The Cave of San Gil

The Cave of San Gil

Toledo has been known throughout Europe since ancient times as a reference city for the teaching of the “Magic Arts”, including necromancy, and in our city, as in Salamanca, it was claimed that there was a cave that sheltered a school where these arts were taught, sponsored by the Devil himself.

And there were many important men from many different backgrounds who dedicated some years of their lives (sometimes up to 7 years) to come to Toledo to learn those forbidden skills, with the aim of becoming rich, conquering love, or killing enemies. Thus came characters such as Gerberto de Aurillac, who came to the Pope with the name of Sylvester II (the Pope of the year 1000) and about whom there is a legend, according to which his tomb in the Church of St. John Lateran in Rome distills water, and that flowing, along with the noise of bones, which is sometimes said to be heard in his tomb, announces the death of a Pope.

But not only the great lords were interested in this not at all formal “education” ; they also came to the city looking for the religious “scientia toledana” as a certain Portuguese character called Fray Egidio Gil, very attracted from a young age by the fabulous stories told by the travellers who had passed through Toledo.

One day Fray Gil decided to discover how much truth there was in what was being told about the Toledo School, and he managed to make a dark pact with Satan, getting the following promise from the Evil One:

” And if you want, I will make you so good friendship that I will go with you until I put you in Toledo where it is taught”.

The Cave of San Gil Fray Gil

With the support of the Devil Fray Gil left for Toledo accompanied by evil shadows, because the religious had committed his eternal soul to know these secrets of Toledo and once his life was over his soul would belong to Satan

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Legend has it that, as they approached the city, they met certain characters who, with human appearance, were in fact different forms of demons coming out of the underworld, accompanied by men who were already studying the evil arts. All of them joined the procession and entering the city without any resistance, the group headed for the cave where magical arts were read and taught.

Gil was informed of the laws and conditions that would be imposed before he was admitted as a disciple:

” First of all, that they should depart altogether from the faith and law of God, and surrender themselves to the lordship and will of the Devil, for he was the master of that science. And the second thing they were to deny from the faith of baptism. And the third thing that they did a letter of vassalage to the devil written with their own blood”

Some time Fray Gil was inside the cave, not too long, and legend has it that when he had learned all that was taught there, he broke the pact he had with the Devil and returned to his convent in Portugal, where he lived until the end of his days practicing Christian virtues, repenting of what he had learned, and achieving numerous miracles even after his death, which occurred in 1265. For this reason, he has been considered a Saint, and the cave mentioned in this legend was called Cueva de San Gil, being located in the basements of the Palace of Enrique de Villena, near the current Transit Gardens, in Toledo.

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Gil de Vouzela was canonized on May 9, 1748 by Pope Benedict XIV.

Juan Moraleda y Esteban published this legend in the magazine “Toledo. Revista Ilustrada de Arte”, in 1915.

Gil is mentioned in the “General History of St. Dominic and his Order of Preachers”, written in 1587 by Fray Hernando del Castillo. Here you can read the whole story.

Image source Fray Gil: Wikipedia.

Inbound image: Tractatus Philo-politicus, Frankfurt 1623.