Battle of Clavijo

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The Battle of Clavijo by Corrado Giaquinto

The Battle of Clavijo is a fictional battle that never took place, but which was believed for centuries and became a popular theme of Spanish traditions regarding the Christian expulsion of the Muslims.[1] Stories invented centuries later claimed it was fought near Clavijo between the Spanish Christians led by Ramiro I of Asturias, and the Muslims led by the Emir of Córdoba. In the legend, one of Christ's disciples from eight centuries ago Saint James Matamoros, known to Spaniards as Santiago Matamoros (the Moor-slayer), suddenly appeared and helped an outnumbered Christian army to gain its victory. Aspects of the historical Battle of Monte Laturce (859) were incorporated into this legend, as Claudio Sánchez-Albornoz demonstrated in 1948.[2] The date originally assigned to the battle, 834, was changed in modern times to 844 to suit the inherent contradictions of the account. The day is sometimes given as 23 May.

The legend as it survives was first written down about 300 years after the supposed battle on a spurious charter. A forged grant to the Church of Santiago de Compostela by which Ramiro reportedly surrendered a part of the annual tribute owed him by all the Christians of Spain also dates from the mid-twelfth century. The history of the cult of Saint James is rich in such frauds.[3] Historian Jean Mitchell-Lanham says "While this event is based on legend, the supposed battle has provided one of the strongest ideological icons in the Spanish national identity."[4]


Saint James' appearance at Clavijo has been a major theme in art. Among those artists who portrayed him there are Aniello Falcone, Paolo da San Leocadio, Evaristo Muñoz, Mateo Pérez de Alesio, Martin Schongauer, Corrado Giaquinto, and Antonio González Ruiz.


  1. ^ Collins, Roger (1983). Early Medieval Spain. New York: St. Martin's Press. p. 237. ISBN 0-312-22464-8. 
  2. ^ Claudio Sánchez-Albornoz, "La auténtica batalla de Clavijo", Cuadernos de Historia de España, 9:94–139, reprinted in Orígenes de la nación española, III (Oviedo: 1975), 281–311. Cited in Fletcher, 67.
  3. ^ Collins, Roger (1983). Early Medieval Spain. New York: St. Martin's Press. p. 236. ISBN 0-312-22464-8. 
  4. ^ Jean Mitchell-Lanham (2015). The Lore of the Camino de Santiago: A Literary Pilgrimage. Hillcrest. p. 12. 

Coordinates: 42°21′N 2°25′E / 42.350°N 2.417°E / 42.350; 2.417