jousting & the Puente de Orbigo

seeing the strategic importance of the ford over the river at Órbigo, the Romans established a town here, though it remained quite small for quite some time. over the centuries, towns grew up on both sides of the river, resulting in several names for the town based on the primary function of each — Hospital for its work with peregrinos, Encomienda for the Knights Templar, and Puente for the bridge.

the bridge is by far the most remarkable site in the town. its one of the longest and best preserved medieval bridges in Spain, dating from the 13th century though several of the arches have been destroyed and rebuilt over the centuries (including two by the Spanish in an effort to halt Napoleon’s march sweep across Spain). the view from the bridge offers great views of the jousting lists, which appear to remain standing year-round though we saw a poster advertising jousts set to take place about two weeks after we walked through.

apparently, Órbigo is known for a particular joust, known as the Paso Honroso, that took place in the Jacobean Holy Year of 1434. a Leonese knight, Suero de Quiñones — scorned by his lady and wearing an iron collar as a symbol of being bound to her — sought and received permission from Juan II of Castilla to hold a special tournament wherein all knights passing the venue could be pressed into participating. those refusing to participate had to leave a token of their cowardice and wade across the river. the king proved highly obliging for the event, providing accommodations, having his herald pronounce the terms of Quiñones challenge throughout the kingdom, and “inviting” all the knights at court to participate. (as my cultural book describes it, everyone at court was bored of the “messy intricacies of court politics and gruesome dynastic wars and yearning for a simpler world they read about in … books of chivalry.”)

Quiñones chose to stage his tournament beginning in July 11, two weeks before St. James’ Day when the number of peregrinos, eager to receive the extra perks of completing the Camino during a Holy Year, was highest. during the several weeks the tournament lasted, Quiñones broke some “300 lances,” including some belonging to a Catalán knight named Gutierre de Quijada. in acknowledgement of Quiñones reputation, Quijada dressed in double-thick armor; Quiñones mocked this decision by dressing in light armor and a woman’s blouse which seemed like a good idea until Quijada knocked him to the ground. Quiñones continued to mock his opponent, dancing up and proclaiming the blow Quijada landed was nothing. shamed and embarrassed, Quijada and his men rode off, continuing on their way to Santiago. two weeks later on August 9, Quiñones wrapped the tournament up by removing his iron collar and proclaiming himself free of his lady and announcing his intention to compete the Camino as a sign of his new-found freedom.

twenty-four years after the tournament of 1434 and Quiñones’ Camino to Santiago de Compostela, he encountered Gutierre de Quijada while out riding. not one to let the previous, reputation-sullying encounter go, Quijada and Quiñones dropped their visors and rode at one another and after a few passes Quiñones fell once again but this time didn’t manage to spring up and dance around to mock the blow.

Author: Erica

born in the midwest with wandering feet.