Biography of Diego Gelmírez (ca. 1070-1140)

Spanish prelate, born about 1070 and died, probably in Santiago de Compostela, the January 15, 1140. First Archbishop of Compostela, his pontificate was the starting point of the religious and political ascension that operated in the Santiago Headquarters during the following two centuries. An important territorial Lord who participated actively in the politics of his time, he/she was Lord of his own army which, like any feudal Lord, used against their enemies. But it also was a great promoter of culture, which managed for its headquarters to the privilege of the Holy year, and contributed to a large measure to the city to reach a huge importance as a centre of pilgrimage, making of the Camino de Santiago the main route of entry of ideas and cultures from Europe.

Son of a Swabian lineage warrior called Gelmiro, Lord of the fortress of West towers (between 1070 and 1083) and a Celtic woman, Diego Gelmírez spent his early years in Santiago de Compostela and should remain near the Bishop don Diego Peláez, whose curia highlighted by his erudition. It is very likely to study in Paris, even for short periods of time, and even in Cluny; his "French vocation" led during his episcopate to send to the schools of Paris to his brothers and relatives beings and bring there the masters that gave the studios instituted in his Church. His training made him a perfect clerc in the French manner, statesman, churchman half half.

He began his political career as Chancellor of the count of Galicia don Ramón de Borgoña 1092 and the following year was responsible for most of the business of the Lord, with the post of administrator of the diocese, granted at a meeting to which were invited all the Bishops of Galicia. Four years later he/she obtained the dignity of vicar of the Church of Santiago and at that time he/she was sent to Rome by the Castilian monarch Alfonso VIto prevent rehabilitation as Bishop of Compostela de don Diego Peláez. In Rome he/she received from the hands of Pope Pascal IIecclesiastical orders. In July of 1100 he/she was appointed Bishop of Santiago de Compostela and consecrated in April of the following year by the Bishop of Magalona (France).

Since the beginning of his episcopate the Gelmírez Bishop tried to regenerate the incomes of its headquarters and restore discipline in it. He/She instituted seventy-two canons by choosing the wisest and most worthy and imposed the life in community under a rule, as well as equality in remuneration and tenure; It forced them to dress and behave modestly (which was in the pontificate of his predecessors) and, in general, got the compostelan clergy to Excel by their chastity and straight customs. In 1102 Gelmírez obtained papal authorization to make Cardinals to eight canons of the Church of Santiago. In 1104 traveled to Rome, where he/she won the palio, symbol of the archiepiscopal dignity that had been denied by the own Pascal II to his predecessor, Bishop Dalmacio.

During the reign of Alfonso VI, Gelmírez maintained good relations with the monarch. The Bishop of Santiago socorrió with his troops to the King, once this was defeated at Ucles (1108) and obtained by this important territorial compensation. In 1109 he/she traveled to Toledo, and was present at the death of Alfonso VI. That same year there was a revolt in Galicia led by the powerful count of Traba Pedro Froilaz, who claimed to the Galician nobility to renew the pledge of allegiance to his pupil, Alfonso Raimúndez, the future Alfonso VII, son of Doña Urraca and grandson of Alfonso VI. Gelmirez, which maintained a fierce rivalry with Froilaz did nothing to promote the pledge. The side of the count of Traba was opposed by supporters of Alfonso of Aragon and Navarra, el Batallador, who, after marrying the queen Doña Urraca, was also titled King of Castile; the Lord of Deza Pedro Arias and his son Arias Pérez , and the city of Lugo were part of this party. With these supports, Alfonso the Battler invaded Galicia and devastated the lands of the count of Traba, who fled with the infant to León.

Doña Urraca, tired of the excesses of her husband in the lands of Galicia, broke with Alfonso I and the Pope declared their marriage null by consanguinity. Gelmirez, which at that time allied with the count of Traba, went to Leon, where Froilaz did not get was proclaimed King Alfonso VII. But the Queen was reconciled with the Warrior and traveled to Aragon, where, unless the reasons are known, was imprisoned in the fortress of Castellar. Had previously sent a letter to the Earl of lock in which urged him so he/she proclaimed to Alfonso Raimúndez King of Galicia. Reconciliation made that the count of Traba felt betrayed and it locked the infant in the castle of Santa María de Castrelo. But the Galician Communards, led by Arias Pérez, attending to the call of the Queen, were there for the infant to proclaim it. Also attended Gelmirez, probably to act as a mediator and remain in the foreground in the proclamation of Alfonso VII, thus ensuring a place of preeminence in his reign. Unless you know why it happened, Gelmírez was taken prisoner by the Communards, which had traditionally been allies and which also seized the infant and the Countess of locking. Gelmirez remained in prison five days and could only get the freedom to change let his brothers as hostages and surrender Arias Pérez strategic strengths of the West and the Castillo de la Lanzada, although this never came to occupy them. After his release, the Bishop should stop the anarchic situation that was Compostela after the comuneros revolt, which increasingly lost more strength. Gelmirez had the good political know approach the adversaries sides (on the one hand the count of Traba; by other residents) and the infant was released shortly after by Arias Pérez. Together they rapidly prepared the proclamation as King of Alfonso Raimúndez.

The conquest of Palencia and Sahagún in the middle of 1111 by the King of Aragon caused the reaction of the counts of Portugal, don Enrique de Borgoña and Doña Teresa, sister of Doña Urraca, who surrounded the Kings in Carrión (may 1112). Gelmirez then offered support to Doña Urraca to change that proclaimed sovereign Alfonso VIII of Galicia. The proclamation took place on September 17 of the same year. Alfonso the Battler reacted and after having broken the siege of Carrion, confronted the troops of Gelmirez in Viandangos, near Astorga, inflicting a harsh defeat to the Bishop, who managed to escape with the King at the last moment.

When he/she returned to Compostela could enjoy a situation of preeminence for its condition of co-tutor of Alfonso VII (another tutor was at Earl of lock). The Queen handed over the Government of Galicia to the Bishop, who had to overcome a new revolt in Santiago, headed by Arias Pérez, in April of 1113 is declared supporter of Alfonso the Battler and had allied with the English pirates. Gelmírez and Urraca fenced Arias Pérez Lobeira Castle and all headings comuneros then surrendered. The Bishop took his share of the loot with him bought the winners all prisoners who had made and then freed them returning their ships to the English that they might be in Galicia.

The war between Doña Urraca and Alfonso the Battler for the excesses that the second had committed in their campaigns against Castilla broke out in 1113. The starting point of this war was the fact that undertake it Alfonso the Battler to slaps against the Group (formed by bishops) that the Queen had sent to Parley with the Aragonese. Gelmirez again lined up on the side of the Queen and, together with the troops of the count of Traba, succeeded in getting back to the Aragonese army to Villafranca de Oca. Doña Urraca promised Gelmírez respect him his territories and his diocese and it insisted that the Queen is separate from don Alfonso, as it had been the will of Pascal II. And again Doña Urraca was reconciled with the King. Gelmirez launched a harangue from the Church of Carrión de los Condes in which came to excommunicate those who approve the incestuous marriage of Kings; the sermon put the inhabitants against and the Bishop had to flee for his life. Then he/she returned to Galicia and tried to get closer to the count of Traba and Doña Teresa of Portugal. The first negotiations between the Bishop and the Countess must have been very fruitful, since Hugo, Secretary and confidant of Gelmírez was appointed Bishop of Oporto. Galician politics was unlinking of Castile while and Doña Urraca, to avoid this, tried to divide the Galicians offering half of the lordship of Gelmirez in return for their oath of allegiance to the count of Traba. The refusal of the count, the Queen tried to bribe Gelmirez to offering him the lordship of Lobeira. The Bishop also refused.

But a year later don Alfonso repudiated his wife after receiving a letter from Doña Teresa of Portugal, stating that the Queen was going to poison. Then began a period (1114-1116) in which Doña Urraca soon tried to pin the Bishop as he/she promised you abide by your dignity. In those years Gelmírez asked Pascal II Santiago will become Archbishop, but the Pope refused it. Gelmirez should be cautioned by the Pope because of his frequent intrusions into the Diocese of Braga.

Prince Alfonso claimed their rights in Galicia with the support of Gelmírez and the lock count, but Doña Urraca, supported by his supporters, took the city of Santiago and withdrew to Castile, leaving Compostela dominated by the rioters. These insurgents were headed, possibly because their claims and a clergyman called Arias Muniz, near Gelmirez were supported by the emerging bourgeoisie Santiago de Compostela. Their reasons for complaint were directly headed Gelmirez, by his blatant nepotism and patronage continued sale. The rebels delivered a letter to the Bishop that claimed a series of communal rights; Gelmirez wanted to give back to the situation and supported the claims, trying to become the ringleader of the revolt. Arias Muniz, following Bishop game, accepted natural Señorío de Gelmírez about Galicians and requested that it was he/she himself who govern them and the Countess of locking out of Galicia Alfonso VII. Gelmirez, believing to have won the game, accepted; but as soon as the Royal Cavalry left Compostela crowd he/she went out to ask the head of the Bishop, who had to take refuge in one of the towers of the Cathedral. To end this situation came the Queen to Santiago in 1117 and recognized the lordship of Gelmirez in Exchange for which the Bishop leaves the side of the count of Traba and Alfonso VII and popped into Spanish. The Bishop, who was in a very compromising situation, accepted the premises of the Queen and marched against the lands of the count of Traba. Not earned him to retrieve the Galicia Government, because for weeks the communal Council took charge of Compostela, increasingly ignoring the authority of the Bishop. Gelmirez managed to flee disguised as a beggar and went in search of the Queen, whose support won; Doña Urraca gave a relic of Santiago Alfeo that Bishop entered triumphantly in Compostela Gelmirez (during the middle ages the power media of the relics was very large). The situation calmed and Gelmírez got together again to the count of Traba and his protected King with Doña Urraca. This union returned to the comuneros against the powerful (this time all of them together) and Doña Urraca came to Compostela to quell the revolt, but Castilian phalanges were defeated by the raised village and the Queen should take refuge in the Cathedral together with the Bishop. The town burned the Cathedral Tower and allowed to leave the Queen. During the fire of the signal Tower and immediate Street revolt, killed those who were there, including a brother and a nephew of Gelmirez. But the Bishop, once disguised as a beggar, got confused in the crowd and escape to the nearby church of Corticela and from there, through the rooftops, to the House of a Canon to the Bishop called Pedro Gudensíndez. At night he/she managed to leave the city and was looking for the Queen, to save his life had made a pact with the unruly delivery of the Bishop. Gelmirez excommunicated the troublemakers, which had appointed a new Bishop whose name is unknown (perhaps was the own Arias Muniz) and the Queen raised his army against the Galicians and took the city, banishing the main executors of the revolt. Bishop lifted the excommunication that had launched against the inhabitants and managed to recover the jewels of the temple. Doña Urraca and her son reconciled and marched against Alfonso the Battler, he/she seized the city of Toledo (1118). Then don Alfonso Raimúndez and Doña Urraca sent a letter to Gelmirez, asking him to respect the authority of the Primate of Toledo.

However, to 1120, Gelmírez returned to ask the new Pope, Callistus II, the Metropolitan dignity for the headquarters of Santiago. In the negotiations, the Chief Representative of the Compostela Bishop was his chronicler and Archdeacon Hugo, of French origin. The new Pontiff, belonging to the House of Burgundy and uncle of Alfonso VII, acceded to their requests, and also granted the title of pontifical legacy for the Diocese of Braga and Merida Gelmirez. The bulls came in 1122 and the inauguration of these two positions was held on 25 March of that year. This appointment was supposed to take from the Diocese of Mérida to the Toledo and make it suffragan of Santiago and caused the reaction of the Archbishop of Toledo, Bernardo, who harshly opposed Gelmirez. Bernardo was able to avoid the headquarters of Braga to traspasase its metropolitan dignity to Compostela. Although not without problems, Gelmírez was able to consolidate the appointment. After this ascent Gelmírez wanted to go further and requested the Pope that the Primate of Spain. Bernardo, learned of the plans from the Archbishop of Compostela, Calixto II asked to confirm him as Primate and got it. However, ignoring the Papal orders, Gelmírez summoned a Council in Compostela (such call was a prerogative of the primacy). He/She started a new confrontation between both prelates, in which Bernardo demanded the return of the Diocese of Mérida by appealing to the latest papal decisions; Gelmirez opposed the bulls received in 1122. The Pope ended by giving the reason Gelmirez. Now as Primate, it convened a National Council in 1124, attended by eight bishops and twenty-four Abbots. The first two gelmirianos councils were also conceived as a means of propaganda and they discussed a topic which interested both inhabitants and pilgrims: peace.; the pilgrims spread throughout Europe the ideology of Gelmírez on the supremacy of its headquarters, which came directly from the discovery of the relics of Santiago (Rome itself had based its prestige in being founded under the grave of the Apostle Pedro). Gelmirez could reach the peak of their ecclesiastical power with the Council convened in 1125, which achieved a broad consensus, despite the opposition of Doña Urraca and her son, who had taken party by the toledano prelate. But the death of Calixto II, his successor, Honorius II, gave reason to the Metropolitan of Toledo, Raimundo, successor of Bernard. However, Gelmírez followed graduated primacy and had such treatment by Alfonso VII in the Council of Palencia. At the Council of Carrion, in 1130 and in which the primacy of Toledo, was present Gelmírez enjoyed by mercy of the King of the prerogatives of the Primate, and still got the mitres of Lugo and Salamanca for two of its most faithful canons. During his pontificate, Gelmirez in Compostela convened seven Councils (from the 8th to the 14th), although he/she did not attend various councils convened by Popes Gelasius II, Pope Innocent II and Callixtus II. After the Council of Carrion, the councils convened by Gelmirez did not have the same significance and in each of them it was highlighted the gradual decline of the prestige of Diego Gelmírez.

In 1120 Doña Urraca traveled to Galicia to renew the pledge of allegiance that its inhabitants had made him in 1117 and to be proclaimed Queen of Galicia with exclusivity. The Queen ordered to arrest Gelmírez, who did not see but a hindrance to their plans, but this prevented, managed to escape. To ingratiate himself with the Doña Urraca appointed him Governor of Galicia, but the Queen could not consummate their plans.

diego Gelmírez was a pioneer in the introduction of warships to combat piracy; in fact their initiative marked the starting point of the Spanish Navy. Initially used Genoese galleys, but soon he/she brought from Pisa and Genoa owners so they build two quick boarding ships. From 1115 were built under his orders ships register and there are authors who claim that he/she was the creator of Iria shipyard, which can not be ensured with certainty, but its development is safe at the time of the Archbishop. In 1121 Gelmírez developed campaigns to clean the Galician coasts of the almoravides and Norman Pirates with positive results, as the enemy apprehended ships went to swell the Galician squad.

Received Gelmírez then a request from Queen, allied with his son Alfonso Raimúndez, had the army in Galicia to repel the attacks of Teresa of Portugal, which had conquered Tuy. The Archbishop went to the rescue of Doña Urraca, and managed to drive back the Portuguese toward the Douro line. Gelmirez took over the Diocese of Braga, where Teresa of Portugal had placed a Bishop addicted to it, Paio Mendes, whom the Compostela named honorary canon of the Santiago headquarters. Then the Queen, through deception, managed to do the Gelmirez army moved away and, when the Archbishop was helpless, he/she sent him to pin together with people from his entourage and imprisoned again in Santa María de Castrelo. Doña Urraca announced that he/she was going to start a research on the exercise of the power of the Archbishop. The King, people and even Calixto II demanded the release of the prelate and so it came to pass, but Doña Urraca refused to return the conquered forts, putting the Kingdom on the verge of civil war. The intervention of Gelmirez in December of 1121 managed to avoid confrontation, at the moment. Doña Urraca appointed Governor of Galicia Gelmirez in those years. The news made the lock is felt attacked. In 1123, the war broke out when Doña Urraca attacked Galicia and set the lock count. To do this, he/she got the neutrality of Gelmirez. Alfonso VII, tired of the attacks on his subjects, became arm Knight (Gelmírez blessed weapons, despite its promise of neutrality) may 25, 1124 and tried to reject the troops of Doña Urraca. The war stopped after some early skirmishes and mother and son were reconciled for the last time. Doña Urraca died in 1126.

Gelmirez renewed its commitment with Alfonso VII and after the death of the Queen was devoted to Galician Lords who had refused to recognize Alfonso. The coronation of Alfonso took place in Leon 10 March 1126 and Gelmírez was present. The Archbishop fought on side of the King when the Portuguese began a new offensive in 1127. The Galician defeat in San Mamede (1128) was the final split of the Diocese of Braga of the Compostela. The peace was signed after several weeks of skirmishes. Also collaborated Gelmírez economically with Alfonso, giving him ten thousand frames of silver that the sovereign had requested as war compensation. However the Archbishop did not allow the intrusion of Alfonso in their States and objected to the Royal order of the prendimiento of the Treasurer of the Cathedral. This lack of submission put the monarch against and hereinafter Alfonso VII coerced the Archbishop asking for more and more money. But in 1128 the power of Gelmírez was still enough to get Alfonso VII to renounce its ability to appoint bishops and transferred it to the Archbishop. In addition was named Chancellor of the Kingdom of León, matching it in charges to the Archbishop of Toledo, who was Chancellor of Castile; Gelmirez delivered this political office administrator, Bernardo, although he/she claimed income. The chaplaincy of Palace (its revenues) obtained King along with the post of Chancellor. In 1129 detractors of Gelmírez took it ill to the King to request his dismissal in return for 4,000 silver frames. Papa Inocencio II sent Spain a legacy to solve the issue, Cardinal Guido, which did not authorize the deposition. It was a time of schism in which there were two pretenders to the throne of san Pedro: innocent II from Rome and Anacletus II from Genoa; both sent letters to Gelmirez in 1130 promising the return of the primacy of the Spains in return that secundase their sides. Although the prelate did not answer any of the two letters, his stance is closer to Anacleto II, until in 1131 Pope innocent obtained the subjugation of the Bishops of England, Castile, France and Aragon and then decanted Gelmirez is definitely by Pope Innocent II. Gelmirez enemies tried him to murder in August 1136, but the prelate managed to save life and to recover, after which he/she attended the Council of Burgos, held in October of the same year and where their involvement was secondary. Gelmirez spent the end of his life sick. Data taken from the Archbishop come from documentation that gave different concessions to several monasteries in August 1139.

The pontificate of Gelmírez was the sublimation of the Santiago headquarters, for which the Archbishop spared no effort. Your project make Compostela one of the great centers of pilgrimage in the West led him to undertake numerous works of beautification of the Cathedral to be left at the height of the European cathedrals that the pilgrims knew: renewed the baldachin and altar Chapel, had placed a new altar of confession and a new table for the altar of the Apostle and changed the front with a new silver. Aware of the power of attraction of the relics, he/she transferred to Santiago from the Diocese of Braga, san Silvestre, san Cucufate and san Fructuoso. Gelmirez succeeded in establishing a just as important as Rome or Jerusalem pilgrimage centre in Santiago. Today is related to the guide of the Pilgrim, produced by the French Aimaro, with the Cathedral of Santiago and the time of Gelmirez, because there come from the two manuscripts preserved more ancient of the work. In addition to the Cathedral, built on the tomb of the Apostle, many other churches and Galician monasteries were rebuilt and beautified under the patronage of Diego Gelmírez. Also he/she left his initiative the writing of the history of Compostela, a work in which the prelate tried to perpetuate their facts and merits.


MURGUIA, M. Don Diego Gelmírez: [historical critical study of this illustrious prelate]. Coruña, 1898.

PÉREZ DE URBEL, j. "The beginning of the reconquest", in history of Spain Menéndez Pidal, vol. VI. Madrid, Espasa Calpe. 1994.

XAVIER, A. Diego Gelmírez. Kingdom of Galicia, centuries XI - XII. Barcelona, 1985.