Heading out of Navarrete, you know it’s the Rioja: snowy hills, with vines on the slopes and flats. Does any region in the world have such a concentration of wine grapes?
Along the track, a lovely Romanesque portal now serves as entry to the cemetery.
When Pedro the Cruel lost his crown of Castile to his bastard brother, he sought help from England’s warrior-prince, Edward. That famous battle of Nájera – when the Hundred Years War did an invitation bout in Spain – was fought closer in to Navarrete. Was it here that those Anglo-Gascons found some high ground for their victory?
Or was it here?
After the big win, Pedro the Cruel – though in some ways an enlightened type – proceeded to earn his nickname amongst the people of Nájera. Typically of the Hundred Years War, honour would alternate with baseness: Pedro and his chivalry-freak ally, the Black Prince, quarrelled over money. Pedro had done a deal with the Prince for help in winning back his throne of Castile…then told his ally the check was in the mail.
The Black Prince left Spain in a huff, and the fight for the crown of Castile started again, fatally for Pedro.
So pay those bills!
Before Nájera, a monument to Roland. It’s a stone hut shaped like a Frankish helmet, and commemorates Roland’s fight with the giant Ferragut, nearby at Alesón.
The period between Charlemagne and Edward, the Black Prince, is almost as long as that between Edward and the modern pilgrim. It’s an old track, isn’t it?
Here’s the story.
Charlemagne and his paladins were in the neighbourhood when word got out that a Syrian giant was hanging about the town of Alesón. A muslim Syrian giant!
One after the other, the paladins challenged Ferragut the Giant to single combat. All Ferragut had to do was pick up his opponents and carry them into the local jail. (Ransom value of a paladin was probably the size of a Leo Messi or Ronaldo contract.)
Finally it was Roland’s turn to face Ferragut, and through various brutal turns, involving deception, prayers and cruelty to horses, the fight was stalemated. A truce was called for the night, then, after a big day’s combat, another truce for the second night. Roland chivalrously placed a stone pillow under the giant’s head while he slept.
When the giant had rested enough, Roland engaged him in ecumenical discussion, doing his best to explain such things as the Trinity and Immaculate Conception. Ferragut did his best to understand, and, in return, volunteered the information that he could only be killed by a stab to the navel.
It was decided that whoever won the next fight had the best god…or triple god, since Ferragut just couldn’t get with the Trinity thing.
Of course, the outcome was a victory for Roland, by a stab to the navel, and…
…and I don’t know what else to say!