The Mike Church Show World HQ
The Mike Church Show World HQ

James Fitzhenry – El Cid, St Fernando and Gentlemen, Christian Heroes

 

The heroic adventures of El Cid is a great read for men, age 12 - up
The heroic adventures of El Cid is a great read for men, age 12 – up

Mandeville, LA – Exclusive Transcript “The idea that terrorism is something new, whoever holds that belief I would say is uninformed or misinformed.  Within less than a century of the time of Mohammed, the Muslims had already come across from Arabia, across North Africa and destroyed the Visigothic Kingdom.  They were trying to move all the way into Europe, but there were people like El Cid who would stop them.  Charles Martel did in the West.  Throughout history you can look back and there were famous, or people should be famous, knights like Skanderbeg and the white knight Hunyadi who restrained them, held them back.  Those people are national heroes and members of Christendom.  We should know who they are.” – James Fitzhenry, author, El Cid & St. Fernando III  Check out today’s transcript for the rest….

Begin Mike Church Show Transcript

Mike:  To the Dude Maker Hotline, we’ll say hello to author James Fitzhenry, who has two books out now, and a third one that will probably be released today or so.  Book one is El Cid: God’s Own Champion – The True Story of the Knight of Vivar.  Book two is St. Fernando III – A Kingdom for Christ.  These are books that are written about male, masculine gentlemen heroes.  The stories aren’t very well known these days because we don’t tell them anymore.  James has written these books and we have them in the Founders Tradin’ Post signed by James Fitzhenry.  A clue to whom the books may be aimed at: young men.  James lists the books as ages 12 and up.  We’ll welcome James to the program.  Hello, James, how are you?

“You mentioned the Blessed Virgin.  He actually had a statue, which you can still see now in the Church of Seville, called “Our Lady of the Battles.”  He had it attached to the front of his saddle.  When he rode into battle, he had this statue right in front of him.” James Fitzhenry describing St Fernando III

James Fitzhenry:  Good, how are you?  Good morning, Mike.

Mike:  I am very, very well.  So ages 12 and up.  I guess that includes me then.

Fitzhenry:  You’re right.  You hit the nail on the end.  I am directing the book at young men and hoping that it’ll assist in their formation as men.

Mike:  Tell me a little bit about El Cid: God’s Own Champion.  The little bit of research that I was doing for the gentlemen’s book that I was going to write, The Gentleman’s Handbook, I ran into and was kind of confused.  I guess you can help me out here.  Was El Cid just legend or did he actually exist?

Fitzhenry:  No, he was actually an historical character, but his life was so incredible that for centuries after he died, people were adding stories to his life, romanticizing his life.  The tale just kept on growing to the point where it sounded like he wasn’t an historical figure when he actually was.

Mike:  That’s amazing.  A little bit of the biography of El Cid, what time did he life, what year, etc.?  What are some of the things that made him such an extraordinary person?

Fitzhenry:  He was born in 1043 in a small village in Spain, which I like pointing out because his beginnings were humble.  He rose to be the hero, the national hero of Spain.  He died in 1099, right about the time that Jerusalem was conquered during the first crusade.  During his life, of course, I think he was an exemplary Catholic.  He lived his faith.  His king turned against him, partially because he did adhere to his faith and he adhered to truth.  Even though that king turned against him and exiled him, what truly made him noble was the way he continued to fight for his nation and his king even though he was being ostracized by them.  He spent the rest of his life basically saving Spain even though his king didn’t really want to have anything to do with him and was upset at him.St. Fernando landscape cover 1300w x 975h

Mike:  When he fell out of disfavor with the king and was then presented with the opportunity, he could have then flown.  He could have turned against him, but instead he chose the honorable course and stayed loyal to the king.  Did the king ever reconcile with El Cid?  Did he ever acknowledge the monumental achievements of the man?

 

Fitzhenry:  He did after his death.  There was one instance during his life when he allowed El Cid back, but it was only after a serious defeat to the Muslims.  But as soon as he had his power again, he pushed El Cid away.  He did give him the honor he deserved after he had died.

Mike:  One of the amazing parts about the story of El Cid, one of the parts of the story that I think many in the audience will find interesting is that the battles that El Cid fought were against the Mohammedans, were against the Mohammedan hoards.  This is another part of the history — we hear today, what we call terrorists, we seem to think that we’re the first people to have ever been attacked by Mohammedans or what we call terrorists today.  That is just not the case.  Europe was under assault.  Since Mohammed, Europe was under assault.  There were dozens and dozens of stories of not just El Cid but others that waged serious nightly and successful battle against the Mohammedans.  One of the things we find, James — I don’t know about El Cid because I haven’t had a chance to read the book — was many of those that were fighting under the various flags of Christendom also asked and prayed for the Blessed Virgin’s help.  What was El Cid’s story?  Did he have a patron saint?

Fitzhenry:  Yes, he did.  You’re exactly right.  The idea that terrorism is something new, whoever holds that belief I would say is uninformed or misinformed.  Within less than a century of the time of Mohammed, the Muslims had already come across from Arabia, across North Africa and destroyed the Visigothic Kingdom.  They were trying to move all the way into Europe, but there were people like El Cid who would stop them.  Charles Martel did in the West.  Throughout history you can look back and there were famous, or people should be famous, knights like Skanderbeg and the white knight Hunyadi who restrained them, held them back.  Those people are national heroes and members of Christendom.  We should know who they are.  That’s what my next book is going to be about.  Ignorance of history means we’ll probably end up repeating it.

Mike:  Hunyadi, this is another one when I was searching for gentlemen.  Knights and gentlemen were the search terms I used.  That’s how I found you.  As I found parts of the story of Hunyadi, I’d never heard the name.  I couldn’t even pronounce it for a couple days.  I had to look it up.  It’s a story that’s not well known.  As you say, it’s a story that should be well known.  Tell me about St. Fernando III.

Fitzhenry:  St. Fernando III was very much like El Cid, the main difference being he was actually a canonized saint.  He was a descendent of El Cid and he was a king.  He had the ability, because of his kingship, to marshal the might of the entire kingdom against the Muslims.  He’s the one who took back all of Spain, except for Grenada, which had submitted and was paying tribute to him as part of the Reconquista.

Mike:  And he was what, a century after El Cid?

Fitzhenry:  Interestingly, he was born almost exactly a century after El Cid had died.  He was born in 1199 and died in 1252, a great saint.  He wasn’t a saint like St. Francis of Assisi or St. Dominic.  He was actually a warrior saint.  He would lead his armies into battle.  He fought year after year in campaigns and was never wounded in battle, and, of course, never defeated just like El Cid.

Mike:  I do recall hearing some stories some time ago about St. Fernando — I’m sure it’s in the book.  He had some sort of ritualistic prayer he did or a prayer regimen before he went into battle.  It wasn’t like he rode in the back either, like he sent the men out and rode behind them.  Don’t we get the term “first in battle” from Fernando?  What can you tell me about how he guarded himself by a life of prayer before he went and fought the Mohammedans?

Fitzhenry:  It’s interesting what you say.  I would say that his entire life was a prayer.  But you’re right, in his own tent, the majority of the tent was set up as an oratory for prayer.  He would spend a lot of his night in prayer.  You mentioned the Blessed Virgin.  He actually had a statue, which you can still see now in the Church of Seville, called “Our Lady of the Battles.”  He had it attached to the front of his saddle.  When he rode into battle, he had this statue right in front of him.

Mike:  So he had a statue of Mary on his saddle?

Fitzhenry:  That’s correct.  If you Google “Our Lady of Battles,” you can find a picture of it because the statue still exists.  I believe it’s an ivory statue.

Mike:  So St. Fernando III was also related to King Louis, correct?

[El Cid] was actually an historical character, but his life was so incredible that for centuries after he died, people were adding stories to his life, romanticizing his life.  The tale just kept on growing to the point where it sounded like he wasn’t an historical figure when he actually was. – James Fitzhenry describing El Cid

Fitzhenry:  That’s correct.  They were first cousins.  It’s interesting to me that almost everyone knows who St. King Louis IX is and almost nobody has heard of St. Fernando.  I saw a list of the top ten Catholic warrior saints and St. Fernando wasn’t mentioned.  I can’t think of one who was a greater or more successful warrior saint than St. Fernando.  To me he should be on the top of the list.  It’s just that we don’t know about him, or we haven’t known about him until this book.

Mike:  This is what I found was interesting when I got the box from your wife last week and opened the books up because I couldn’t wait to start reading them.  St. Fernando, obviously people before us knew the story because there are 300 pages in this book.  This isn’t a pamphlet; this is a book.  You obviously had fertile and ample material to research.  When did St. Fernando III, can you tell me a little bit about when he may have fallen off the historical map?  If you’re able to cram 278 pages of a man’s life into a sweeping novella or tale, I would say you had an awful lot of research and written material to draw from.

Fitzhenry:  There was.  If you look at the bibliography in the back of the book, there’s a lot there.  I don’t know why it happened.  He’s well known in Europe.  My guess is because most of our education in this country is focused on England and France, which had a lot to do with our formation.  Spain was here first, but I think there’s probably a little bit of prejudice against Spain because it was Catholic.  We get our history more from a Protestant perspective.  That’s just a guess.  I don’t know.  I’m actually a little bit glad that happened because it gave me an opportunity to fill the void with this book.

Mike:  One more final, an epilogue thought about St. Fernando III.  The man died in 1252.  Where is his body?  You can go see it today, right?

Fitzhenry:  That’s correct.  His body is right now in the Church of Seville.  You can actually see him because he’s incorrupt.  His body has never decayed.  He’s still wearing a crown.  He’s in a crystal and gold I guess reliquary.  His body is at the feet of a statue of the Virgin of the Kings.

End Mike Church Show Transcript

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