanced his reputation as a great man and an ideal knight. At his death, the Cid was still the governor of Valencia and the loyal subject of Alfonso VI of Castile.
After the Cid’s death, the Almoravids pressed in against Valencia and the Christians were unable to defend it. Retreating from the city, the Cid’s widow, Jimena, and his close companions took their beloved leader’s remains with them for reburial in Castile. To this day, thousands of Spaniards every year visit the tombs of Rodrigo Díaz and Jimena in the cathedral of Burgos.
The Sign of Judgment
The prophecy of the Erythraen Sybil, who lived long before the birth of Christ, was said to foretell his advent. The following setting was sung in the monasteries of Aquitaine, in southern France, during the period when El Cid lived. The title of the chant is Signum Iudicii — the “Sign of Judgment.”