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La Princesa Mora

There are many mediaeval legends involving Moslems from the time when the Moors dominated the south of the peninsula. Interestingly, they were enemies but they were also known as people who were wise and just. Their main defect was that they did not believe in the real God.

As a result of the precarious treaties between Christians and Moslems, a beautiful Moorish maiden, Aixa Galiana, daughter of Al-Menón of Toledo and niece of King Al-Mamún was taken to Ávila. At the age of 14, almost still a girl, she arrived sad and downcast, suffering from love sickness; she had left her beloved behind in Toledo. Neither the celebrations that were held in her honour nor the attention she was given by Doña Urraca, daughter of King Alfonso VI, brought a smile to her face.

Her beauty was such that many knights became her suitors, but the one she liked most was the valiant Nalvillos Blázquez, who arranged marriage with her through her tutor Doña Urraca. However, the knight's parents had already arranged his marriage with another daughter of the Ávila nobility: Arias Galindo. And the King, to acknowledge his collaboration, had done the same with the Moorish girl, whose fiancé was to be an Arab chief called Jezmín Yahia.

Nalvillos, who was as stubborn as a mule, insisted so much that he managed to marry Aixa (after she had converted to Christianity), but he earned the hatred of Jezmín and the disappointment of Arias, who was deeply in love with him and who had to be satisfied with marrying his brother Blasco.

Not realising who he actually was, Nalvillos made friends with Jezmín on a journey to Talavera. And Jezmín was so kind to Nalvillos that the Christian had no choice but to invite him to his brother Blasco's wedding and even went so far as to offer him accommodation in his palace.

The celebrations at the wedding between Arias and Blasco in Ávila included tournaments and jousts and Nalvillos challenged his new friend to a sword fight. He beat him easily and the Moslem felt humiliated, not so much because of his public embarrassment, but because he had seen his beloved Aixa among the onlookers and realised that she was watching him from her desperation and harassment. Indeed, the love the Moorish princess had left behind when she was taken to Ávila was no other than Jezmín.

Aixa's sadness, for which he had no explanation, became more and more unbearable for Nalvillos who, thinking that she was unhappy in the walled city, built a luxurious home for her in Palazuelos, only a few leagues to the north across the River Adaja.

However, her emotional upset did not go away and she found consolation only in Jezmín's secret night-time visits while her husband was away at war. This led to the only possible outcome: the lovers ran away and went back to Talavera.

The warrior returned from his battles to find the house empty and, aware of the affront, he decided to set off in search of the adulterers, taking his most loyal knights with him. However, he did not attack the Toledan town, but rather camped nearby and went into the town on his own, disguised as an Arab. He gave them orders to attack if he did not return in two days' time.

The offended young man went to Jezmín's palace and managed to reach the garden of the residence in which his beloved Aixa was resting on her own. Covering his face with the top of his cape, he uttered a few flattering words to her and, charmed by his interest, she finally let him into her bedroom. There, Nalvillos removed his disguise and she quickly called the guards, who took him prisoner. Nalvillos no longer felt anything towards his wife when he realised that her adultery was not only the result of her being taken away.

Jezmín decided to execute Nalvillos in a public plaza, burning him at the stake. As his last wish, the Christian asked to hear the sound of a war trumpet. The Arab agreed, unaware that it was the signal for the knights who were loyal to Nalvillos to attack the town.

The slaughter was a bloody affair and the Ávila nobleman avenged his private affront by burning the lovers at the stake that had been prepared for him. He spent the rest of his life fighting wars, since he no longer had any other purpose in his life. On his death, he was buried in the Church of Santiago while the Ávila people who appreciated his heroics lamented his passing even though they all knew why he never attained happiness in life.

Nalvillos existed as a character in history and the taking of Talavera de la Reina was a historic event of great importance in the Christian advance towards the south (1083, Alfonso VI). Furthermore, the house at Palazuelos stands on a beautiful estate among the holm oaks to the north of the city. As always in legends, there is a mixture of reality and elements that you can choose to believe or not. However, when you walk through Plaza de Nalvillos in Ávila, remember the beleaguered knight and think of him as one who never attained happiness in his heart, which is what he looked for in life, rather than the man who wielded weapons of war.

Palace of Los Deanes in Plaza Nalvillos

Palace of Los Deanes in Plaza Nalvillos