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We would call it fake news nowadays but back then it went by a different name: they were called legends and had the same political effect fake news have these days. And no, Charlemagne never did set foot in Córdoba, although he would have very much liked to. In truth it appears that he tried but failed disastrously.

Around the year 760 the Emirs of Zaragoza were seeking allies to rebel against the Córdoba Caliphate on account of some taxes they did not agree with. So when approached by the Emirs Charlemagne saw the perfect opportunity to make his way into Córdoba using the Emirs to cut through part of the Caliphate. Therefore he assembled his troops and led them to the gates of Zaragoza; but that was the closest he would get to set foot in Córdoba.

The Emirs might have been disloyal but they sure were not fools and as soon as they realized Charlemagne’s true intentions the mighty emperor had to flee North.

However, since there were yet no spoils of war and the soldiers counted on it, Charlemagne decided to brutally sack the city of Pamplona. Needless to say this angered the Vascones who inflicted the great chieftain a severe defeat at the battle of Roncevaux Pass. All of this can be read in the great epic poem “The Song of Roland”, another piece of ancient fake news written 300 years after the events depicted in the poem.

But how come a mural painting titled “The battle of Córdoba” decorates the hall of Thrones of the Town Hall of Aachen?

Well, we can agree that for a great deal of problems in our world these days Romanticism is to blame. Alfred Rethel painted it in 1849, and he was a key German romantic painter, who along side many other German painters decided to commemorate the deeds of the great Emperor Charlemagne –emperor merely by title–. There are some curious details in this painting that I would like to point out. First and oddest, the horses in the battle are blindfolded and that is strange strange. The Muslim soldier being stricken down appears to be holding a black cloth or some type of mask, an item which Charlemagne seems to be reaching for. Plus there is a bishop and that is also strange.

These are all important details with which we can reconstruct what in fact did happen in the battle of the legend. I have found the truth in an old forgotten book published in 1840 and signed by some Nicholas de Piamonte who states that he merely translated what an older book contained.

Here is the tale that explains the nature of this painting. I am sure the painter must have read it too.

 


On how Charlemagne battled against the kings of Sevilla and Córdoba.

When the kings of Córdoba and Sevilla knew of the death of Ferragus and the other knights, they felt a deep sorrow and sent their ambassadors to Charlemagne to tell him how the kings of Córdoba and Sevilla had great desire to wage battle and that if he desired so he could choose a vast and plane field for his warriors for they would meet him with sixty thousand men, and the emperor replied: tell your kings that though I have not as many warriors I will meet them in the battle field any day they choose. So once day and field were chosen, both the Emperor and the Muslim kings assembled their troops. The Muslim kings then ordered ten thousands masks, very ugly some black some red with big ears and bigger noses, to be made and have their foot soldiers wear them along with a bell so that when Charlemagne rushed into battle with his troops and ordered the attack these masked men made their bells toll scaring the horses away and breaking Charlemagne ranks despite the knight’s will to ride forward. It was then that the pagans attacked in order and killed many Christians. Having seen this stratagem Charlemagne gathered his troops and ordered to blindfold the horses and close their ears with cotton and they will attack the next morning and so they did and the battle was waged until noon and they smashed all the Muslim troops with the exception of ten thousand knights that kept safe two great chariots and one of the chariots had the flags and oath of these ten thousand that would not surrender while their flags and sacred oath was standing and knowing that Charlemagne rushed himself against the chariot with great violence and bravery and took the flag and threw it on the ground and as soon as it was done ten thousand knights fled the battle and the Christians pursued them until they reached the city of Córdoba where they sought refuge and there a noble old man guarding the city renounced his pagan ways and received the Christian Faith by the archbishop Turpin and many others followed in these noble old man steps and the rest were killed.


 

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