In the search for explanations to major catastrophes the people sometimes generate myths, legends or false stories. Also centuries ago, with the invasion of the peninsula, a “supernatural” tale was generated from the obviousness of the Visigothic weakness and decadence of the kingdom based in Toledo. (Updated 28/09/07)
Don Rodrigo opening the locks
At the beginning of the 8th century, the existence of a “Palacio Encantado” (Enchanted Palace) a little more than half a league from the population was known throughout Toledano, in a wild and sombre place close to the Tagus. An old place that resembled the most arid desert, in which at night, hardly any shadows covered the space, strange noises of metals, distant waterfalls, echoes of a hammer falling on an anvil perhaps handled by a Titan, strident screams and screams that sprang from the deepest part of the earth united with the wind forming a hellish chorus.
When dawn gave way to darkness, the noises ceased, and it would have been said that they existed only in the imagination of the gullible inhabitants of the contours.
In that place stood a marvelous palace, whose description the chroniclers have left us: “high to the point that there was no man who, with all the strength of his arm, could throw a stone to his tower, it was built of small pieces of rich jasper and painted marbles, so shiny that, seen from afar, it shone as if it were made of glass; and so subtly had they joined the millions of small stones that constituted it, that all of them seemed to form a single and unique stone of various shades. Four enormous metal lions supported, as if crushed by their weight, the graceful tower, which proudly rose to the clouds.
That palace belonged to [[Hercules]], a wise man who knew the secrets of heaven and earth, a great fortune teller, who built the palace concealing in its interior the misfortunes that would threaten Spain, if a curious, careless and greedy king dared to profane this imposing building. As long as there was no king to desecrate and break the access to the Palace, fatality on the peninsula would be postponed.
For this reason, when his work was finished, Hercules put a large lock on the door, ordering that all monarchs who succeeded him on the throne follow his example, without daring to profane the dreadful secret he kept, and fulfilling this prescription, all the kings, a few days after his coronation, moved with all their court to the mysterious palace and put a new lock on its magical door, whose hinges had not turned since the time of its construction.
Thirty locks had already been put in place by the Goths when he came to the throne [[Don Rodrigo]] who, engaged in the first months of his reign in the task of repressing the restless supporters of [[Witiza]], failed to fulfill the traditional mandate of Hercules. Freed of his opponents, he became interested in the magical palace and asked how many facts his closest acquaintances knew about the tradition of the lock. But not for the sake of adding one more. Curiosity had bitten his heart, and unbelieving, with little respect for tradition, he longed to discover the mystery behind the doors that his predecessors had never opened.
In vain his advisors tried to make him desist from his design. And one bright morning in August he gallops from Toledo’s Vega Baja to the Palace. In a short time, his men break in front of his greedy gaze the locks of the great door, and then boldly penetrate his silent and dark enclosure.
Inside, not even the slightest rumor disturbed the impressive silence. The soldiers who accompanied the King were silent before the unknown, fearful of the legends they had heard of this enclosure since their childhood. They did not go far enough to understand that the building had not been built by the hand of man. Everything there heralded a superior force. They saw in front of him a door smaller than the first one, and, entering through it, they shouted in surprise when they found themselves in a large square room, in the middle of which was a very luxurious bed, and a man of athletic forms lying on it, armed in a great way, and with an outstretched arm holding a writing that one of the knights, more daring, picked up and handed it over to the King, who, trying to conceal the terror that was beginning to seize him, read the following with an unsure voice, trying to hide the terror that was beginning to seize him:
– You, so daring that this one will read, you lie who you are and how much evil will come for you; that just as Spain was populated and conquered by me, so will it be for you depopulated and lost; and I want to say that I was Hercules the Strong, the one who conquered most of the world and all of Spain.
Don Rodrigo was suspended, but making an effort he said to his knights: “little care can be given to such prophecies, for no one knows the secret of the future. Let us continue our visit.
The rest, driven by these words, followed the monarch, who opened another door and entered another room just like the first one, where other wonders awaited him. On a pillar, at one end of the room and raised on the floor, there was a statue of a giant, with a heavy mallet in his hand and in the gesture of wanting to attack towards the ground. Behind this statue, and on the wall, written in large red letters was read:
” Sad King, by your evil you have entered here.”
On the front wall, you could read it too:
” By strange nations you will be dispossessed and your people badly punished.
Approaching, they observed that on the chest of the statue there was another large sign: ” I invoke the Arabs” and on one of their backs ” My trade I do”.
Seeing this, all the knights wished to turn around and return, but Don Rodrigo understood that he would look bad as King if he was fleeing at this moment, so opening a third door he entered another room and made everyone forget past fears and shout with admiration.
Higares Cave, near Toledo
This new room was like the rest, of the same proportions, and with the exterior appearance of the building. Thousands of coloured stones were intertwined forming scenes of the most varied nature: love on the bank of a river; love playing with the heavy armor of Mars, awakened by Venus; country battles; musical instruments… Through these compositions a fine, almost magical light was filtered, which illuminated the whole room with a ghostly and unreal light. Each wall was of one color, and on one side there was a large pole the height of a man under a small door embedded in the wall, and on this a sign in Greek that read:
” When Hercules made this house, the era of man walked in 3006 years.
The king opened this door and found in a large hole in the wall an ark of small size, gilded, covered with precious stones and closed with a gold padlock. The lid could be read:
” The King in whose time this ark is opened, it cannot be that he does not see wonders before his death.”
This text caused great joy in Don Rodrigo, for he was the first not to allude to great catastrophes in his kingdom.
He turned around and towards his knights he said: ” at last we find a prize for our daring. In my hands I hold the treasure of King Hercules. He pulled out a dagger and broke the lock. He began to open the ark, but soon he backed away, surprised.
Within it was only a white cloth folded and fastened to two boards by means of rough wires. He unfolded it, and again he painted the terror in his eyes, and anguish invaded his soul.
On that cloth had painted an immense multitude of figures with wide tunics, with headdresses, gleaming and large half-moon-shaped swords. They carried numerous banners and banners, riding raudos in their white alciceles, and the crossbows prepared in the back. Only the imagination could glimpse the enormous number of riders who shook each other, ran over each other, like a whirlpool; and over them, another legend that said in Hebrew:
” When this cloth is stretched out and these figures appear, men thus armed will conquer Spain and be her lords.
Pale and convulsed the King, full of astonishment the knights who did not have the courage to oppose his folly, remained mute all of terror. Then, and only then, did they understand the truth of the tradition preserved from century to century… But it was too late. They were dumb and kept looking at the canvas over and over again.
But another surprising fact took them out of their self-absorption: the statue in the second room, as if moved by an invisible force, began to strike the floor with its terrible mace of weapons, and its power moved the walls of the palace.
And on seeing this, Don Rodrigo and his knights ran past as far as possible from the statue, which continued to strike the ground furiously. When they saw each other outside the enclosure they raised their eyes to the sky to give thanks, but soon they lowered them in fear of what they saw: dense clouds hovered over them, dark, as they had never seen before in these lands. Suddenly terrible lightning and thunder cracked the air, and a great tongue of fire fell from the clouds, and the enchanted tower of the Palace was linked together, and a terrible fire broke out.
Within minutes the entire building was in flames and this caused the building to suddenly collapse, a wide chasm opening in its place into which its burnt rubble sank.
In the middle of this roar of rubble, one could still distinguish the frightful noise of the mace of weapons handled by the Titan, wounding with force the entrails of the rock…
Don Rodrigo and his family, possessed by a superstitious terror they could not contain, fled that place, running on their steeds to seek refuge in the protection of the Toledo walls.
From that day on, the smile from Don Rodrigo’s lips fled.
Nothing foreshadowed in his kingdom such macabre prophecies lived in the Enchanted Palace, although they all had them very well present.
One afternoon he was in his fortress contemplating the serene waters of the Tagus, and having before him the elegant Baño de La Cava, when he was announced that an envoy from Teodomiro, the Gothic governor of Andalusia, was bringing a message for him.
Don Rodrigo rushed to his palace to hear the voice of the messenger, and to have the message brought to him read to him:
” My lord, bad news I bring you from the south”, began the nervous messenger.
The King, fearing the worst, hastened to the reading of the message, in which Teodomiro asked for urgent help before the crossing of the strait by a large Arab expedition, which razed lands and people wherever it passed, and conquered with extreme speed the territory until now belonging to the Visigoths.
Don Rodrigo took to his mind with a cold sweat the images which he had seen in the fabric found in the Palace of Hercules, feeling in the depths of his soul how this messenger had communicated the beginning of the end of his reign.
***** <font color=#38B0DE>-==- Proudly Presents
Still today some chroniclers point out as a possible access to this “Palacio Encantado” the so-called “Cuevas de Hércules” (Hercules Caves), located in San Ginés Street, in the historic centre. The legends assign to this cave numerous facts and fantastic events, and some cite that it could be a door of entrance to the numerous subways that would connect the subsoil of the city, forming a “city under the city”.
Among these traditions, we highlight the one that says that the “Cueva de Hércules” crosses Toledo, passes under the river Tagus and extends several kilometers outside the walls, to an inhospitable spot located in an estate today called “Higares“, where could well be located this mysterious palace and that today only houses a few large caves, with large amounts of debris and still unexplored.
These caves, known as Cuevas de Higares or Cuevas de Olhihuelas, were in the opinion of some ancient Paleo-Christian catacombs; others, however, are of the opinion that they are simply three old limestone quarries, abandoned for centuries.
More information about these caves:in this article about the Cuevas de Higares.
Legends and articles related to The Enchanted Palace of Toledo:
- The Enchanted Palace of Toledo (I)
- La Cava
- The Cave of Hercules“>Cave of Hercules
- Toledo Subterráneo: Introduction
- The Caves of Higares
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