Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar, the Cid Campeador, is probably the most famous figure of the entire Spanish Middle Ages. He was an eleventh century warrior from Burgos, who worked in the service of the kingdom of León, suffering successive exiles after which he went on to fight on his own with changing loyalties and alliances in the turbulent context of the Reconquest Peninsula. In the final phase of his life, he became lord of the city of Valencia, which maintained an independent status during this period.
In the narration of his biography, historical accounts are mixed with literary and legendary sources. The famous Cantar del Mío Cid was composed about it, a deed or epic song dated around 1200 and which is the first extensive poetic work that has been preserved in Spanish. The very nature of the work makes many of the passages collected in it have a fabulous character and heroic praise of the exploits of the Cid. That is why the historical data from other sources qualify or deny many of the singing episodes.
One fact that we do know is true is Rodrigo Díaz's passage through Seville on one of his main missions in the service of King Alfonso VI from Leon. It was around 1079 and the Cid came to the city to collect the outcasts or tributes that the Sevillian kingdom paid to that of León. At that time, Isbiliya was an independent Taifa kingdom ruled by Al Mutamid, which despite having achieved a notable expansion of its territories, was harassed by the Christian kingdom to the point of committing to the payment of these taxes in exchange for avoiding incursions. in their territories.
The moment in which the Cid was in Seville coincided with an episode of confrontation with the neighboring taifa of Granada. The Granada troops had entered the territories of the Sevillian kingdom, before which King Al Mutámid requested the help of Rodrigo in order to confront them.
El Cid, considering the Sevillian king an ally of his lord, agreed to help and left the city to confront the Granada army. He was victorious in a battle that took place near Cabra (Córdoba), after which he took the main leaders of the Granada side prisoner.
His mission accomplished, the Cid returned to Seville victorious and from there he left for the kingdom of León with the taxes collected. In the aforementioned battle, another lord in the service of the Leonese king, Count García Ordóñez, had participated, but he did so on the Granada side, being one of those arrested by El Cid after his defeat. Once freed, the count accused Rodrigo before the king of having with part of the tributes collected in Seville, which meant a first fall from grace and exile for the Cid, within the framework of his always complicated relations with Alfonso VI.
In Seville there are several points where the figure of the Cid Campeador is remembered. The main one is with the magnificent equestrian monument that is located in the south of the avenue that bears his name. It is a work made in 1927 by the American sculptor Anna Hyatt Huntington, being placed on its site the following year. It was a gift from the New York Hispanic Society to the city of Seville on the occasion of the celebration of the Ibero-American Exposition of 1929. In fact, it was decided to place it right in front of what was the main entrance to the venue, between the Portugal Pavilion and the old Tobacco Factory.
The author of it stood out above all for her monumental bronze sculpture, frequently representing historical figures and specializing above all in the recreation of animals. In this field she achieved great mastery, especially with the figure of the horse, of which Huntington was a true lover of her.
These qualities are clear in the example of her statue for Seville. El Cid's horse is represented with great anatomical realism and conveying a strong sense of movement, which gives the entire work a great dynamism that does not detract from its solemnity.
The posture of Rodrigo's figure, turned to one side with respect to the axis of the horse, contributes to this dynamism. He wears a warrior's mail and raises an arm holding a spear, in an attitude of haranguing the troops. In the other arm he carries a shield and his sword.
It is a magnificent example of twentieth-century equestrian sculpture, which from the beginning was recognized and admired by both the Sevillians and the artistic circles of the time. The original sketch of the work was made in the same year 1927 and is located today at Brookgreen Gardens in South Carolina. The success of the Sevillian monument led to several copies being made that are distributed throughout various parts of the Spanish and American geography, such as New York, Buenos Aires, San Francisco or Valencia.
The other monumental references that we can find in Seville about the Cid are not far from there and are also linked to the 1929 Exhibition. They are located in the Plaza de España, the central space of this event. In the plinth that runs along the entire concave façade of what was once the enormous Spanish Pavilion, the representations of scenes alluding to each of the Spanish provinces were located, with the corresponding shield on the upper part of each one of them.
They were made in tiles, constituting one of the most beautiful examples of the impulse in the ceramic industry that was experienced at the beginning of the 20th century, linked to the rise of regionalism and the immense demand generated by the preparatory works for the Exhibition.
In the space dedicated to Burgos, a scene alluding to the Cid is represented, framed by neo-baroque decoration, with Solomonic columns, plant motifs and cherubs. Specifically, it is La Jura de Santa Gadea, a legendary episode collected in an old romance. According to this story, at the coronation ceremony of Alfonso VI, Rodrigo would have required him to take a public oath that he had had nothing to do with it. the death of his brother and predecessor Sancho IV. This affront would not be ignored by the king, who for that reason would have ordered the first exile of the Cid.
It must be said that this episode only appears within the framework of the literary account collected in the old ballads and is not supported by any historical source close to the facts. Rather, what we know of the early days of the relationship between Rodrigo and Alfonso VI seems to deny that the famous passage actually occurred.
Real or imaginary, it was considered that The Jura de Santa Gadea was a scene worthy of serving as a symbol of Burgos in the Plaza de España, representing the illustrious past and the historical importance of this Castilian city. The work is from the Triana ceramic factory of Mensaque and the author of its original was Pedro Borrego Bocanegra, who knew how to capture the scene in a very beautiful way, in the historicist and romantic style predominant at the time.
In the same square, in the spandrels of the arches of the arcaded gallery that runs along the entire façade, there are forty-eight medallions with the high-relief busts of fifty illustrious figures from the history of Spain up to (there are two double medallions). They were made by the same factory in Mensaque and the author of the effigies was Pedro Navia Campos. Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar is also represented here, wearing a helmet and mesh, occupying the space between Alfonso X and Don Pelayo. In the molding of the tondo you can read the simple inscription of EL CID.