El Cid—Spain’s Champion

This is the tomb of El Cid (Ruy Díaz de Vivar) and his wife Ximena in a little monastery in Old Castile called San Pedro de Cardeña:


In the graveyard outside is his horse Babieca:


They say the great battle horse died at forty and outlived El Cid by just a few months. El Cid had requested that it be buried near him in that monastery.

Now El Cid and his wife Ximena no longer lie in the old tombs above.   French soldiers stole their bones  during the Napoleonic invasion of Spain and took them home to France. In 1927 they were returned to Spain and buried in no less a place than the Cathedral of Burgos:


Who was El Cid?

A warrior, a nobleman, a knight, a hero. He became a legend already a few years after he died. Most Spaniards know about him because they read an epic poem in school called El Cantar de Mío Cid. It is the first great poem in the Spanish language. It was written about 1140, only about fifty years after he died.

Others know about him because of the famous movie starring Charlton Heston and Sophia Loren.


El Cid means Lord in Arabic. The Moors (North African Berbers and Saracens) gave him that name. Spaniards called him Campeador, which means something like the Fighter or Champion. He had two favorite swords. This is one:


Tizona, on display in Burgos, where it was recently bought for 1.6 million euros by the Comunidad Autónoma [State] of Castilla-Leon.

What did El Cid do to become so famous?
See El Cid—Spain’s Champion 2


This entry was posted in 1, books, history, Spain, sword, war and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to El Cid—Spain’s Champion

  1. the movie staring charlston heston and sofia loren el cid was a ,wonderful movie, i saw it many years ago and its worth seeing again

  2. Ellie says:

    You col’ndut pay me to ignore these posts!

  3. 100swallows says:

    Senm_webmistress: This is cool stuff. Thanks. I’d forgotten about the Corneille play and the French interest in the Campeador. And I’d never seen the Fragonard or the other illustration of Denon replacing his bones. I wonder what was finally left of the hero and his wife for the Cathedral interment in 1927.

  4. Napoleon definitely was what you say! In the meantime, however, I have found another piece of information on the Cid’s tomb, which is slightly conflicting with the one given by the guide I quoted previously. Very interesting however, because it touches on the French interest for El Cid (Corneille, you know…)
    You can find some of it here
    and also here

  5. 100swallows says:

    Senm_webmistress: Thanks for your comment. I’ve corrected the imprecisions. I knew about those looting French soldiers (it’s hard to go to any of the old churches and monasteries in Spain and not see the damage they did) but not about Napoleon’s larger plans. Wasn’t he a so-and-so.

  6. According to this guide of Galicia, there is a slight imprecision here:
    “Unfortunately during the Napoleonic wars their (the Cid’s and Dona Ximena’s) bones were stolen and taken to France. There is an ornate tomb in the 15th century church marking the spot were they had been buried. The bones were later reclaimed from the French and were interred in 1927 in the cathedral [of Burgos].” http://www.galiciaguide.com/Stage-12-3.html

    Napoleon Bonaparte planned to concentrate in Paris the most important historical relics of Europe. FREX The whole Vatican Archives was displaced to Paris (and had to be taken back afterwards, to the grievous loss of many irreplaceable records). The Cid’s bones must have been part of the list.

  7. Pingback: El Cantar del Mio Cid « El Cid's Blog

  8. Ruy says:

    EL CID with Charlton Heston is now out on DVD in the US! Beautifully restored!

  9. 100swallows says:

    Erika: They took his remains out of the sepulchre to protect them from Napoleon’s soldiers. Why they decided to take them to the Cathedral I don’t know. I liked that movie too and, like you, haven’t seen it since I was a kid. I remember another one I saw that starred Sophia Loren and Frank Sinatra about a big cannon in that war with the French. (I just remembered its title: The Pride and the Passion.) That was the first time I ever saw the walls of Avila–such an impressive old medieval town.

  10. Pingback: El Cid—Spain’s Champion 2 « Great Names in History

  11. erikatakacs says:

    I don’t get it: they moved his remains, but left the original tomb in place? Why? And why did they have to move the remains?

    I saw El Cid when I was a kid, and was very impressed with the hero. Interestingly, they never show that Charlton Heston movie, I haven’t seen it on DVD either. I’d like to watch it again–or not. Better to preserve the great memory of it.

  12. cyurkanin says:

    I’m looking forward to this. Believe it or not (as you already know my outlook on life and history), it might surprise you to learn that I know almost nothing about him.

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