It is not a legend, in the exact sense of the term, but the XI Cuento narrated by Don Juan Manuel in “El Conde Lucanor” should be of interest to the Toledans, as it indicates us that since 1335 the fame of the city as a hostel for magicians and necromancers is remarkable, and the place where many come to learn the so-called “artes toledanas” or “ciencias toledanas”.
What happened to a dean of Santiago with don Illán, the magician of Toledo
Another day Count Lucanor spoke to Patronio and said the following:
-Patrick, a man came to ask me to help him in a matter in which he needed me, promising me that he would do for me whatever was most profitable and most honorable to me. I began to help him as much as I could. Having not yet achieved what he intended, but thinking that the matter was already solved, I asked him to help me in something that was very convenient for me, but he excused himself. Then I asked for his help again, and again he refused, on a pretext; and so he did in everything I asked him. But he has not yet achieved what he intended, nor will he be able to if I do not help him. Because of the confidence I have in you and in your intelligence, I beg you to advise me what I should do.
-Lord Count,” said Patronius, “so that in this matter you may do what is due, I would very much like you to know what happened to a dean of Santiago with Don Illán, the magician who lived in Toledo.
The Count asked him what had happened.
-Lord Count,” said Patronio, “in Santiago there was a dean who wished to learn the art of necromancy, and since he heard that Don Illán de Toledo was the one who knew the most at that time, he went to Toledo to learn that science with him. When he arrived in Toledo, he went to Don Illán’s house, whom he found reading in a very remote chamber. When he saw him enter his house, Don Illán received him with great courtesy and told him that he did not want me to tell him the reasons for his coming until he had eaten and, to demonstrate his esteem, he accommodated him very well, gave him everything he needed and let him know that he was very happy with his coming.
” After eating, both were left alone and the dean explained the reason for his arrival, urging Don Illán to teach him that science, because he wanted to know it in depth. Don Illán told him that if he was already a dean and a very respected person, he could achieve higher dignity in the Church, and that those who have prospered very much, when they get everything they wanted, tend to quickly forget the favours they have received, so he was wary that, when he had learned that science with him, he would not want to do what he now promised him. Then the dean assured him that, no matter how much dignity he might attain, he would only do what he commanded him.
” Speaking of this and other topics, they were from the time they finished eating until dinnertime. When they had agreed, the magician told the dean that that science could only be taught in a very remote place and that at night he would show him where to retire until he learned it. Then, taking him by the hand, he took him to a room and, when they were left alone, he called a maid, whom he asked to prepare some partridges for dinner, but not to roast them until he sent it to him.
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” Then he called the dean, and the two of them went in by a very well carved stone staircase, and went down so low that it seemed that the river Tagus had to pass over them. At the end of the staircase they found a very wide room, as well as a very decorated room, where the books were and the study room in which they would stay. Once seated, and while they were thinking what books to start with, two men came in through the door and gave the dean a letter from his uncle, the archbishop, informing him that he was ill and that he should quickly go and see him if he wished to arrive before his death. This news caused the dean great sorrow, not only because of his uncle’s grave situation, but also because he thought that he would have to abandon those studies that had just begun. But he decided not to leave them so soon and sent a letter to his uncle in response to the one he had received.
” After three or four days, other men arrived on foot with a letter for the dean informing him of the death of his uncle, the archbishop, and of the meeting they were holding in the cathedral to find him a successor, which they all believed would be him with God’s help; and for this reason he should not go to church, for it would be better for him to be elected archbishop while outside the diocese than not present in the cathedral.
” And after seven or eight days, two armourbearers came, very well clothed, with weapons and horses; and when they came to the dean, they kissed his hand and showed him the letters saying that he had been elected archbishop. When he found out, don Illán went to the new archbishop and told him that he was very grateful to God that this news had reached him while he was at home and that, since God had given him such a high dignity, he begged him to grant his vacancy as dean to one of his sons. The new archbishop asked Don Illán to allow him to grant deanazgo to one of his brothers, promising him that he would give another position to his son. That is why he asked Don Illán to go with his son to Santiago. Don Illán said he would do so.
” So they went to Santiago, where they received them with great pomp and solemnity. When they lived there for a certain time, one day the Pope sent them a letter to the archbishop in which he granted him the bishopric of Toulouse and also authorized him to leave his archbishopric to whomever he wished. When Don Illán found out, throwing in his face the forgetfulness of his promises, he earnestly asked him to give it to his son, but the archbishop begged him to consent to give it to his uncle, his father’s brother. Don Illán replied that, although it was unfair, he submitted to his will as long as it promised him another dignity. The archbishop promised him again that this would be the case and asked him and his son to accompany him to Toulouse.
” When they arrived in Toulouse they were very well received by the counts and by the nobility of that land. They spent two years there, after which the Pope’s messengers arrived with letters in which he named him a cardinal and told him that he could leave the bishopric of Toulouse to whomever he wished. Then don Illán went to him and told him that, as he had so often failed to keep his promises, he should no longer make excuses to give that vacant seat to his son. But the cardinal begged him to consent to another uncle of his, a very honest old man and brother of his mother, becoming the new bishop; and, since he was already a cardinal, he asked him to accompany him to Rome, where he could well favor him. Don Illán complained a lot, but he agreed to the request of the new cardinal and went with him to the Roman court.
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” When they arrived there, they were very well received by the cardinals and by the whole city, where they lived for a long time. But don Illán continued to pray almost daily to the cardinal to give some ecclesiastical benefit to his son, which the cardinal excused.
” The pope died and all the cardinals chose this cardinal of whom I speak as their new pope. Then, don Illán addressed the pope and told him that he could no longer make excuses to fulfill what he had promised so long ago, answering the pope that he would not be so urgent because there would always be time and way to favor him. Don Illán began to complain with bitterness, also reminding him of the promises he had made and that he had never fulfilled, and also told him that he was expected from the first time they spoke, and that, because he had achieved so high dignity and still without granting any privilege, he could not expect any mercy from him. The pope, when he heard Don Illán speak like that, was very angry and answered him that, if he kept insisting, he would imprison him for being a heretic and a magician, because he knew well that he was the pope, how in Toledo everyone thought he was a necromancer and that he had practiced magic all his life.
” When Don Illán saw what a poor reward he received from the pope, despite what he had done, he said goodbye to him, who did not even want to give him food for the journey. Don Illán, then, told the Pope that, as he had nothing to eat, he would have to lay hands on the partridges he had roasted the night he arrived, and so he called his maid and ordered her to roast the partridges.
” When don Illán said this, the pope was found in Toledo, as dean of Santiago, just as he was when he arrived, his shame being so great that he did not know what to say to apologize. Don Illán looked at him and told him that he could well leave, since he had already seen what he could expect from him, and that he would consider the partridges to be misused if he invited him to eat.
” And you, Count Lucanor, because you see that the person you have helped so much does not thank you, you should not strive for him nor continue to help him, because you can expect the same treatment that Don Illán received from that dean of Santiago.
The Count thought this was good advice, he followed it and it went very well.
And as Don Juan understood that the story was good, he had it put in this book and made the verses, which read like this:
The higher the one you help,
the less support he’ll give you when you need it.
In the virtual library “Miguel de Cervantes” you can read the complete book, in an edition and updated version by Juan Vicedo.
Interesting article about Infante Don Juan Manuel.
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