El Gran Capitán – The Great Captain

The Granada of the Catholic Kings

A fascinating figure in the time of the Catholic Monarchs was a military man famous for his troops, Don Gonzalo Fernandez de Cordoba, better known as the Great Captain.

He played a crucial role in the Reconquest of Granada in 1492. In this last crusade, the last Nazarite Sultan, Boabdil, was taken prisoner, and was forced to sign a truce with Don Fernando, the king of Aragon.

With this treaty he turned Granada into a vassal kingdom of Castile, leaving his children as a pledge. Thus, Ahmed, son of Boabdil spent much of his childhood with the Great Captain, who treated him like a son, until he was returned to his father after the surrender of the city of Granada in 1492. The policy united Don Gonzalo and Boabdil, and what began as a pact between knights ended in a great friendship, which even led the Great Captain to accompany the last Nasrid sultan on his boarding in Almuñecar, exiling himself to North Africa.

Don Gonzalo married Doña María Manrique, an educated woman of the Court of Queen Isabel of Castile, whom he always admired and venerated, until his last days.

Don Gonzalo was a skilful strategist on the battlefield. He knew very well how to organize his armies and he had multiple victories in Italy. That is why everybody called him “The Great Captain”.

He was admired by everybody. Pope Julius II wanted him for his personal guard. However, the Great Captain was loyal to King Don Fernando and he declined this offer and many other ones. The Turkish sultan Bayezid II valued his intelligence and chivalry, and one more time, he refused with kindness this desirable offer.

Following the death of Isabel of Castile in 1504, Spanish and international politics took a turn, especially with the wedding between the king Don Fernando of Aragon and Germana de Foix, of the Royal House of Navarre.

Fernando never trusted in the loyalty of Gonzalo. Although, this attitude of Fernando was totally unjustified. The hero, Gonzalo fell into disgrace. He was betrayed by his master. He relegated his figure to oblivion. Gonzalo aged prematurely and got sick until he died in 1515.

Doña María, Gonzalo’s wife, decided to build a pantheon in accordance with the fame and figure of her husband. So that she will ask for permission from Emperor Charles V himself and he accepted her proposal.

So the Monastery of San Jerónimo will become a unique burial site in the city of Granada, with a program iconographic unprecedented. It shows the great classical culture from Italy that imbued the Great Captain and his wife. Result of this is the decoration of its vaults, with figures of heroes and heroines of Classical Antiquity, showing attributes and virtues of their founders.

It is a highly reccommended visit in the city of Granada, this Monastery of San Jerónimo. In our guided tour we will tell the thousand and one battles of the Great Captain, along with all the symbols that enclose the Main Chapel of the Church. Finally, we will tell you the origin of the legend of Don Gonzalo: “Between picks and shovels… a hundred million.”

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