The Death of the Cid in Valencia

September 28, 2023

For five years the Cid remained in peace and strove to serve God and keep the Moors quiet, so that Moors and Christians dwelt as if they had always lived together; and they all loved and served the Cid with wonderful good-will.

When these five years were over, tidings came that King Bucar of Morocco, whose father had now died, and who had become Miramamolin, or emperor, thinking himself disgraced because the Cid had conquered him near Valencia and driven him into the sea, had gone in person throughout all his kingdom and stirred up the people to raise a vast army to cross the sea to take revenge upon the Cid. It was said that this host was so great that no man could number it.

When the Cid heard this, he was troubled, but he allowed no one to know this. When he knew certainly that Bucar was coming, he bade all the Moors of Valencia to come into his presence, and said to them: “You know well that since I have been lord of this city you have lived in peace and have been protected, neither have I done to you anything except what was right. But now tidings come to me that King Bucar of Morocco is arriving with a mighty power from beyond the sea to take from me this city. Now, therefore, I command all of you to leave the town and go into Alcudia and the other suburbs to dwell there with the other Moors, until we see the end of this business between me and King Bucar.” Then the Moors were loath to do this, but they obeyed; and then the Cid felt safer than before, for though these men had lived peaceably with him, he feared that when Bucar would come they might join him and fight against himself, as they were of the same race and religion as the men from Morocco.

Shortly after this, in the middle of the night, the Cid was lying in his bed, planning how he might meet Bucar, for when he was alone he thought of nothing else. At midnight there came a great light into the palace and a great odor wonderfully sweet. As he was marvelling what this might be, there appeared to him a man white as snow, and he carried certain keys in his hand; and before the Cid could speak, he said, “Sleepest thou, Rodrigo, or what art thou doing?” And the Cid made answer, “What man art thou who askest me?” And he said, “ I am St. Peter, who comes to thee with more urgent tidings than those for which thou art taking thought concerning King Bucar, and it is that thou art to leave the world and go to that which hath no end; and this will be in thirty days. But God will show you favor, so that your people shall defeat King Bucar, and thou being dead shalt win this battle. Do thou strive to make atonement for thy sins, and thou shalt be saved.”

When the Cid heard this, he had pleasure at heart, and he fell upon the earth that he might kiss the feet of St. Peter; but the Apostle said, “Strive not to do this, for thou canst not touch me, but all that I have told thee will come to pass.” Then the Apostle disappeared, and the Cid was greatly comforted by what St. Peter had said to him, being as certain that all this could come to pass as if it were already over.

Rodrigo Diaz de Vivar, El Cid

Early on the next day he called all his chief men into the Alcazar, and he began to say, with tears on his cheeks: “Friends and kinsmen and true vassals, many of you remember when Alfonso our lord twice banished me from his land, and most of you, for the love you bore me, followed me into banishment and have guarded me ever since. God has shown such mercy to you and to me that we have won many battles. Moreover, we won this city, which is not under the dominion of any man save our king, Alfonso, and that by reason of our loyalty to him rather than any other obligation. Now I would have you know that I am in the latter days of my life, and that thirty days hence will be my last. Of this I am assured, for these seven nights I have seen visions. I have seen my father and my son, and they said to me, ‘You have tarried here long enough, let us now go among the people who live forever.’ Also St. Peter appeared to me last night, when I was awake and not sleeping, and told me that when thirty days are past I should leave this world. Now you know that Bucar is coming against us with thirty-six kings. But be you certain that I shall so counsel you that you shall conquer Bucar in the field and win great honor, and my wife and all of you shall then go from this place in safety. How you are to do this, I will tell you hereafter.”

A statue of Álvar Fáñez in Burgos, Spain.

After this the Cid grew sick, and the day before he grew very ill he ordered the gates of the city to be shut and he went to the Church of St. Peter, and there, before the bishop and the clergy and the knights and honorable ladies, the Cid stood up and preached a noble sermon showing how none can escape death, to which he said he drew near. Then he said: “Since you know this body of mine has never been conquered, I beseech you let it not happen now. How this is to be done, I will leave in the hands of the bishop and of Alvar and Pero.”

When he said this, he placed himself at the feet of the bishop, and there made a general confession of all his sins. And the bishop appointed him penance and absolved him. Then he arose and took leave of the people, weeping much, and returned to the Alcazar, and went to bed and never rose from it again. Every day he grew weaker, till only seven days of the appointed time remained.

El Cid with Doña Jimena and his two daughters.

Then he called for the caskets of gold in which the balsam and myrrh were which the Sultan had sent him. When these were before him, he bade them bring him the golden cup, of which he was accustomed to drink; and he took of that balsam and myrrh as much as a little spoonful, and mingled it in the cup with rose water, and drank of it. And for the seven days that he lived he neither ate nor drank anything else than a little of that myrrh and balsam mixed with water. Then his body and his face appeared fairer and fairer than before, and his voice clearer, though he grew weaker and weaker, so that he could not move in his bed.

On the twenty-ninth day he called for his wife and the bishop and Alvar and Pero and Gil Diaz, and began to direct them what to do after his death. He said to them: “King Bucar will be here presently to besiege the city with mighty power of the Moors. Now the first thing you do when I am dead, wash my body with rose water many times, then dry it well and anoint it with this myrrh and balsam from head to foot. And do you, my wife, and your women see that no cries are made, that the Moors may not know of my death. When King Bucar arrives, order all the people to go upon the walls, sound your trumpets, and make the greatest rejoicing that you can. When you would set out for Castile, let all the people know in secret, that they may be ready; but let none of the Moors in the suburbs know.

The Death of El Cid

For you cannot keep the city after my death. See that beasts be laden with all that there is in Valencia, so that nothing of value be left. Then saddle my horse Bavieca and arm him well; and you shall clothe my body, and put me upon the horse and tie me on so that it cannot fall; and fasten my sword Tizona in my right hand. Let the bishop go on one side of me and Gil Diaz on the other, and he shall lead my horse. You, Pero, shall carry my banner; and you, Alvar, gather your company together and put the army in order. And go you forth and fight Bucar; and be certain you will win this battle. When you have won the fight, take all the spoil you can find. What you are to do afterward I will tell you tomorrow in my will.”

Early on the next day these persons came again to the Cid, and he began to make his will. He ordered that his body should be buried in the Church of St. Pedro de Cardena, where it now lies, and he bequeathed to the monastery much riches. He left to his company and his household according to the deserts of every one. To the knights who had served him ever since he left his own country, he gave much wealth. To the others who had not served him so long, he gave to some a thousand marks of silver, to others two, and to others three. He bade them when they arrived at the church to give clothing to four thousand poor people. He gave to his wife all other things that he had that she might live honorably in the monastery of St. Pedro, and he commanded Gil Diaz to remain with her and serve her all her life.

The Last Ride of El Cid

He commanded Alvar and Pero, when they had conquered King Bucar, to proceed to Castile and carry out his orders. Then the bishop gave him the sacrament, and he received it upon his knees, weeping. Then he sat upon his bed and prayed, “I beseech thee, pardon me my sins, and let my soul enter into the light which hath no end.” When the Cid had said this, this noble man yielded up his soul to God, on the twenty-ninth of May, in the year 1099, in the seventy-third year of his age. Then his body was cared for as he had commanded.

Calvin Dill Wilson, The Story of the Cid: For Young People (Boston: Lee and Shepard, 1901), 297–304.

Short Stories on Honor, Chivalry, and the World of Nobility—no. 897


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