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"Never give up." ~ A review of Pelayo: King of Asturias by James Fitzhenry
Gloria Romanorum ^ | January 26, 2023 | Florentius

Posted on 01/26/2023 2:25:34 PM PST by Antoninus

Almost exactly 15 years ago, I received a book in the mail entitled El Cid: God's Own Champion. When first flipping through this book, I remember thinking to myself, "This probably won't be very good." After all, it was a work by an unknown author, meant for young readers, and self-published to boot. But as it turned out, I loved it. My kids have read it—even the one with dyslexia read and enjoyed it. Since I wrote the above-linked review in 2008, I have recommended El Cid to hundreds of people.

A few years later, Mr. Fitzhenry published another equally admirable book—Saint Fernando III: A Kingdom for Christ. Much like his first book, Fitzhenry's second endeavor delved into the epic life of a Spanish hero that almost no one knows about today. Again, I found myself enchanted with the book and have recommended it numerous times.

Shortly thereafter followed Defenders of Christendom, offering a collection of excellent capsule biographies of forgotten Catholic heroes from the crusading period.

By this time, I have come to have very high expectations for Mr. Fitzhenry's work, so when I received a copy of Pelayo: King of Asturias, I was ready to tear into it straight away.

And Pelayo did not disappoint.

Much like Fitzhenry's previous books, Pelayo tells an ancient story that is rarely heard today. It is the sobering tale of the end of Visigothic Spain—a state whose leaders had become corrupt, corpulent and cowardly. They had largely abandoned their Christian ethic and had little remaining loyalty to God or man. When confronted with a zealous, powerful enemy who wished to impose an alien culture upon them, their internal dissensions proved stronger than their desire to preserve their heritage.

Fitzhenry does a brilliant job setting the stage for Pelayo's heroism. Starting with the collapse of Visigothic Spain under the beleaguered King Roderick, Fitzhenry emphasizes the treason of those closest to the king as a contrast to the steadfast loyalty of Pelayo. At the Battle of Guadalete, the Visigoths are catastrophically defeated when part of their army commanded by renegade nobles and an apostate bishop turns on their own Christian countrymen. Following the battle, the Muslim emir, Tariq, overruns the whole kingdom. Pelayo and a remnant of loyal Visigoths retreat into the mountains of northern Spain. There, he begins his exploits—escaping from an assassination attempt, rescuing his kidnapped sister, and building up the solid core of a Christian army to resist Islam.

After finishing Pelayo: King of Asturias, I immediately began searching for the ancient sources underpinning Fitzhenry's inspiring biography. I quickly discovered that Pelayo is the hispanicized version of the name Pelagius. He is considered a Visigothic noble, but given that Pelagius is not a typical Gothic name, he likely had a Greco-Roman strain somewhere in his lineage. This makes sense given that the Spanish Visigothic kingdom was built upon the foundation of the Roman provinces of Hispania. My search eventually led to a 10th century source called The Chronicle of Alfonso III. While reading it, I discovered that Fitzhenry stayed true to the history. His description of the events surrounding the history-changing Battle of Covadonga was drawn faithfully from this ancient historical work.

Fitzhenry's Pelayo joins El Cid and Saint Fernando III among the growing list of exceptional historical books meant to educate young Catholic men about their heritage. Angels in Iron and Crown of the World are two other examples of this counter-cultural trend—portraying distinctly Catholic heroes as what the world desperately needs. I hope that my own books about the late Roman general Belisarius are serving a similar function.

Toward the end of the book, the author lays out the message of Pelayo's life for those of us today:

"Never give up. Even if it seems that you struggle in complete isolation, know that you are not alone....Follow closely in the footsteps of Christ. There are many who have trod the narrow path before you, and for those who do not give up the fight, eternal glory awaits in a kingdom that is not of this world!"

During a time when many Catholic institutions have failed and our leaders seem content to bury their talents in the ground, such a message is badly needed.

TOPICS: Books/Literature; History; Religion
KEYWORDS: catholic; islam; middleages; spain
Though this is a very Catholic book, its message is transcendent. Highly recommended.
1 posted on 01/26/2023 2:25:34 PM PST by Antoninus
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To: Antoninus

Pelayo gave his daughter in marriage and land to the knight who killed the Mohammedan emir . They.took their surname from the surrounding mountains.

And thus was my family tree started.

2 posted on 01/26/2023 2:41:52 PM PST by NTHockey (My rules of engagement #1: Take no prisoners. And to the NSA trolls, FU)
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To: Antoninus
I was in Cangas de Onis in Asturias several summers ago. Lots of school groups visiting and learning about Pelayo and the battle of Covadonga.

It's a breathtakingly beautiful and mountainous area. Well worth a visit.

BTW, they eat well in Spain.

3 posted on 01/26/2023 2:42:56 PM PST by billorites (freepo ergo sum)
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To: NTHockey
And thus was my family tree started.

That knight, I believe, later became King Alfonso I.
4 posted on 01/26/2023 2:49:24 PM PST by Antoninus (Republicans are all honorable men.)
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To: billorites
It's a breathtakingly beautiful and mountainous area. Well worth a visit.

On my list. I would love walk the Camino de Santiago at some point which runs right through that region.
5 posted on 01/26/2023 2:53:51 PM PST by Antoninus (Republicans are all honorable men.)
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To: Antoninus

Perhaps this can be his next book:
History of Warfare blog,
In early 989 AD a Viking fleet arrived with the promised 6000 Norseman. A few weeks later they crossed the straits of the Golden Horn under the cover of darkness and took up positions a few hundred yards from the rebel camp. At first light they attacked, while a squadron of imperial flame-throwers sprayed the shore with Greek fire. Phocas’s men awoke to the terrifying sight of the Varangians swinging their swords and battleaxes. The result was a massacre. Basil with the aid of the Varangians soon crushed the rebellion entirely. After the rebellion, the Varangians were immediately established as the emperor’s personal bodyguards. Anna Komnena writing in ‘the Alexiad’ claimed that the Guard were far more reliable and trustworthy as bodyguards than native Byzantine troops.

6 posted on 01/26/2023 3:00:45 PM PST by Bookshelf
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To: ebb tide

Catholic ping!

7 posted on 01/26/2023 3:18:53 PM PST by Antoninus (Republicans are all honorable men.)
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To: Antoninus

Sounds great to me.

8 posted on 01/26/2023 3:51:46 PM PST by Chainmail (Harrassment, to be effective, must be continuous.)
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To: Antoninus; Al Hitan; Fedora; irishjuggler; Jaded; kalee; markomalley; miele man; Mrs. Don-o; ...


9 posted on 01/26/2023 4:33:22 PM PST by ebb tide
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To: Antoninus

According to wikibin, the knight’s name was Sancho Velarde. However, that is not the family name they adopted had to do with the land they were given.

10 posted on 01/26/2023 7:44:17 PM PST by NTHockey (My rules of engagement #1: Take no prisoners. And to the NSA trolls, FU)
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