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Address Palacio de los Verdugo
C/ Lope Nuñez, 4
05001 Ávila (Ávila)
Concejalía de Patrimonio
Telephone 920 35 00 00
Visitas mensuales13288

El rey niño

Around 1109, the warring King of Aragón, Alfonso I the Battler, married Doña Urraca, Queen of Castile. As was usual practice at the time, it was a marriage of convenience and they never got on: neither of the two yielded any power or land to the other and they remained on the thrones of their respective territories.

She was a severe woman and had a son from her previous marriage with Raimundo de Borgoña. His name was Alfonso and, in principle, he was to inherit his mother's kingdom. And of course, for Alfonso the Battler, the boy was an obstacle that prevented him from taking over the kingdom of Castile, so he harassed his wife, who fled with the child with the help of a few of her loyal nobles.

The boy was taken to Ávila, since the city's leaders, with Blasco Jimeno at the fore, were in favour of Castile remaining independent and not being annexed to the kingdom of Aragón.

The Aragonese stepfather arrived in Ávila with ideas that were not too "fatherly", wanting to take the child who was causing him so many problems with him. He asked for him to be handed over, saying that he would be his tutor. However, the reply from inside the walls was that the Boy King would never be handed over and that he was staying put in Ávila.

Perhaps as a delaying tactic or because he really did doubt whether or not the child was actually there and still alive, the King asked them to show him the boy. So, the city's inhabitants lifted him above the battlements of the walls.

He was too far away to recognise him, so Alfonso I asked for hostages to guarantee his safety while moved up closer to the walls. 70 knights left through the Gate of La Malaventura and were taken hostage while the King went up to the apse of the cathedral to confirm that it was indeed his stepson and that he was indeed alive.

As an attack on the city was impossible, he decided to withdraw from Ávila, but in an act of great cruelty, he had the hostages boiled in large pots of oil. That place became known by the name it has today: Las Hervencias, to the north of the city.

The pain caused by such an act was immense and the knights of Ávila “felt great pain and they cried and tore out their beards and their hair”. They could not challenge such an army in open country so they sent the bravest of their warriors, Blasco Jimeno and his squire, who set off after the monarch and his retinue on their way to Zamora. They caught up with them on a plain between the villages of Fontiveros and Cantiveros. There, the nobleman challenged the King to a duel, saying that he was “bad, treacherous and a renegade", but the King, in his anger, ordered his lancers and archers to kill them and quarter their dead bodies. The Governors of Ávila, proud of their fellow citizen, ordered a cross to be put up at the place. It is still there today and is referred to as La Cruz del Reto (The Cross of the Duel).

Blasco Jimeno challenges the King to a duel in front of his retinue. Blasco Jimeno is killed by lances and his squire, despite his attempted escape, is also caught and killed.

Blasco Jimeno challenges the King to a duel in front of his retinue.

Blasco Jimeno is killed by lances and his squire, despite his attempted escape, is also caught and killed.

After many ups and downs and the death of Doña Urraca, her son was crowned King of Castile under the name of Alfonso VII and in recognition of what the city did for him, he allowed the coat of arms of Ávila to bear the words “ÁVILA DEL REY (ÁVILA OF THE KING)” and for him to appear on it himself as a boy, raised above the walls as they had done to show him to his stepfather.

Coat of arms of the city of Ávila

Legend or reality, the city's coat of arms shows both of the titles awarded to it. The north of the city is still known today as “Las Hervencias" and the Cruz del Reto (Cross of the Duel) in Cantiveros still stands as a tribute to the nobleman who wanted to avenge the offence that had been committed. Believe whatever you want.

Blasco Jimeno reta al rey delante de todo su séquito.