Why is CID so famous

War was his business, no question about it. But it is very difficult to tell apart what is the truth of Rodrigo Diaz de Vivar's story and what is a transfigured adventure story from the time of the Reconquista. In any case, "Rodrigo, son of Diego" was born in Spain around 1045 and died in 1099 in a battle against the North African Almoravids while defending Valencia, which he had just recaptured.

In the struggle of the Christians against the Moors and Arabs, which raged for centuries on the Iberian Peninsula in the Middle Ages, the knight played a colorful role. With his Castilian King Alfonso VI. The "Cid" - a derivative of its Arabic surname "al sayyid", the "lord" - was violently at odds, as he led a small independent mercenary troop and with these robber barons very skillfully ruled the newly conquered area around Valencia.

With his Christian knights, whom he presided over as a kind of "warlord", Rodrigo strengthened his position against his adversary, King Alfonso VI. He accused him of being to blame for the death of his brother Sancho II, who had been one of Rodrigo's confidants. Alfonso then confiscated Rodrigo's property and deprived him of all honorary titles, including that of standard-bearer.

He played Jews, Christians and Muslims against each other

The struggle to restore his honor was henceforth the main motivation for all battles that the Cid fought with his more than one hundred armored knights.

His position of power in the region of Valencia grew more and more and with his miracle sword La Tizona he defeated the leader of the Almoravids in the battle for the city: According to legend, he split the head of General Fariz with one blow and cut his torso up to the waist. The blow was so powerful that even the rubies on his opponent's helmet popped out of hand.

In 1094 the North Africans capitulated, and Rodrigo ruled Valencia like a king and from there even interfered in the Spanish throne policy.

He turned the main mosque of the city into a Christian church and played off the interests of Jews, Christian Mozarabs and the party of anti-Almoravid Arabs against each other. With Alfonso VI. he tried to reconcile himself by giving his daughters in marriage to some of his followers. Again he fell into the trap of honor. The new husbands behaved so badly that the cid had to send his best knights on their necks to rescue his daughters from their plight.

The Spaniards gave him the nickname "Campeador", the fighter. This also fits the legend of the victorious warrior in the battle against the Almoravids. Before his death he is said to have made his followers promise to ride into battle with him in any case. When he died, his body was therefore tied to his horse with a slat construction. So the dead Cid stormed ahead with drawn sword and this sight supposedly chased away the attackers.

His wife Jimena was able to take control of Valencia for a short time. She later rode with the body of the Cid to Burgos, where today a monumental monument in heroic pose commemorates the knight.

The cid was a much more complex character than the heroic stories reveal. So he was not a staunch Christian who fought for his religion. In between he even served himself to the Muslim prince al-Mu'tamin of Saragossa. In his service he temporarily commanded a highly armed troop of warriors, with which he also operated against Christian opponents. His fighters financed themselves mainly from the booty and ransom.

Charlton Heston rode a donkey down the cid's escape route

But after his death, the knight's transfiguration began. The old Spanish epic "El Cantar de Mio Cid", written around 1235, is considered the earliest evidence of Spanish national literature and inspired numerous poets and composers. Pierre Corneille wrote a tragicomic epic about the hero in 1779 and Johann Gottfried Herder wrote the "Ballad about a Spanish Knight" in 1805. Jules Massenet and Claude Debussy composed operas about the famous warrior in 1885 and 1893.

There is hardly any mention of the frequent change of fronts and the cid's struggle for money, power and reputation in the post-poems. Only Arno Schmidt followed up on it again in 1960 with his daring, confusing novel "Kaff also Mare Crisium".

Even so, the story of the cid beyond Spain might have been forgotten if a Hollywood star hadn't taken care of it intensely. Charlton Heston even rode a donkey the distance that the Cid had to cover on his escape into exile, and convinced director Anthony Mann to shoot a monumental film with him as Cid and Sophia Loren as Jimena in 1961. This film version sticks to the legend up to the fight of the dead against a superior army.

To this day it remains uncertain what happened to the fortunes that the general amassed over time. Even before Alfonso VI. Left the burned fortress of Valencia with the corpses of Cid and Jimena, some followers are said to have brought gold and jewelery to safety.

For a long time the legend persisted that the treasures ended up in the grave of Cid in the monastery of San Pedro de Cardena in Burgos. But they remained undetectable for all treasure hunters. That also fits in with the mysterious story of the border crosser between the Christian and Muslim world.