Moslem Seville surrenders to Saint Ferdinand

April 18, 2013

The Giralda in Seville, which is the bell tower for the Cathedral of Seville.

The Giralda in Seville, which is the bell tower for the Cathedral of Seville.

The Moors had no choice but to accept the iron will of that King Ferdinand, who, like a curse of Allah, crossed Andalusia exterminating Islam. The ambassadors returned with broader powers to act, and then Don Ferdinand received them. After they had been conducted to his tent, they found him waiting surrounded by his whole cortege. The King was wearing his mail coat, broken and mended, and his well darned coat of arms, as he said, “It is not right for a king to dress poorly unless it is a consequence of combat against his enemies.” His coif was thrown back over his shoulders, and his head uncovered. His hair, well kept, had become brown through the years with touches of copper. Toil had emaciated his face, tanned like that of an Andalusian Moor by the sun and the open air, but well-shaved and with an expression of kindness and nobility that simultaneously inspired respect, love and trust. His appearance was so attractive, and he had such an air of serene majesty that, in spite of being dressed like his nobles, the Moors had no trouble in recognizing him as the King. At his right hand was his son, then a young man of twenty-seven years, and at his left, his brother Don Alfonso de Molina. On both sides were the prelates and the noblemen; at one side of the table acting as notary was Don Remondo. Rodrigo Alvarez de Castro stood behind the King and his son to interpret.

Wrapped in white mantles with their heads covered with turbans, the Mohammedans entered and, touching their foreheads with their hands, they made a profound reverence to King Ferdinand. After having obtained license to speak, their chief began:

“King Ferdinand, as it is written that Seville shall be yours, we give it to you with the power the wali has invested in us for this purpose; and as you see us in submission, have mercy on us.”

The Surrender of Seville, painted by Francisco de Zurbarán.

The Surrender of Seville, painted by Francisco de Zurbarán.

The King remained silent for a few moments. What could he say? The humility of the vanquished infidels disarmed the heart of the conqueror. When he saw that they placed themselves in submission, he politely answered:

“As you give me the city and place yourselves in my hands, I will let you go free and exempt your wives and children and all the belongings you can take with you. Starting today, I will give you one month to leave, but you must leave the Alcázar immediately.”

Subscription8Since the sentence of leaving the precious city of their ancestors was irrevocable, Don Ferdinand was treating them with much tenderness. The sad, vanquished men realized this. In spite of this, when they heard the judgment, their grief was so great that they bowed their heads in silence and cried. The Castilians also remained silent since it is not proper for noble souls to rejoice in the sufferings of the defeated. The compassion that Don Ferdinand felt for the unfortunate ones was visible in his eyes….

All remained silent.Then Don Ferdinand, with a serious and dignified politeness that imposed conditions painlessly continued: “Tell the Wali Axataf that I give him and the captain the cities of Abenxuef, Sanlúcar and Aznalfarache. And also Niebla after the Lord gives it to me. Do you agree and are you ready to sign?”

The King had spoken Castilian throughout the whole conference, so that all his counselors could understand, charging Rodrigo Alvarez with translating his words into Arabic. The delegation from Seville indicated their agreement with all the terms, and then Don Remondo presented the document to be signed. The Moors approached and signed, one after the other, with more tears than if it were their death sentence. As they were leaving, Ferdinand said again to them: “My ships are willing to take to Africa those who wish to go. I will also order my knights to accompany those who want to live in Granada and to guard and defend them on their way.”

“We appreciate this very much, Lord,” the chief negotiator answered. Making a profound reverence, they left. The King said to his Chamberlain Rodrigo González Girón: “Go with them and take the Alcázar on my behalf and place the Holy Cross and my standard on it.”

Surrender of Seville to Saint Ferdinand, painted by Gregorio Vásquez de Arce y Ceballos

Surrender of Seville to Saint Ferdinand, painted by
Gregorio Vásquez de Arce y Ceballos

To see them placed there, Ferdinand crossed the river with his men since it would be barely visible from the camp site. As they arrived, the silver Cross that the King had received from the bishop close to two years before appeared for the first time on the tower of the Alcázar. This was a very solemn moment in his life. Seeing the Cross there crowned the mission that, in the name of God, Saint Isidore had given him. He shed tears of consolation, and all of his soldiers shouted, watching it shine like a diamond in the noon sun:

“God helps!”

Afterward, Ferdinand returned to his camp to await the delivery of the keys that the unfortunate Axataf would make. His wait was quite short.

Axataf presented himself in the King’s tent accompanied by a few Moors: approaching the King, he delivered the keys to him. “Take them, King Ferdinand,” he said as he placed them in his hands. “It was written that Seville would be yours. I appreciate very much that you want to give me Sanlúcar and Aznalfarache, but I do not accept them. I can better help those of my race in Africa in their fight with the Benimerines.”

“Do as you please, Axataf,” answered Ferdinand. “I was giving them to you willingly. But if you do not want them, may God be with you and favor you.”

“Farewell, King Ferdinand, may Allah guard you.”

He went out. Ferdinand accompanied him as far as the tent’s door and from there watched him go to the river and embark on a little ship for Cádiz….

It was November 23, the feast of Saint Clement, in the year of Christ 1248.


C. Fernandez de Castro, A.C.J., The Life of the Very Noble King of Castile and León, Saint Ferdinand III (Mount Kisco, N.Y.: The Foundation for a Christian Civilization, Inc., 1987), 254-56.

Short Stories on Honor, Chivalry, and the World of Nobility—no. 274




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