Bailen to Granada

On The Road Travel Essays

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Bailen to Granada

(COURIER: Little of interest happens until you approach Jaen, so use this time to talk generally about Spain — unless the group would obviously rather sing or sleep — drawing on the material in "Historical Sketch" or "The Spanish People.")

Jaen  Population: 70,000. The seat of a bishop and the capital of a small province. Jaen is the center of olive production in Spain: you've noticed the miles of olive groves we've been passing. The red, dry earth is well suited to olive raising, since the trees require very little water.

The town has one of the most spectacular settings in Spain: huddling at the base of Monte Jabalcuz (an old Moorish name meaning "dark": it refers to a shrub that grows on the mountain, having dark brown leaves). The people of Jaen are known for their dignity and reserve, due perhaps to the austerity of the setting. (Discotheques wouldn't do much business here.) The foliage on the mountain is mainly pine and chestnut trees — and of course, those "dark" shrubs.

Dominating the city are the ruins of an old Moorish castle.

Historical sketch: Jaen is a very old city. The Carthaginians and later the Romans were attracted here by silver mines. The Romans called the town Aurinx. Under the Moors, it was the capital of the tiny Kingdom of Jayyan (from which its present name comes). In 1246, King Ferdinand III ("St. Ferdinand") captured it. For years afterward, until the fall of Granada (1492), Christian forces made this an important, strategic frontier post, bordering as it did on the Moorish Kingdom of Granada. Thus, the castle on top was fortified and refortified.

The story of "Ferdinand the Summoned": In 1312, King Ferdinand IV (not "St. Ferdinand") condemned to death two brothers, Juan and Pedro Carvajal, for a minor offense. The verdict was widely considered unjust. Thirty days later (Sept. 7, 1312), King Ferdinand died suddenly in Jaen. For years afterwards, the townspeople of Jaen said that the souls of the two brothers had pleaded with God to summon the unjust king to a Last Judgment, and God had done so by striking the king dead. That is why King Ferdinand became known as "Ferdinand the Summoned" (El Emplazado).

(COURIER: As the mountains become steeper and steeper, begin your general introduction to Granada, stressing the role of these mountains in holding back Christian forces hold out for a long period of time, enabling Granada to hold out centuries after the other Moorish strongholds had fallen: Cordoba (1236), Seville (1247), Gibraltar (1462),and Malaga (1487).)


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