Iberia

This is not a “coming home” post, but it is a little story I find interesting, especially because after being in Spain I’ve noticed how some cities are actually Spanish words (or in California, saints).

My mom loves James Michener. He wrote a bunch of books that are pretty much all history-based (I think). Anyway, she had mentioned he had a book called Iberia, different from his other books in that this is more of a travel log and reflections about Spain. He loved Spain. It’s a very good read, but very thick, with 900 some pages. He mixes his thoughts and experiences of Spain with its history, and I’ve been learning a lot in reading it.

Anyway, I’m on the chapter about Madrid, and he recounts his experience of seeing the remaining sites of this old university founded by a famous cardinal. One of the most famous attendees was Carlos, the son of Felipe II and heir to the throne. One night he tries to sneak out, but it’s dark, so he slips on a stair and falls and hits his head on the door at the bottom.

People are all worried about him, but the next day he seems fine, but after that he gets worse. They had 50 or so consultations from different doctors, and there were three people who presented three different treatments; a Moorish man who comes and offers these two ointments, black and white, that will cure the pressure that is on Carlos’ brain. (Moor is the term from people from North African origins, who came over to Spain and reigned for quite some time, who were Muslims.) Another doctor wants to perform a procedure to drain the blood and heal Carlos. The third doctor wants to lay the body of this dead friar named Diego next to Carlos while he is unconscious, because this friar has performed other miracles.

Some people think the doctor started the procedure to drain the bad blood, but healthy blood came out, so he didn’t finish. Others think he finished. Others say this Moor put the ointment on Carlos, but it was so strong that he got worse, so they banished him. The last doctor laid the body of the friar next to Carlos, and the next morning he woke up perfectly fine, and said in his dream he had been visited by friar Diego and he healed the future king. Carlos was adamant that he wanted this friar to become a saint, but three popes came and went but did nothing. The fourth, Sixtius V, moved the investigation along and later announced that this friar was now a saint. His day was November 13th, “and in honor of his having saved the intended King of Spain, a pueblo in the colony of California was some years later named after him.” San in Spanish means saint, so now you know the origins of the city of San Diego, California. :)

This has been a history lesson.

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One thought on “Iberia

  1. I’ve enjoyed Michener since I was very young, but Iberia I found to be the least enjoyable. I felt it was more of a travel guide book rather than his novel-wrapped-in-history style.

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