HolyMary.info

     Note: Since I wrote the story below, I've come across a poem by Robert Southey and  gained access to a Portuguese chronicle, a few pages of which tell of this story.  Portuguese is not my language, but I went to work in an effort to translate it.  It uses old Portuguese but I don't know of anyone to check my effort for accuracy, in light of this older language.
      Southey was acquainted with the chronicled version, an account which appears to say the capture came about in the morning time, during a two-pronged attack, partly by river and partly by land.  Some of the circumstances of timing, the first encounter and travel, would apparently differ with the sources cited below.
 Yet there still is the story of how the growth of their love for one another came about, and their marriage.  And there remains a  question of whether there were other sources of information available earlier in history, about the events that happened. 
      Having informed the reader of differing versions and of the possibility of other sources beyond these two, I'll just leave "The Captive" stand as it was written and woven into a narrative.   —JR, June 3rd, 2013


                                                      The Captive  
                           
     A Story About Fátima the Princess
          
                           
This narrative is based on a medieval ballad and the historical account
                         in which it was found.
1  It also drew from other sources & from imagination
                 
           applied to details and the skeletal form that accounts provided.
  It tells of
                             the love story behind the name of the famed apparition site in Portugal.
                                              
     
   It was midsummer.  Darkness was gathering as night was coming on.  In the west the sun was setting, and clouds were shaded in pink and purple.   Gnarled cork, stone pine and other trees that lined the bank of the Sado, reflected themselves darkly in the river.  A group of boats was steadily moving upstream. The men in them were dipping their oars in the water, with soft swishes and splashes, pulling against the current flowing by.  They looked like a party of Arabs, clothed with loose garments and headdresses, but in reality the clothing concealed a party of Portuguese soldiers, led by the knight Don Gonzalo Herminguez.

      The setting of the drama was southern Portugal in the late Twelfth Century during the time of the Reconquista.  The small flotilla passing up the river wasn’t given much notice by the people seeing them from land.  They thought they must be going to Alcacer do Sal for the Feast of Bairam.  They were headed that way, but not to celebrate.  It was actually a mission that Gonzalo had determined upon, in reprisal
for the capture of his country people. They were in enemy territory held by the Moors.

      They moved silently and spoke quietly. Upriver lay their objective, and behind them, the river was flowing toward the marshes, dense reed beds, and open water of an estuary that opened to the ocean, the waters of the Atlantic. The valley of this river and the estuary offered shelter to many species of birds including waterfowl, harriers and wading birds.  They observed some birds winging about and dipping above the surface of the river. 

      They prayed quietly in Portuguese...Avé Maria, cheia de graça, o Senhor é convos...They saw a movement by the farther shore and a purple heron flew up at their approach...Bendita sois vós entre as mulheres,...nearby, the ripple of a duck, swimming to its nest among the reeds... Bendito é o fruto do vosso ventre, Jesus...
They could hear voices now in the distance and a bit of music...Then ahead in the distance, the orange of a lighted fire shone through the trees and the dusk.  Tenser moments now, as their eyes searched the riverside ahead, looking for the place to put in, out of sight.

      Farther upstream the river would bend to their right in a crooked, curving course, resembling the shape of the heron's neck and head.  They would put in to the bank before they reached this part of the flow. Nearing the town, they pulled to shore, as close as possible without discovery.  They drew their boats partially up on the bank, aiming their bows outward, ready to slip into the river and race downstream. The boats were somewhat hidden by rushes and reeds.  Part of their party waited by the vessels to guard them, while the rest moved stealthily closer to the town, concealing themselves in tall grass, brush and bushes.

                            
The Capture at Alcacer do Sal


      From their concealment they had a view of the town and what was going on before them. Up on the hill, in the distance, stood a castle with its towers and crenulated walls, the battlements of the fortress
the town's name deriving partly from the Moorish term Al Qa
şr, meaning "the castle."   The minarets of a mosque thrust above the horizon into the twilight sky.3    Below the fortification and the mosque, they saw torches being lit in the dusk, their lights scattered amid the habitations on the cobbled streets. Nearer them, several bonfires illumined the scene of the festivities.  Bats were flitting about in the air, and birds of the early evening were flying around, to catch mosquitoes, bothersome to the soldiers as well as the townspeople. 

      The gates of the town were open, and near them, the Mahometans were celebrating with the female members of their families. They were occupied in sporting activity and dancing on the grass.  One of them caught Gonzalo's eye.  She was beautiful, a Moorish maiden filled with graceful merriment, light and free of movement.  He noticed her smile, and his fancy warmed to her charm.  As he watched from their hiding place, he whispered to a companion that he would capture her .  They surveyed the scene with a military eye, to see where the men were located and from whence any combat might come.

      At a certain moment Gonzalo gave a signal, and the Christians rushed forth from their hiding place.  The Moors were surprised when they saw them fast approaching and men sprang to fight their foe.   The cry went up, “Christians! Infidels! Get them!”  Gonzalo went directly to the particular young lady he’d chosen, clasped her gently by the arm, saying, as he did so, “Come with me, I won't harm thee.” It was all happening so fast.   At first she was a bit unsure what to do, but she didn’t struggle to get away.

      Gonzalo started riverward with her but the Moors seized her back.   He had to fight off the Moors coming at him.  Again and again he'd regain her, and again and again they'd seize her back.   The Moors fought stubbornly, but he was also stubborn in his effort to capture the girl.  He was very skilled at using the sword and was known as Traga Mouros, the Moor Eater.4  He parried with the flat and thrust with the edge, taking a wound and giving one. The swords spoke the language of discord in swishes, clacks, clashes and pings!  During the fray, he heard the Moors say, “The infidel is trying to take the Princesa, the Amiri...Stop him! Stop him!” Although she ranked high in his estimation of beauty, it was the first he knew of her rank among the Moors.

      Her name was Fátima, and she felt flattered that he fought so hard to obtain her.  She herself had noticed him from when he first appeared, admired his person and his valor.  And it seemed she placed herself in the way of being recaptured.5  Gonzalo fought desperately to have her and  became the center of the fighting, having to fend off the foe, thrusting and swinging their swords and scimitars!  Voices cried out, “Cuidado!  Atenção!  Don’t hurt the Princesa!  As he endeavored to keep them away, they drew blood, and he was getting cut.  Some of his companions rushed to his aid and helped drive back the Moors. He was able to clasp her back, and started heading toward the river with her.  They fought a continual rear guard action, as they withdrew to their boats already partially loaded and ready to shove off. 

       Far up on the castle wall a gong sounded.  There was now a general alarm as other Moors came out of the gates with weapons drawn and carrying torches to illumine the darkness. Their blades gleamed from their flaming sticks.

                                               
The Escape Down the Sado

      Gonzalo said to
Fátima, “I won’t hurt thee. Just step into the boat and thou shalt be fine.” When the Christians and the captives were loaded, they shoved off downstream into the river. The last of the rear guard splashed into the water and climbed aboard.

      They paddled furiously downstream. Back on the shore a group had gathered at the bank and their torch lights lit the river's edge, like fire in the water. The Moors found some of the loose garments the Christians had worn and dumped to make room for the captives.  Even though Gonzalo's group was moving away down the river, they still heard the Moors talking about the garments in the growing distance and someone calling for boats to chase the infidels. “Follow them! They've taken the Princess!”  Nearer, they heard the pounding of horse hooves as the Moors galloped on a road near the shore, to chase them down.

      Gonzalo glanced at Fátima, as he vigorously pulled the paddle through the water to propel the boat faster forward, with his sword near at hand.   Even in the gloom and haste, he could discern her loveliness.  She herself was a little apprehensive, a little excited, and even, a little glad.  She instinctively had a sense about him, a degree of trust in his chivalrousness. Different worlds and mindsets separated them, yet here they were together in the same boat.

      A party of the foe who'd raced ahead, had come down to the bank. Several jumped in water in an attempt to stop the boats to regain the captives. But the squadron of boats swept past these Moors, sloshing in the water. 

     Farther on, Gonzalo quickly set his oar aside and tore strips from a garment left on the boat.  He hastily tied them around the worst wounds to stanch the flow of blood.  The cloth was dusty but it stopped some of the bleeding.  Then, he resumed rowing.  From Alcacer do Sal, the Sado River curved northward in an elongated, backward "S," then would go westward to empty into the estuary.  Where it's curving to go in a westerly direction, it may be around seven kilometers or so from the Alcacer do Sal.  

     They wouldn't enter the estuary but would head out overland from the river. Ahead they had horses waiting, to mount and be off in the night. They watched for the place where they would put ashore. They voiced a signal of their approach in the dark. No answer. They signaled once again, and this time they saw a torch, waving in prescribed pattern. It was the signal of where they would end their journey on the river. They no longer saw anyone following them, but had to figure that they might be behind.

                                              
The Start to Santarem

      They put into shore, disembarked, concealed the boats and tried to smooth the the bank with a pine branch so any pursuers wouldn't notice where they'd landed from their exploit.  They grabbed up the few loose garments left, that had hidden their identity, to take along with them.  The girls were put in pairs upon extra horses and loosely bound to prevent an attempt to escape, all except Fátima; she would ride one alongside Gonzalo. Gonzalo told her, “If thou wilt give me thy word of honor, I won’t tie thee.”  She complied. 
     
       He helped
Fátima upon the horse tethered to his own, and they took off, heading in the direction of Santarem, taking the captives there to the king.  They rode through the dark, through the trees, up hills and down valleys, careful to try to avoid any rocks in their path.  Santarem was about 70 miles from Alcacer do Sal, as the falcon flies, but it was longer the way they were going. After traveling for some time, when they deemed they were in safe territory, they stopped to rest and built a campfire for warmth, and hoped the smoke would ward off the summer insects. Stars were out, sprinkled in the sky above, and the moon was just rising above the trees in the east.   It dimly lit the landscape, especially diminishing the darkness in the open spaces amid the trees.

      He admonished his men to treat the women with respect and with knightly gentility.  In kindling the fire, Gonzalo got a better look at his Muslim captive―his first good and unhurried look close up. Being a princess of privilege, she undoubtedly was educated.  She seemed intelligent and amiable.  Her dark brownish-green eyes with long lashes, were set in a well-shaped face with a fine-featured nose, slightly convex in profile.  Over a delicate chin, a cupid's bow formed the upper lip above the fuller one below.  Her skin was tan and her hair, darkish brown.  It fell in wavy tresses to the sides and over the shoulders of her slender form, chastely clothed.  

.     He heard her when she looked up at a large patch of sky through the trees; seeing the stars, she commented, "Al noojoom jamila."  They used a mixture of languages then.  He knew enough Arabic, to know she was saying the stars are beautiful.   In the quiet of his mind, he mused about the Arabic word jamila..."That describes her...that's what she is, jamila," as he broke another stick to keep kindling the flames.

                                                  
 Something Kindled

      She kindled something in him, something warm and emotional.  He cracked  a piece of resinous pine, threw it on the fire, and the flames fed upon it.   By the firelight, he wiped some blood from the wounds in his arms and right hand.  Seeing her captor tending himself, she made a sign of help him. She saw blood was still oozing from the deeper wounds.  She asked for a little salt to mix with water, and cleansed his wounds.  The wrappings he had were blood-soaked and not the cleanest.  She, then, tore part of a sleeve from her blouse, and ripped strips to wrap his wounds. He looked at her as she did so, dimly realizing she was wrapping herself around his heart. 

       F
átima told Gonzalo that if they found some honey, it would be good for dressing the wounds. 
      "How is it that thou knowest this"?  he asked her.
      "It is in our holy Koran,"
6 she replied, "The Lord hath taught  the bee to build its houses, feed on fruit, and from its body comes forth a fluid which giveth medicine to us.  My people know it as a curative."
       Gonzalo issued the order to seek out some honey at first light.

       His men cut and lay pine branches on the ground.   They gave the captives the garments left from their exploit, to spread out over the branches to lie upon, and with which to cover themselves.  He offered Fátima his own cloak to cover with, and watched for a while from a short distance away and slept for a while during what was left of the night.  Fátima couldn't help but notice the way they were treated. 

      The chirp of birds and growing light awakened Gonzalo. As dawn was breaking in the east, it painted the clouds a shade of pink above the notched tree line.  The clouds were outstretched like pieces of torn cloth, a little similar to the cloths that she wrapped around his wounds, but his were stained with red.  One might liken the view of the horizon and sky above, to pink pennants flying above a crenulated castle wall, and climbing to the ramparts behind, was the approach of the sun, casting its shafts.  In the early light, some hares were seen hopping about, were shot, skinned and roasted over the coals of the fire.  Those who weren't awake, were roused from their sleep to prepare for the journey. They shared the roasted meat amongst themselves, as well as some fresh fruit they'd gathered from trees.  They also ate some raisins, and other dried food the soldiers had brought along for sustenance.

      One of his men found a honeycomb in the hollow of a cork tree and brought it to Gonzalo, who handed it to Fátima.   She gently rubbed the amber fluid on the surface of his wounds and rebound them with fresh tearings from her sleeve. 
       "There, that should help the skin to heal," she said. 
       Then she went to see about tending the wounds of some of his companions.

       Santarem lay north and a little west of Alcacer do Sal, and was located on the the Tagus River, called Tejo in Portuguese.   At midday they stopped to rest in a grove. Gonzalo and some of his men found some olives and figs to pick from the trees and berries to pluck from brambles, which they brought in their cloaks for all to eat.   They also brought water from a spring that emerged from a hillside and trickled down the slope.  They  watered their horses in a nearby stream, a tributary of the Tejo.  Gonzalo ordered that the young women captives, be allowed privacy to bathe in the stream, at a spot screened with trees and bushes.

      Fatima found some peppermint and garlic plants near the stream. She knew these had medicinal qualities, garlic for infection and cooling peppermint as a skin anesthetic and an antibacterial. She pulled them and brought them to Gonzalo for tending his and the wounds of others. She looked at his wounds and cleaned them again with salt water.  She crushed the garlic and mashed peppermint leaves to apply to his wounds, along with some more honey from the comb, and this time, he gave her some pieces of cloth to rebind his deepest cuts. The other captives noticed the particular attention she was giving him and discretely teased her a bit: "A little honey for the hurt, and little sweetness for the soldier."   She was slightly embarrassed.

       They spoke a while and Fátima told Gonzalo that she appreciated the way he treated them as women.  “Is this  the Christian way,” she asked.  “It is, or ought be, but sadly sometimes men do not always conduct themselves as Christians.  But that be the fault of the man, not of the faith."   Fatima knew from her study of the Koran and other Islamic texts that women are treated as being lesser than men and wives could be beaten.
7

                                                Flowers and Buds

        Before they remounted their horses, Gonzalo picked her a little bouquet of flowers he found growing there in the wild, saying these were in thanks for tending his wounds.  She smiled a bit bashfully, and received the flowers appreciatively, but her perception was, that the flowers were something more than gratitude.   His actions were revealing his feelings as they continued on.   Flowers decorated the countryside they were passing through, and something was budding in their hearts.

         They came to a town where Gonzalo purchased a nice cloth to throw over her blouse with the torn sleeves.   She knotted it to hold it in place.  She was glad for the modest covering it offered.  The men fed the captives well.
Fátima found herself looking frequently at Gonzalo, and he in turn, at her.  Her companion captives noticed it too, and teased her when the opportunity arose.

       She missed her home but felt a growing affection for this knight, and she could tell her affection was not unrequited: she was not treading this path alone: for along it, the buds seemed to be unfolding  their petals into blossoms.  In the silence of her mind she thought, “Could I be falling for this infidel…an infidel that my people have talked about?   This believer in several Gods. What would Allah do to this man who's endearing to my heart? Alas, what should I do as a good follower of Muhammad ibn Abdullah?  It was a mixture of the pleasant and unpleasant, like eating an orange, tasting both the juice-filled sections and the peel.

      The next night they stopped to rest at a town. Soon they would be at Santarem and see King Alfonso Henriquez.  Fátima was curious to see him.  She'd heard of him as El Bortukali, as he was called by the Moors. Now she would look upon the one her kinfolk had spoken about. They crossed the Tejo, and followed along the bank or near to it.  The river was flowing downstream toward them.  Eventually they mounted a plateau to the settlement of Santarem, which lay 65 kilometers northeast of Lisbon.  The most famous legend related to it, tells of a Visigothic saint named Iria (Irene), presumed martyred elsewhere in Portugal at Tomar.  Her incorrupt body was brought to this place, then called Scalabis, and later in her honor, it became Sancta Irene, from which Santarem was derived.

      The captives were taken to King Alfonso Henriquez and Fátima surveyed his likeness, noting his beard, his slender nose, and his long face.  The king was kindly and assured them, that they would not be harmed, and gave them lodging with a guard.

                                            
King's Permission Sought     

       Out of their presence, Gonzalo spoke privately to the king about
Fátima.
      “Sire,” Gonzalo said, “There’s one amongst them named Fatima. I’ve found this maiden beautiful to look upon, and hath beauty inside as well.  She’s special.  She’s the kind of woman I should like to wed.” He paused a moment, and then beseeched the king, saying, “Sire, Wouldst thou grant permission that it be so.”

      “Ah, my dear, Gonzalo, son of my great warrior, Hermingo,” the king responded, “I've noticed how thou hast looked at her...and she is that, a beautiful woman.  But thou doth realize, of course, the differences in religion between us. These Mahometans believe that we Christians art infidels. They believeth not that Jesus is the Son of God, nor in our Trinity...

     
The king paused, then said, "Gonzalo, thou art like a son to me...Thy faith is important, and that cometh between the two of  thee: thine founded by Jesus both God and man, and hers by Mahomet, just a man...It's something thou canst not fully share together...And if thou hast children, how can she teacheth, what she believeth not?   In living and pleasing her, one a different mind, wilt thou weaken in thy faith?
      "Sire," Gonzalo replied, "I wouldst stay strong..."  
       "Thou art strong and brave as well," the king replied, "But, alas, even a castle wall can be weakened...Even armor can be bent."
       Gonzalo was reflecting on what the king said, as the King read a sense of struggle within him: the dictates of the heart against the dictates of reason.
       King Alfonso continued, "Thou so callest so to mind thy father Hermigo.  At the Battle of  Ourique, thy father overthrew so many Moors, that he was called the wrestler, O Luctador 8 ...Mostly because he was so agile, so nimble, so quick of motion...”
      The king stroked his beard in a thoughtful gesture, saying, “Thou hast thy father's prowess, but  in this, be not too quick.  A wife shouldst be one to help saveth thy soul, not to hinder thee on thy path to heaven...”  
       But the king didn't want to crush him.  “This is what I‘ll tell thee, Gonzalo,” he said, raising two fingers: “Two things...if she herself consents to marriage, and if she becometh a Christian as thou art, then I‘ll consent to it.   And more than this, I’ll attend thy wedding.  I suspect the first, will be the easier part, but the second,” he shook his head a little, “that'll be more difficult.  See what thou canst do, whether thou mayest convince her.  Thou hast my blessing for that.  I shall pray for thee.”
      Gonzalo was brightened with hope.  “Thank you, Sire, I shall most certainly try.”

 
                                      The Quest for Her Hand                              
            

       And he certainly did. He went to where the prisoners were lodged and fed, and asked to see Fatima.  She was released into his custody. They took a walk to a scenic spot, overlooking the valley of the Tejo River, and sat in the shade of a tree.  The coolness beneath the limbs was welcome.

      Gonzalo started, “I think thou seest in my heart what I feel about thee.  I spoke to the king to seek his permission...to, ah...to take thee for wife.”
      
Fátima’s face lit up and she smiled sweetly.  Her face and eyes were so expressive. She  listened to hear what the monarch had to say.
         Encouraged by her response, Gonzalo continued, “But the king hath a couple concerns: one being that thou needst consent to it...”  Her face was radiant as she waited.  “...and the other, that thou shouldst become a Christian.”   At that, a worried look crossed her face.

      “But Gonzalo,” she replied, “I’m what thou calleth a Mahometan, and I’ve known no other faith. It’s hard for me to do that.  I’m told thy Christian beliefs are not in One God, but in others as well.”    She looked up the river, engrossed in thought, and then went on, “The Koran even says they can slay me if I do this…if I were to convert.”

       "Rest assured that we believe in just One God, the rest is just misunderstanding,” he said.   
       Gonzalo put his arm around her shoulder and drew her to him, in a protective embrace. “I'll not let any harm come to thee, Fatima.  I’ll fight them.”
       “I believe thou wouldst; thou certainly fought for me outside my town.  For the first part of what the king’s desireth, would be easy to think on.   But the second would not.”
       “That’s what the king hath said,” Gonzalo replied.
       “He’s a wise man,”
Fátima added.
       “Wouldst thou listen, and let me try to explain the religion part,” he said.

       She wasn’t so narrow of mind that she wouldn’t listen.   She actually hoped he would be able convince her: to show her it would be all right.  Neither wished to lose the other. They both hoped the barrier between them was surmountable. It was like each of them was standing before a wall, across from one another, wishing the wall would crumble.
      “Tomorrow, we'll speak of this again,” Gonzalo said.  “Pray thou and I'll do likewise.”
      She nodded she would, and added, "Amanhã."


                                                 Explaining the Faith

      The next day they met again and walked to another spot. Gonzalo said, “Thou hast a high regard for Maryam, the one we call Mary, is that not so?”
       "Yes," she replied.
      “Thy Mahomet believeth his own daughter ranked next to Mary in heaven,” and he smiled as he bypassed the daughter's name...“and of women, Mary has the highest place.”
       She smiled, and playfully added, “Even higher than me.”  She knew he was referring to another Fatima.
      Gonzalo enjoyed her touch of humor and went on, “I
f Mary's higher in heaven than any other woman, wouldst she not then, be closer to God, the one thou callest Allah?”
      “It wouldst seem so, yes.”
       Gonzalo continued, “Believest thou in the Virgin birth of  her Son Jesus?

       “Yes , we believeth that.”
       “And if she’s a Virgin giving birth,” Gonzalo said, “then no man couldst be the father of Jesus.  There must be something special about her Son.  His conception hadst to be miraculous, beyond man's power.” She looked at him and was thinking.  He was taking her deep into thought.  Even Mohammad, couldn't claim that kind of birth, she thought.  The first stone fell away from the wall separating them.
      
       Fatima thought about their conversation that night, and when she awoke during the early morning hours, it came back to mind.  She lay there thinking that there is something special about about Jesus and Mary. Could it be that Gonzalo is right?  Then it occurred to her, that if Mary is higher than other women, then couldn't her offspring Jesus be on a level higher than other men?  Even higher than Mohammad?  Could my people and the prophet be wrong?  Another stone slipped from the wall.
      
       When she next saw Gonzalo, she spoke of her thoughts when she awoke: about Jesus and Mary being special and the concept of higher.  He was delighted to hear what she'd thought about. Something was dawning on her, yet there was a cloud in her sky, and she asked, “Gonzalo, about this Trinity?   How canst it not be three Gods?
       “It’s several Persons, not several Gods…It’s One God, and since He’s almighty and all powerful, He can be three persons in Himself. 
        “It’s so hard to see this, Gonzalo” she said.
        “It is difficult to see and understand.  He createth the clover with three leaves on one stem, and I understandeth not how it happens.  But God puts it into nature.  It's a mystery and the Trinity's a mystery, something to accept on faith since God hast revealed it, and His word is good.”  
         She listened as he went on eloquently, “Some things we seest not.  Thou thinkest a thought, but seest it not.  Thou feelest the wind, but seest it not...yet thou knowest it's there...” and he added with merriment....“Wish we hadst some of that 'seest it not,' to blow on us right now.  It's warm out.”
      She laughed a little at his humor. She so admired him.
      Gonzalo mused about the way it happened: how she awakened to the specialness.  “The thought thou hast is true, Fátima.  Jesus and Mary art special, very special.”
      “And thou art special,” she said.
      He was pleased, but he remarked, “But they're more special.
  
      “Gonzalo, thou knowest my meaning.”
      “Of course, I do,” he laughed in good humor.  He could sense the wall was weakening and it brought joy to his heart, a wall he yearned to fall. 
       Grace was filtering into
Fátima's soul, coming from Jesus Himself, the One Whom the Mahometans sadly misunderstood.   If only they could see that Mary's being different, was because Jesus was so different.  Jesus as the Son of God is a pure, perfect and holy Being, and Mary, the vessel through whom He came into the world, was untouched by sin. 

       In Mary, the unborn Jesus was wrapped in holiness and purity.  Their Koran even says, "Behold! the angels said: 'O Mary! Allah hath chosen you and purified you
chosen you above the women of all nations!' " 9 and in Muslim thought, her purity is equated to being without sin.  Muhammad himself said “Every person to whom his mother gives birth [has two aspects to his life]; when his mother gives birth Satan strikes him but it was not the case with Mary and her son...," referring to Jesus.

     
                                     At Mass and Church
      
         Gonzalo invited Fátima to go to Mass with him. For her it was a little difficult since she’d only been to mosques, but she went with him.  She observed the interior beauty, and was interested in what went on at the Mass. She heard the ringing of the bells at the Consecration, saw the people attentive to the Host, and watched them kneel to receive it.  She smelled the smoke of incense and heard the singing.  And she saw a likeness of Maryam.

        Afterwards she asked Gonzalo about the white wafer, why they were kneeling to receive it?  He explained that what looked like a wafer was actually Jesus Himself, changed from bread in an unseen way, during the Mass.  They knelt not to what was bread before, but to Who the bread became; they knelt in reverence to God.  

       He explained how Maryam interceded with her Son Jesus at a wedding and how Jesus performed the miracle of the wine.   He worried a bit about telling that story as the Mahometans were opposed to wine.  But he strove ahead, telling her anyway: telling her about Jesus performing a miracle at the Wedding Feast of Cana; how he changed water into wine, and how it was good wine.  Not for drunkenness, he said, but for celebrating together. 

       Now Jesus performs another miracle with wine and bread in the Mass, but this is a Hidden Miracle, that we see with the eyes of faith.   He explained to her that just as we need food to nourish our bodies, we need a spiritual food to nourish our spiritual souls.  Jesus gives Himself in Communion as nourishment, and He made it easier for us, by remaining hidden under the appearance of Bread.

     
He introduced her to the priest, a very humble man who smiled as he welcomed her in Arabic,  saying that it was nice to meet her and addressing her as Amîri, Princess.  Gonzalo had confided in him about things he could say to her about the faith.  He was seeing the fruit of his priestly counsel in her.  They spoke briefly, and he told Fátima that if she had any questions, he would be glad to try to answer them.   As they were taking leave of him, Gonzalo asked for his blessing and knelt to receive it.  That simple action of Gonzalo's impressed her.  It isn't always what's taught, but what's caught, and here she caught a sense of  his reverence for his faith. 

       She noticed the crucifix on the wall and asked about that.  Gonzalo told her that it represented how Jesus came down and died for our sins.  He remembered what the priest had told him about this subject and tried to explain it to her: that deadly or mortal sin prevents us from obtaining the happiness of heaven.  To get there, we need a special grace called sanctifying grace, which Jesus restored to the race by means of His sufferings and death on the cross.   Jesus applies it to us through Baptism.   In brief, He came down so we could go up.   She thought that if He’s God and came down to die for us, He must really love us. 

 
      Afterwards Gonzalo knelt before a statue of Mary.  He explained he wasn’t worshipping her, but "She's a Queen to us, a Maliki," he said, "and we've a high regard for her.  Her statue here, honors her and helps bring her to mind." 
He told her he was asking her to intercede with God to help them.  That touched her.  On impulse, she knelt beside him.  This gave him such happiness. He couldn’t help but see a symbolism here.  In Mahometan thought, Mary was higher than Mohammad's daughter Fátima, and here was Fátima kneeling below this likeness of Mary.  He glanced at her, smiled, and the Arabic words floated to mind: Anti jamila...She's beautiful.

      As they left the church she saw him genuflect, and understood he did this because of his Jesus, Hidden under what appeared to be Bread.  She'd seen the priest put away the unconsumed Eucharistic Bread in the tabernacle.

      She also noticed how Gonzalo dipped his hand in the font of holy water, and crossed himself. He explained why he did this: that it was holy water, what  the Church calls a sacramental and uses to obtain favors from God.  When we come into the church, we do it as a sign that we need to cleanse ourselves in the presence of God, here in the Person of Jesus. Going out, we need to ask protection from evil and the devils who prowl about the world trying to capture us for the domain of hell.  It protects us.

      “Gonzalo,” she asked, “the words thou sayest to thyself, when thou makest that sign, what are they?”
       He smiled as they walked into the sunshine, “In the name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Ghost. Amen.”  With it we call God's blessing on ourselves, and express a belief in the Three Persons” and added with a smile, “and with one hand.” 
       Fatima was quick on the uptake, seeing the sly connection he was making. She was sharp.
      “Ah, Gonzalo, with thy one hand, thou triest to convert this
Fátima, lower than thy Mary.” And she smiled a big smile.
      “Yes, I'm guilty.”
        And then he added,
While we accept it on faith, it's also true that One of the Three, Jesus, was seen by others physically hanging on a cross, seen to physically die, seen to rise again, and seen to ascend to heaven.  People back in history saw this with their very own eyes.”
       She thought, and then said, “No man hath power to die and come back from death and then riseth up as if he had invisible wings. That is something beyond man.”
      “Exactly,“ Gonzalo said.

                                                                She Decides

       The next day
Fátima decided of her own volition to go to where she knelt with Gonzalo before the statue of Mary.   There she beseeched Mary to help her as to what she should do. Gonzalo waited by the door, seeming to instinctively know that maybe he should let her be there by herself.   As she knelt with the likeness of Mary, something filled her soul, a sense a peace seemed to settle over her heart.  She was being given an actual grace, to enlighten her mind and strengthen her will.  She felt a resolve and formed a decision in her heart.

       As she got up, she saw Gonzalo waiting by the door. She was radiant and her heart was bursting.  She was excited to tell him what she had decided.   She took his right hand, clasped him around the shoulder, and pressed her cheek to his, saying softly, “I've decided to become a Christian.”
       Gonzalo's face lit up in a happy, heartfelt smile.  To assure himself, he asked her,  “And the other part?...about marrying this scarred soldier?” 
       “I thought it was obvious to thee...Of course, I will...Thy
Fátima and my Gonzalito.
       He embraced her with joy. It was as if he himself had been drawn up to heaven.
       F
átima had captured her captor.

       From the door of the sacristy, the priest observed the happy moment, and he smiled.

                                     Telling the King Her Decision

       They went to see King Alfonso Henriquez, who, on seeing them, said,. “Ah, Gonzalo, so this is thy Princess, the jewel thy heart seeketh.   Like I said, she’s beautiful...” 
      
Fátima blushed a bit but smiled.  “...and that I wouldst decree to all the realm...But thou and thy Princess have something to say to this old king?”
      “Yes, Sire, we have. She agreeth to both of thy concerns. She shall become a Christian and marry me.”
      “Of thy own free will and consent, Princess,” the king asked.
      “Yes, Sire,”
Fátima happily formed the words, “of my own free will and consent…and with all my heart.”  She pressed Gonzalo’s hand in hers.
      The king rose up, stepped down to them and said, “Let me embrace the both of thee.” And he put his arms around them, putting his head between theirs and pulled them all together in a three-in-one hug with much gentleness yet strength. “I give thee both my blessing.   Now let’s have a real wedding with the bells, flowers and everything.”
       
 
                                      Before the Wedding    

      He invited her to stay in the royal residence until the nuptials, gave her a lady-in-waiting to attend her, and spread the joy as if it were his own daughter. She would come to regard the king in a fatherly way.  She would often dine with him and Gonzalo was often invited. 

      Gonzalo would come to the king's residence to see her and they would take walks.  They were formally betrothed, and Gonzalo gave her a beautiful necklace of precious stones.  She studied Catholic teaching with the priest, with Gonzalo along.  She was learning her prayers, the Ave for one: Avé Maria, cheia de graça music to Gonzalo's earsas she prepared for her wedding.  They made her a fine white wedding dress, trimmed with embroidered flowers, with a long veil.  She would be modestly attired, fitting for the modesty and chastity she guarded. 

      The time of anticipating the wedding was like a blue sky, yet there was a cloud.  The cloud hung along the southern horizon, toward Alcacer do Sal.  She wished her family could be there, and that she could see them now.  But she knew the danger, even from her own people if they heard she was converting to Christianity.  It was the harsh part of the faith she was now parting with.  Sometimes Gonzalo would wipe away a tear and comfort her as she thought of her home.  She would like her family to rejoice with her at her wedding, but alas it was not to be.

                                        
 The Baptism and the Wedding

     
 Even so, the wedding was a happy occasion.   She came to the church in a horse-drawn carriage, decorated with flowers, sitting beside the King Alfonso Henriquez, arrayed in his finest.  He stepped out first and extended his hand, to help her step down, and they walked to the church door to the cheers of people and to the words of how beautiful she looked.  The king was proud to be seen with her.  After they entered the church, the king escorted her down the aisle to where Gonzalo was waiting for her before the sanctuary.  King Alfonso then handed her off to him with a kiss to her cheek and stepped back to sit down in front. 

       Gonzalo led
Fátima to the baptismal font, where the lady in waiting, lifted off her veil, revealing more of her luxuriant hair.  She held the veil draped over her arm, for the Princess.  Fátima had chosen Oriana for her Baptismal name: a name derived from Latin meaning "sunrise", and which shares the same root as Aurora, meaning "dawn."  And for her it was the dawn of a new life, not only her wedded life to follow, but the new life of sanctifying grace, which is somehow a sharing in God's supernatural life.   It happily seems the name is also a blend of "oro" meaning gold and Ana, the mother of Mary.

        The celebrant slowly intoned the words, audible enough for the congregation to hear:  "Fatima thou art, of the life thou leavest, but Oriana thou shalt become."   She bowed her head, and the priest dipped some water from the font.  He poured it slowly and solemnly over her forehead, saying "Oriana, I baptize thee in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. Amen."   While she felt the water running off her head, the moment was profound for her, and she manifested that in her reverent demeanor.  At that moment a great transformation took place.  She went from being a creature of God, to being a child of His, receiving that special grace that sanctified her soul.  As Fatima raised her head, the choir burst into joyous Alleluias. 

       Her lady-in-waiting gathered her train to the side, so she could turn to move to the altar.  She and Gonzalo went with arms together, holding hands.  She was radiant with beauty, both without and within, as the radiance of grace shone in her soul.  She beamed, and the congregation smiled to see her, as the notes of Alleluia resounded to the ceiling and walls.  Through the opened doors, others who'd gathered outside, were watching the the event.

.      Standing together they exchanged their vows, and kneeling together they met Jesus in the Communion of the Mass. It was her First Communion and she received the sacrament on her tongue, with profound awe, respect and love.  She  bowed her head for a long moment, saying softly in Portuguese as she did so, "Meu doce Jesus, meu Deus.  Amo-te.   Eu adoro-te." 10 At the close of the Mass and the ceremony, they were presented as Don Gonzalo and Dõna Oriana Herminguez.  Trumpets sounded triumphant notes, strings strummed, and the choir swelled in song... 

       The Mass ended with a blessing.  Before going down the aisle toward the doors, they went over to where the king sat.  Gonzalo bowed and she curtsied.  Then without being formal but with affection, they put their arms around the king once more, with their three heads together, their three-in-one embrace, she to one side and he, to the other.  She kissed the king on his cheek.  Tears of holy love emerged from his old eyes, and slowly slid down his face.  He turned to watch as she and Gonzalo went down the aisle, strewn with petals of pink and white.

      With handclasps, nods, greetings and smiles they moved along and exited the church, stepping forth into a rain petals.   Gonzalo's friends of the exploit, raised their gleaming swords in an archway as did members of the royal guard, which they passed under.  Yet even more petals were flecking their path as they came from beneath the corridor of weapons, into full sunlight.  His troops demanded that he kiss the bride, and looking a little bashful, each met the lips of the other in heartfelt affection.

      His men and the troops raised their swords flashing in the sun, and cheered heartily.  The people gathered round clapped their hands.  Secretly amongst the crowd, was one sent by the Prince of  Alcacer, her father, to observe, as word had reached the Prince's ears.  Had Oriana had a chance to study the person, she might've of recognized him, but so much filled her mind and heart that day, with the the Baptism, the Mass, the wedding and all.

                                                      Their Life Together


      As a wedding gift, the king presented them with the village of Abdegas where the sun of her name rose to the community, brightening and adding the warmth of her personality.   She and Gonzalo lived in the castle there, where they had a chapel, a place she frequented.  The way she looked at it, with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, Jesus lived in the castle with them.  It was a focal point for her, for the holiness of God was there. 

      She became a good Catholic Christian, but this did not prevent her from adapting the Islamic Salat, the practice of praying five times a day, to her new life.  At dawn, noon and mid-afternoon, at sunset and before going to bed, from wherever she was, she faced the Blessed Sacrament instead of Mecca.  Sometimes she would lay a little rug in the aisle of the chapel, and facing the sanctuary, she would kneel down and bend forward to the floor in adoration of God. 

     She could easily adapt to her Catholicism, the Islamic Sawm of fasting, and the Zakat of almsgiving.  The latter she incorporated in giving food to the poor and clothing to the needy.   Fátima would go to the marketplace, mingle with the people and would talk with them.  She would inquire about the sick and visit them.  They would remember her smile and what she did, and would speak of it amongst themselves.

       She would become so loved that the town's name would be changed to honor her.  From her baptismal name of Oriana, would come the name Ourem.  Another form of her name was Oureana, which is closer to the spelling of Ourem.11   Perhaps the spelling was the difference between the Spanish and Portuguese, that time would change.

        There they spent happy days.  Gonzalo had written a little song for her.  By the light of melting beeswax candles and the glowing warmth of crackling fire, it was sung for them with the accompaniment of a lute.  Part of the lyrics testified to his love for her:

♪ Oriana, dearest! trust the lay thou hearest;
         Life to me is only life since blest with thee:
Life no value knowing , save of thy bestowing―
Thou prize, that battle gave me, dost, in turn enslave me,
         For nothing fairer, dearer, thro' all the world I see! ♪

      It brought a smile to her face, as she turned appreciatively to Gonzalo, who watched, not from hiding now, but in plain sight to see her response.  He thought of the tumult of how they met, and of how his eye, and then his heart were drawn to her.  The people at Abdegas warmed to her amiability and to her personality.  She fit in well.

     They would speak of children, and if a boy would be given to them, she'd say they'd call him Gonzalez, the "ez" meaning he was the son of Gonzalo. Gonzalo smiled at that.  I guess that's a Spanish ending and we're in Portugal, but that's all right, she'd say.  Gonzalo knew his own second name Herminguez meant  "the son of Hermigo," his father, and that the second name of King Alfonzo Henriquez, meant "the son of Henry."

                                                 Death Comes to the Princess       

      But their joy together, would end all too soon.  After taking up residence in the castle, she only lived a year.  She parted from life, yet in her youth, becoming the captive of death.  Though he so wished it, Gonzalo would be unable to capture her back this time.  The cause is not here known, but among the possibilities, a plausible one is that she was with child and died of complications, neither she nor the baby surviving.  But we don't hear anything of a child so death may've come for another reason.

     
As the end neared, and she lay dying, tears welled up in Gonzalo's eyes.  He wept as a great sadness and loneliness filled his heart.   Gently yet firmly, he held her hand, yet warm with life.   Although weak, she turned to him, smiling as best as she could, her beautiful eyes misty now.  She made an effort to speak, using the loving Spanish diminutive of his name:  "Gonzalito...mi Gonzalito," she said with her last breaths, "I go to Jesus...but if He wills, I'll come for thee...in thy time."   And now in a voice, barely audible, "Adeus...adeus...mi Gonzalito...Amo-te." 12 She breathed a few more times, then breathed no more.  He knelt at her bedside and sobbed to himself in grief, yet clasping her hand.  The knight, captivated by his captive, was now smitten by the sword of sorrow.  He felt a wound no honey would cure.

                                                   Life Without Her                        

        It pained him deeply to commit her to burial, as tears once more burst from his eyes and coursed down his cheek.  He gently caressed her cheek and arranged a bouquet of flowers in her hand, her favorites of the Portuguese countryside.  He traced a cross on her forehead with holy water and put a crucifix in her hand along with the flowers of the earth.  The sorrowing knight kissed her farewell before they shut her from the world. 
The words of  his song were hard to bear: "Life to me is only life since blest with thee."

       "Sleep," he quietly said, almost to himself, as tears still came forth, "sleep my beauty, sleep in peace..."

       Heartbroken, Gonzalo went about in a daze not even caring much to eat.   Their home without her brought such memories.  Other maidens would gladly have married him, but Fátima held his heart.  He decided to join the monastery at Alcobaça, where his prayers went up to heaven, where his beloved had gone.  He took her mortal remains with him for reburial on that holy ground, accompanying them all the while on the journey over the road. 

       In time he was sent to a priory in the mountains, and with the abbot's permission, her remains were taken there, to be with him.  He named the place after her, calling it by her Arabic and Muslim name, Fátima.  
                                                                          John Riedell
     
                                                                     
                                                                 Epilogue

      Brother Gonzalo often brought flowers to her burial place, her favorites, where he said a prayer for the soul of one who never unclasped his heart.  At times a tear would start again from his eyes and he needed to distract himself from the ache of loss.  In time he advanced in age, and his own passing approached.  As his eyes dimmed to the world, he thought he saw her standing by him in radiant glory, clasping him gently by the arm, and saying with her beautiful smile, "Come, Gonzalito, come, it is time..."           ―JR
                                                           
 
                               
 ______________________________
  
1.  This account is from The Dublin University Magazine, Vol. 40 by William Curry, Jon & Co., No. CCXXXV, July 1852, Vol. XL, Leaves from the Portuguese Olive―No. III.      A skeletal form of the story was drawn from Leaves and other accounts,  and some details were given, especially regarding  the exploit at Alcacer do Sal, but left untold were other parts of the the story, as they unfolded back then.   I used the liberty of imagination for conversations, to fill in scenes, etc. 
      In addition to the narrative accounts, Leaves and otherwise, other sources were consulted about persons, history, geography, religion, language,  and flora and fauna of the area.
 
2.   The first part of the Portuguese Hail Mary, derived mostly from the Gospel of Luke, 1:28 & 42.

3.   After the Christian conquest of the area in the 13th Century, this became the site of the Santa Maria do Castelo church. 

4..
   Portuguese Tragar - to swallow, devour (a trago is a swallow, swig or drink)  In Spanish trago is a swig, a gulp and tragar is to swallow, devour.  Spanish Moro - Moor (from North Africa); hay moros en la costa, the coast isn't clear.  Tragamonedas is a slot machine (monedas - coins)

5.   This is a curious thing.   The account from Leaves from the Portuguese Olive―No. III, says that it seemed "she threw herself in the way of recapture by Gonzalo as often as she was snatched from him."  

6.  Koran, Sura 16: And the Lord hath taught the BEE, saying: "Provide thee houses in the mountains, and in the trees, and in the hives, which men do build thee:  Feed, moreover on every kind of fruit and walk the beaten paths of thy Lord." From its belly cometh forth a fluid of varying hues, which yieldeth medicine to man.  
     On a website called OWM -  Ostomy Wound Management, it says honey is a therapeutic agent.  It reports a source, saying,  that honey is also mentioned in both the Torah and the Bible "in relation to healing."   It goes on to say, that others have recorded its medical properties,  including the Edwin Smith Papyrus, Hippocrates,  and Galen.   The article says, "honey is being re-established as a valuable agent in modern wound care management."   It cites these factors that facilitate healing: "providing a moist environment, debriding, deodorizing, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory capabilities."     
     In a section on wound healing it mentions that it should be ascertained if a patient has an allergy to bee stings or bee products.  


7.   On the positive side, the Koran condemned certain practices of the ancient Arabs,  including burying female babies alive, considering women as property and women having no inheritance rights .   However, the Koran does teach that men are superior to women in Suras 2:228 and 4:34..  In Sura 4:34 there's a divine sanction to beat women if you fear her disobedience.

8
.  O Luctador.  In modern Portuguese, o is "the" and lutador is a fighter or wrestler (lutar -  to fight, wrestle)  Compare with Spanish luchar - to fight, wrestle  and luchador - wrestler, fighter.  Lutador ,  may suggest that the Portuguese word evolved from the Spanish, differing in that it has a "t" instead of a "ch."
 
9.  Koran, Sura 3:42

10
. Portuguese meu - my, mine;   doce - sweet;   Deus - God;   amor - love;  t e - to or for you;    Eu - I ;  adorar - to adore. 

11.  Nuno Alvares Pereira, a Portuguese general, who lived after the time of Fátima, from 1360 to 1431,  was the Count of Ourem, and is known as "The Precursor of Fatima."  From his young year s he was devoted to Mary, her Brown Scapular and the Rosary, all part of the Fatima message, yet to come.   He had been a great Prince,  but became a humble monk.
  
     In tribute to his life, Pope Benedict XV beatified him in 1918, and Pope Benedict XVI canonized him Saint Nuno Alvares Pereira on April 26. 2009, in St. Peter's Square.  

12.
  Adeus - Goodbye;  mi - my;  Gonzalito - diminutive of Gonzalo;  Amo-te - I love you.                                         ______________________________
 

Return to Home Page    

 

Copyright © 2005 - John Riedell - All Rights Reserved
Site Last Updated on 06/02/13