Biography of Sancho I. King of Asturias y León (ca.933-966)

Seventh King of León from the year 956 until the 958 and from March of the year 959 until the date of his death. Born approximately between 933 and 934 and died in December of the year 966.

Biographical synthesis

Son of Ramiro II, in the year 944 moved to Castile, where took charge of the Government until the death of his father. Deeply affected by not having been appointed King of León, he settled in Pamplona and in the year 955 organized a military expedition to overthrow his brother Ordoño III, although it did not succeed. After the death of Ordoño III, was proclaimed King of León, though he soon had to face the troops of the count of Castile, Fernán González, which lent its support to the future Ordoño IV. Abandoned by his supporters, Sancho, who in recent years had developed a terrible obesity, decided to take refuge once again in Navarra, where contacted Abd al-Rahman III, which in addition to send one of their doctors to help him lose weight, procured him needed men so its restoration will take place. Installed back on the throne in the year 959, while he was able to secure his position, at no time had the total membership of his subjects, especially in Galicia and Portugal. So willing to put an end to the rebellion of notable Galicians, he came to this territory with a powerful army, but after completing the campaign he died poisoned.

From its early years to the coronation of Ordoño II

Third of the sons of the King of León Ramiro II and son of the second wife, Urraca Sánchez; He spent the first years of his life at the Court of his father, where just like his brothers, received an education careful under the close supervision of the monarch, which repeatedly demonstrated publicly the affection that he felt for the youngest of his sons, as evidenced by the fact that the own Sancho is entitled in some documents as "delight" or "pledge of the King". In this way it is possible to attest its presence in the retinue of Ramiro II from his earliest childhood, since the first document that have your signature is dated on February 9, the year 937.

In this sense there to emphasize that during the following years it is common to find the signing of Sancho after that of Ramiro II and the future Ordoño III, which has been interpreted by some researchers as evidence, should not exist any confrontation between two brothers, until shortly before the death of his father. Yet if we take into account the opinion of some Muslim historians, it seems that Sancho always felt great antipathy by Ordoño, since at all times was considered the legitimate successor of Ramiro II. But they were or not patent the clashes between them, taking into account the claims of these same chroniclers, it seems proved that numerous attentions the King lavished him were not entirely beneficial to Sancho, since contributed largely to the young become an arrogant and ambitious person.

However, it seems clear that the ambitions of Sancho increased by the decision of his father send you to Castilla in the year 944, while some authors argue that Ramiro II in no time encouraged hopes for his son. Thus Sancho was sent to Castilla, due to his kinship with the Kings of Navarre; as a last resort to stop the uprising led by the count of Castile, Fernán González, and the count of Saldaña, Diego Muñoz. But the life of Sancho was marked by his transfer, since it did not return to the Court when it ended the conflict, since took over the Government of the territory until the death of Ramiro II in the year 951.

He had assumed a terrible blow to Sancho the coronation of Ordoño III, after the abdication of Ramiro II of January 5, the year 951, reason why he decided to leave the territories that remained under its authority, when he met the news of the death of his father. Shortly after he moved to Pamplona, where had solid supporters, and once installed began to conspire against Ordoño III. Finally in the year 955, with the help of a powerful army made up of soldiers Navarre and Castile, he attempted to overthrow the King of León, though its troops will not able to enter in combat due to the powerful defenses of Sahagún square. Thus returning to Navarre, with a totally demoralized army, must have been a bitter experience for Sancho, who looked like their chances to occupy the throne is depleted.

Death of Ordoño II, Sancho I King of Leon

But Sancho situation would change after the unexpected death of Ordoño III, in the summer of the year 956. So while it did not have the support of notable Leon, could proclaim himself King in Galicia, where had a small group of supporters, who were powerful enough to support his candidacy. Thus in spite that Sancho had been proclaimed King at Compostela in the month of November of the year 956, we do not find his name in the documentation of the city of León until February of the following year, which is a clear proof of the strength of the capital to accept the new monarch, but it was soon recognized his authority without much enthusiasm. With regard to Castilla is possible to detect very early dates from the birth of an important focus of opposition to Sancho I, since Fernán González, after arranging the marriage of his daughter with the future Ordoño IV, decided to lend their support to an infant that had gone unnoticed so far.

At this point is necessary to keep in mind that while the authority of Sancho I appears consolidated in the summer of the year 957, soon changed the situation, since by those same dates an attack of Muslims took place in Leon lands. Such an attack in which the Christian troops suffered a tough defeat, had wide implications for the King, who saw most of the nobles withdrew their lukewarm support, since they did not understand how they could support a monarch incapable of taking up arms to defend their possessions, because of its tremendous obesity.

The silence that keeps the documentation in the following months prevents us from knowing when exactly Sancho decided to flee Pamplona, although all indications are that this should leave their possessions at the beginning of the year 958, when Ordoño IV penetrated in Galicia. According to Muslim Chronicles indicate we were now very hard for Sancho I, who defend their interests confided to his maternal grandmother, the Queen all, which decided to negotiate with Abd al - Rahman III, since this was only that it had sufficient strength to support her beloved grandson.

He did not hesitate to answer the cordobés to messages sent to its territory by all and García Sánchez I, since shortly after we are at one of their men in Navarre. The Envoy of the Caliph soon won the respect of Sancho, since in addition to a famed negotiator, this was a very prestigious doctor, who managed to cure his tremendous obesity in just a few months. As well as proof of gratitude Sancho traveled early in the summer of the year 958 to Córdoba, where he was received with all honours by the Caliph, which concluded an Alliance, which it undertook to restore him to power, in Exchange for the return of some border squares in the area of the Douro.

Once signed the Treaty Abd al - Rahman III and Sancho carefully planned expedition to overthrow Ordoño IV and decided to split the army into two blocks. The first, consisting of Navarre troops, should take care of defeating Fernán González and the second, in which the own Sancho in front of the Muslim army was to attack Zamora, the city that was under its authority in March of the year 959. In the month of April we can find Sancho I in Sahagún accompanied by an important turnout, in which we can detect the presence of important Christian Knights attached to their cause, such as the count of Monzón, Fernando Ansúrez, which had become his brother-in-law, after having married Sancho with her sister Teresa, which was the mother of the only descendant of the monarch, the future Ramiro III. So feeling safe, Sancho went to Galicia, place where sought to assert his authority, as he had done years before, although on this occasion tried to ingratiate themselves with a greater number of noble and above all get the support of the clergy grouped around the future San Rosendo, the elder brother of Ordoño II.

The year 960 started to Sancho I in the opinion of Justiniano Fernández refurbished "under the sign of normality", although hardly has been evidence of their activities. Yet we know that on 1 December this year, took place one of the solemn most important acts of his reign, since Sancho in Sahagún convened a meeting in which both members of the high clergy, were present as of the high nobility. This Assembly was qualified in the first Chronicle General of Spain as the first call of the Kingdom of León Cortés, although there are many reasons to believe, that it was just a meeting in which the monarch attempted to strengthen his authority.

Despite the achieved important triumphs, were hardly hotbeds of rebellion against Sancho I; This remained popular in León. But his position inside improved dramatically after being ejected Ordoño IV of the city of Burgos, once it became clear that Fernán González, imprisoned in Navarre, was not in a position to protect his son-in-law. Although it should be noted that the March of Ordoño IV had major implications in terms of foreign policy, since after the arrival of this Córdoba, Sancho was forced to surrender the border squares promised years before his father, since he feared that his opponent got the Caliph, which he had obtained from Abd al - Rahman al - Hakam II III.

Secured peace with Córdoba and once the count of Castile was released, in the year 962, it seems that the attention of the monarch focused in Galicia and Portugal, where in recent years there had been clashes between aristocratic factions. Thus Sancho I in order to strengthen its authority in the territory, organized a powerful army and addressed areas of Orense and Braga and shortly thereafter, almost without opposition, could come along with his men to the banks of the Douro, where he was one of their main enemies, Gonzalo Muñoz, which soon started peace negotiations. It seems that calm was the predominant note, at least for a time, reason by which the King decided to settle in Coimbra, where at the end of the year 966 fell seriously ill after eating a fruit that had been injected with poison, apparently by the allies of the aforementioned Gonzalo Muñoz. Known details of the conspiracy, Sancho I decided to travel to Lion to die in this city, but it could not fulfill his desire since he died a few days later.

The remains of the monarch who, in the early years of his reign, had been known as Sancho the Crassus and subsequently the refurbished Sancho; they were deposited in the Church of the Savior of León.


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FERNÁNDEZ CATÓN, J. M. The Kingdom of León in the high middle ages. Alfons monarchy. Pelayo's Alfonso VI (718-1109). (Leon; Taravilla, printer, 1995).

RODRÍGUEZ FERNÁNDEZ, J. Sancho I and Ordoño IV. Kings of Leon. (Center for studies and research, San Isidoro, 1987).