During the Reconquista (the war which would ultimately lead to the end of Moorish and the beginning of a unified Catholic Spain which ended in 1492), the Spanish Queen, Isabella the Catholic, had a Champion by the name of Hernan Perez del Pulgar.
The siege of Granada dragged on for months with seemingly no end in sight. The Moors were well supplied behind the fortress walls of their city, and in no hurry to leave it. There were small battles and skirmishes between the Muslim citizens of Granada and the Catholic army which surrounded their city, but nothing seemed to bring about the battle which would finally end the months of waiting.
After a group of Moorish knights forced their way into the Spanish camps and insulted the Queen, the Christian cavalier Hernan Perez del Pulgar swore to avenge his sovereign’s honor. He gathered a group of 15 of his brother knights, and together they hatched a plan. They had met a former resident of Granada who offered to sneak them into the city through its drainage system.
That night the knights made it safely behind the city’s gates, and they quietly made their way to the mosque in the middle of town. Del Pulgar knelt to pray before the doors of the mosque, then rose and pulled a scroll from inside his jacket which had been inscribed with the words of the Ave Maria (Hail Mary) and nailed it to the door of the mosque declaring that the building was now dedicated to the Blessed Virgin.
The rest of their plans that night were not as successful, the Catholic knights had planned to set fire to Granada’s City Hall before sneaking back out of the city. Unfortunately, in their excitement, the knights had left their torch burning in front of the mosque. They attempted to use flint to strike a fire, but were unsuccessful.
Hearing the night guard approaching and wanting to avoid detection, the Spanish knights abandoned their plans, and slipped out of the city.
The next morning, the Moorish citizens were in an uproar about the desecration of their holy space. Not only was there a Christian prayer nailed to the mosque’s door, it was obvious that the enemy had found a way in and out of their city. The Moors realized that they were no longer safe within their city’s walls, and their army came out at last to meet the Spanish in battle.
The victory at Battle of Granada marked the end of Moorish rule in Spain. The mosque which del Pulgar had defiled became a great cathedral. His family was granted the right to sit in the place of honor in the choir during High Mass in perpetuity, and his grave was placed at the spot where he once had stopped to pray before the door.
photo credit: By Pom² (Own work) CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons