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chrismon-bwThe Reconquista began at the battle of Covadonga in the Cantabrian mountains in 722.

An eighth century chronicle recounts that, “A certain Pelayo, the swordbearer of the kings Witiza and Roderic, oppressed by the dominion of the Ishmaelites, had come to Asturias”.

Pelayo was a Visigothic nobleman who  had held high position at the court of the old kingdom and had refused to surrender to the new conquerors.

Along with many others, he had taken refuge from the Arab invasion in the mountain fastnesses of Asturias and had declared an independent Christian kingdom. They held their camp on a rocky outcrop named Covadonga

congas_de_onisPelayo met the Saracen force that was sent to quell his rebellion by an old bridge  at Congas de Onis. Carrying the banner of the Christian Chrismon into battle in imitation of the Roman Emperor Constantine at the battle of the Milvian bridge. To Constantine it had been told of the Christian emblem: In this sign you shall conquer.

Like Constantine, Pelayo was victorious and the people of Asturias rallied round his band of fighters and managed to keep the Moors out of the small, beleagured, nascent kingdom.

The Chrismon became the symbol of the kings of the Reconquista and can be found carved above the entrances of numerous twelfth century church in Aragon. It displays the first two Greek letters of the word Christ and the first and last words of the Greek alphabet alpha and omega. This is a reference to chapter 1 verse 8 of the Book of Revelation: I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is and which was and which is to come.jaca-4

This placed the Reconquista within an eschatological narrative.  In adopting this paleo-Christian symbol, the Christians of Spain saw themselves as God’s Chosen People whose struggle against the Moors thus became an integral part of the working of Abraham’s covenant with God through history towards the Apocalypse

2 Comments

  1. Which SIGN of the cross did Constantine see? There are 12 SIGNS of the cross, and in some “circles” there are 13 SIGNS of the cross. Did Constantine see the SIGN of the fish, or the SIGN of the Baptizer and His baptism?

    • The account of Constantine’s vision emanate from the early Christian historian Eusebius. There are two versions. One is in the Ecclesiastical History and the other in the Life of Constantine.
      The sign referred to is usually considered to be the Chrismon as described in the text above. Made up of the Greek letters for Ch and R which are X and P. The addition of the alpha and omega probably came later but according to Eusebius’ legendary account, the sign which Constantine is alleged to have seen was placed on the Roman standards at the battle of the Milvian Bridge and was known as the Labarum.


8 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. […] is often favoured. This coincided with the reign of Alfonso VII and the escalation of the Reconquista into a contest for the whole of the Spanish peninsula and the visit of the abbot of Cluny, Peter […]

  2. […] proximity to the ongoing war of Reconquest in Spain, meant that Oloron was both a pilgrimage centre on the Compostelan road as well as a vital […]

  3. […] theme held a particular significance for the Christians of northern Spain during the time of the Reconquista. One of the earliest representations is at the Mozarabic church of San Pedro de la Nave. During the […]

  4. […] Peña acquired lands which were recovered from the Moors to the south during the conflicts of the Reconquista, thereby helping to define the territorial limits of the […]

  5. […] tympanum over the western entrance features a crude copy of the Chrismon surrounded by two lions from Jaca. This symbol, seen at number of Aragonese monasteries implies a […]

  6. […] frontier town, made prosperous by the passage of pilgrims and traders. As the capital of the early Reconquista, the royal coffers had been swollen from the money extorted from the Moorish taifa of Saragossa.  […]

  7. […] except in this one, can one find so many and so large marble tombs set upon the ground In this sign you shall conquer […]

  8. […] Paradise. A notable difference however is the substitution of the Cross of the Sion Gospel with a Chrismon on the version found at Merida and […]

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