Thursday, May 30, 2013

King St. Ferdinand III of Castile & Leon

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Today is the Feast of the King of Castile and Leon, St. Ferdinand III.  This patron saint on Engineers brings to mind a great period of the Reconquista in Spain -- the 13th century saw the beginning of the permanent decline of Islamic power in Andalusia.

The united arms of Castile & Leon.

Spain during this period had several great kings – Alfonso IX “the slobberer” of Leon (reigned 1188-1230) ended his reign with a successful campaign, and left his realm to his son, St. Ferdinand III (reigned Castile, 1217-1252; Leon, 1230-1252), who was already king of Castile, having replaced his young uncle, Henry I (1214-1217), an eleven year-old boy and son of Alfonso VIII, the victor at Las Navas de Tolosa [Henry got hit in the head with a stone while playing, and died.  Little Henry's sisters were the mothers of Ferdinand III (Berengaria) and also St. Louis IX of France (Blanche) and the wife of James I of Aragon (Eleanor)].  This forever linked the kingdoms of Castile and Leon.  It was a rough union at first.

In Aragon, James I (1213-1276) “the Conqueror” reached his majority in 1227 – he was five and in the custody of Simon de Montfort when his father, Pedro II, died.  These two men, Ferdinand and James, would be heard from a great deal.

With the death of al-Mustansir of the Almohads in 1224, they collapsed.  Alfonso IX seized Merida (where St. James was said to have appeared and assisted) and Badajoz in 1230, opening the road to Seville – but the king died in September of 1230, and is buried at Compostella.  James I took Majorca in 1230, as well.  The birth of the Inquisition in 1231 at the command of Gregory IX is well worth noting, though this is not the fully developed institution that would later be known.  Ibn al-Ahmar (1232-1273) founded the Nasrid dynasty and the Kingdom of Granada in 1232, breaking away from the crumbling Almohad power.  In 1236, Ferdinand III captured Cordoba!  James I captured of Valencia in 1238.  Finally, Ferdinand had Seville in 1248.

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The Emirate of Granada.  This is all that remained of Islamic Spain after Las Navas de Tolosa and the campaigns of Ferdinand III and James I.

Ferdinand, it is worth noting, founded the University of Salamanca, and was also a Third Order Franciscan.

St. Ferdinand III died in 1252, succeeded as King of Castile and Leon by his son Alfonso X (1252-1284).  His daughter, Eleanor, would be the wife of Edward I "the Longshanks" of England.

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Pierre Dancart altarpiece in Seville Cathedral.

It was in the Cathedral of Seville that St. Ferdinand III would be buried (along with Christopher Columbus!).  Here is a link to the website of that Cathedral:

For more on King St. Ferdinand III:
Old Catholic Encyclopedia: St. Ferdinand III

Patron Saints Index: St. Ferdinand III

Live well!

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