Dragons and magic swords: a legend of Barcelona’s Born

Jun 12, 2020 | 0 comments

Moos Tips

Dragons and magic swords: a legend of Barcelona’s Born

Jun 12, 2020 | 0 comments

Moos Tips

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Anyone who comes to Barcelona will discover that in many buildings and public spaces (in the Born neighborhood they will also see it), the famous legend of Sant Jordi is recreated a thousand and one times: a medieval knight who kills a fierce dragon and, by doing so, rescues the princess.

Sant Jordi, or Saint George, is the patron saint of Catalonia and his legend was an essential element at the end of the 19th century, precisely in years where it seeks to recover and revalue Catalan culture and identity.

But Sant Jordi is not the only knight who undertakes the task of killing a dragon. The legend that we share with you today also tells us about the adventure of a medieval knight, brave enough to face that mythological beast.

It is true that he does not achieve exactly the same results … perhaps that is why he is less famous. But his story is still more than entertaining and even mixes with reality.

LET’S TRAVEL IN TIME TO THE XIII CENTURY.

In that medieval Barcelona there was a family of knights called Vilardell. In fact, the street in which they lived was known by their last name: Carrer d’en Vilardell. Today, that same street is called Carrer dels Cotoners and it is in the Born district, one of the most charming areas of the city of Barcelona.

Carrer de Cotoners. Born. Barcelona.
Carrer de Cotoners. Born. Barcelona.

The point is that, in those years, there was a dragon that attacked anyone who passed by the road that linked Barcelona to Girona: it didn’t matter if they were people or animals, the hungry dragon devoured them all.

Tired of this situation, the knight Soler de Vilardell decided to take action on the matter and prepared to undertake the great adventure: go kill a dragon.

When he was about to leave his house, he met a homeless man at the door. The man, who evidently lived in very poor condition, asked the gentleman for spare change.

Soler de Vilardell left his sword resting on the door and entered the house to look for some coins, to help the poor man.

However, when he returned to meet him, he was no longer there. But not only was the tramp missing, his own sword was also missing!

The strangest thing about the case was that instead, there was another. A sword of great mettle with a precious handle. And with a special detail: on the sheet there was an inscription that read like this:

“Espasa de virtut

brac de cavaller

pedra i drac

jo partire”

(“Sword of Virtue

knight’s arm

stone and dragon

I will split”)

With such a sword in hand, Soler felt that he could not fail. He was ready to go on his journey and kill the dragon.

Halfway there he thought it would be better to test the sword, to see if what the inscription put, was really fulfilled.

He chose a large rock on the way and, saying the magic words, he loaded it:

“Espasa de virtut

brac de cavaller

pedra i drac

jo partire”

Espada invencible de Soler de Vilardell
Espada de Vilardell “La Vilardella”

The rock split in two without difficulty, and at that moment, the knight realized that he had the best sword to obtain victory. So, without hesitation, he continued his journey to find the famous dragon.

And the moment came: there was the beast, hungry and fierce. Soler de Vilardell attacked the animal, without fear. His magic sword gleamed as he gripped it with all his might and thrust it into the dragon’s neck. With a single blow he cut off his head, while saying:

“Brac de cavaller

espasa de virtut

pedra i drac

jo partire”

(“Knight’s arm / Sword of Virtue / stone and dragon / I will split ”)

Glad that he had won, he did not realize that he had not said the words in the correct order. And, while his arm was raised with the sword up, a drop of the dragon’s blood slipped down the sword blade, passing through his arm and finally reaching his heart. Only a moment passed, and the brave knight fell dead from poisoning.

Soler de Vilardell luchando con su espada mágica (Catedral de Barcelona / barrio del Born)
The door of Sant Iu (San Ivo) of the cathedral of Barcelona and the representation of the knight Soler de Vilardell

If you are on your way through Catalonia, and you pass through Sant Celoni, you can see a mountain of stones that, people say, covers the corpse of the knight. Everyone calls it the “Roca del Drac” (Dragon’s Rock).

And the sword? It stayed in the family for a long time. Many kings and princes wanted to possess it, for being so precious and special, but the Vilardells did not want to part with it.

However, there is a curious record, in the year 1270. A sentence in the Courtesy Archive of the city nullifies a duel in which two gentlemen clashed: Bernat de Centelles and Arnau de Cabrera. The reason for the nullity? It appears that the winner had used Soler de Vilardell’s magic sword and, as everyone knew at the time, it was forbidden to use magic weapons in cavalry.

Finally, it is known that the sword passed into the hands of the Counts of Barcelona, ​​a jewel that they inherited in the family. This is stated in the documents of those years that are preserved in the Archive of the Crown of Aragon.

Source: “Fantasmas de Barcelona” Sylvia Lagarda Mata / @cuadernodeLuis

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