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  • Writer's pictureFogar Mozárabe

Delivering the Cross

The town is an incessant stream of people in the moments prior to the representation, monks of the monastery and bishops appear in any corner under a canopy, barefoot and skinny anchorites, farmers carrying baskets of flowers, fruits or aromatic herbs, tanned country men, knights and ladies, some pages, pipers, a notary and their majesties, King Ramiro II and the queen, Urraca Sanchez. Everyone is bustling from one side to the other. Hurried with the last preparations to be on time, with their dresses and props, at the appointed time to begin.

The ecclesiastical procession will start from the Casa de los Diezmos. In that square the lower clergy is concentrated, poor friars with rough tunics, together with the abbot of the monastery who acts as stage director and will preside over the solemn act accompanied by bishops from various dioceses, with their purples and tinsel, who are helped to hold the miters on their heads. Among them Solomon, the builder of the monastery.

A few meters away, right at the entrance of the Camino Real, the other procession gathers that will follow the previous one and at a certain distance: counts, ladies and gentlemen with their gala clothes and ornaments, coming from all over the region and from more lands. distant, they arouse the interest of the common people, who already at that time were curious about the idle and indulged lives that gave rise to so much gossip.

And at this, a roll of drums announces the arrival of the Leonese king and his entourage of courtiers, escorted by the guard and preceded by banners. Two maidens carry on a stretcher the object of all that ceremonial: the Cross, a magnificent reproduction of the original made by Miguel Pascual, the same one who played the role of Ramiro II and who, like him, donated to the town of Peñalba.

History says that this king wanted to thank the apostle Santiago for his intercession in the year 939 in the battle of Simancas, in favor of the troops of the Christian coalition that Ramiro himself led and that decimated the caliphal army of Abd al-Rahman. III.

"In the name of Our Lord Jesus Christ, to honor Saint James the Apostle, King Ramiro offers it." Thus reads, in Latin, the inscription of the processional Cross, that piece of goldsmithing whose delivery is celebrated every year in Peñalba with this unique recreation.

We are in the 10th century and everyone is trying to make it seem that way. It will be necessary to pretend that the powerful monarch, an admirer of the work of Gennadius who had died a few years before, would have appeared in such a remote place carrying the Cross as an offering to Santiago, his helper in the war.

The tremulous voice of the chronicling monk is heard in off-screen, placing those present in the moment that is going to be staged. The music plays, composed for the occasion by Javier Vecino, and the slow and orderly parade begins. First the religious and then the civil. The people, the countrymen, in both delegations behind the dignitaries. The social pyramid is well organized.

At the door of the church of the old monastery, now gone, the actors stand listening to the signs given to them by the abbot. The chancellor, secretary, notary, or whatever, reads the royal decree of donations and favors. The Electific Abbot receives the prebends with great praise for the monarch and his military successes, before blessing the Cross, spreading incense smoke in abundance around it and inviting the high hierarchies to enter the church to honor the tomb of Gennadius. . It is the end of the work. The ovation is emotional and sincere, the main actors come out to receive it and all together celebrate having reconstructed a part of the history and legend of that Cross forever associated with the name of Peñalba and that would, over time, become a symbol and flag of the Bierzo region.

In memory of Miguel Pascual and Oliva, his wife, who represented the royal couple.

Gustavo Docampo


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