El Cid  (1961)



Director:      Fred F. Sears

Starring:      Charlton Heston (Rodrigo, El Cid), Sophia Loren (Jimena),  Raf Vallone (Count OrdóZez),  GeneviPve Page (Princess Urraca),  John Fraser (Prince Alfonso),  Gary Raymond (Prince Sancho),  Hurd Hatfield (Arias),  Massimo Serato (Fanez),  Frank Thring (Al Kadir),  Michael Hordern (Don Diego),  Andrew Cruickshank (Count Gormaz),  Douglas Wilmer (Moutamin),  Tullio Carminati (Priest),  Ralph Truman (King Ferdinand),  Christopher Rhodes (Don Martín).

El Cid does not drive the Moors out of Spain, but he does drive them out of Valencia. This huge costume epic does a pretty good job of dealing with a complicated history.


Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire movie. 

1080.   It was an unhappy time.  Spain was war-torn.  It was half Christian and half Moor.  Rodrigo Diaz of Vivar came to be known as "El Cid" ("The Lord").  He was a simple man who became Spain's greatest hero.  At the time the African Emir was Ben Yusuf who gathered his forces in North Africa. 

Ben Yusuf tells his men that they will first take Spain, then Europe and then the whole world. 

A Spanish church is burning.  A Catholic Father prays at the burned altar.  Rodrigo comes over to help the Father get up.  He tells the Father that they have captured the leaders of the destruction.  The Father says to Rodrigo that he is a long way from home.  Rodrigo explains that he was on his way to his wedding when he suddenly had to fight a battle with the Moors.  Now he will take the captured Moorish leaders to Vivar. 

Rodrigo returns home to Vivar.  His father and the town's people welcome him home.  The sentiment of the people is to hang the Moorish leaders immediately.  As they consider what to do with their captives, Don Garcia Ordonez arrives at the head of a column of horsemen.  He tells Rodrigo that he will take his prisoners back to King Ferdinand at Burgos where they will be hanged in the palace square.  But Rodrigo asks what has all this fighting and killing done for the people.  It certainly has not brought peace.  Don Garcia tells Rodrigo that it is treason if he does not turn the prisoners over to the King.  Rodrigo ignores the warning.  He has each of the five Emirs swear that they will not attack King Ferdinand's country again and then lets them go.  Don Garcia shouts that he charges Rodrigo with treason.  He has seven days to appear before the royal court to answer the charge. 

Don Garcia returns to the castle and reports to the King.  Jimena, the bride to be, calls out for Rodrigo.  Princess Urraca comes in to tell Jimena that there was a battle with the Moors.  Rodrigo is alive and well.  Then her father comes in to give Jimena some bad news.  He tells her that she can learn to love again without telling her exactly what Rodrigo has been charge with.  Don Garcia Ordonez is the one who tells Jimena that Rodrigo is a traitor.  Jimena refuses to believe it.  Don Garcia says that he will do anything to win the love of Jimena. 

King Ferdinand of Castile, Leon and Asturias sits on his throne.  The eldest brother, Prince Sancho, comes in followed by the younger brother Prince Alfonso.  The next to come in is Princess Urraca.  Rodrigo paces back and forth in a waiting room.  Jimena comes to see him there.  She tells Rodrigo that she knows that he is not guilty.  She wants to know what he did and he explains that he let five Emirs go.  Jimena gasps:  "Moors?  You let Moors live?" 

At the court Rodrigo's father speaks on his behalf.  He tells Jimena's father that he lies.  To defend his honor, Jimena's father slaps Rodrigo's father with his glove.  Later Rodrigo confronts Jimena's father.  He says:  "You shamed my father.  I want his name back."  But Count Gormaz says he cannot apologize.  Rodrigo asks that Gormaz take pity on a proud old man.  In fact, he begs him.  Jimena's father says he cannot and he will not apologize.  This results in a sword fight between the two men in which Rodrigo kills the father of Jimena.  Jimena discovers her father dying and he asks her to avenge his death.  She says she will. 

Jimena dresses all in black.  Rodrigo tries to explain about his father's honor, but Jimena says:  "You bought your honor with my sorrow."   Rodrigo tells her he tried not to come to her, but his love just won't die.  He tells her:  "Tell me you don't love me."  Jimena says she cannot.  Not yet, at least.  But she says she will learn to hate him. 

Jimena comes to court still dressed in black.  Suddenly the King of Aragon, named Ramiro, and some of his men on horseback force their way into the court.  They claim that the city of Calahorra belongs to Aragon and the King of Aragon has come to claim it.  But the King of Castile's representative says that Calahorra is part of Castile.  Ramiro then challenges Ferdinand to battle on the plain of Calahorra.  The King of Castile refuses saying that the Moors would love nothing better than for one Christian King to fight another.  So Ramiro says that a champion from each kingdom will fight one another for the city.   Rodrigo steps up to accept the challenge for Castile.  After all, he killed the King's champion (Jimena's father) so he should fight the champion of Aragon.  The King of Castile says that Don Martin has killed 27 men in single combat.  This, however,  does not stop Rodrigo.  So the King agrees to let him fight. 

At the joust Jimena asks Don Martin to wear her colors and avenge her father.  The princess gives her colors to Rodrigo.  In the joust itself Martin is winning handily.  But when he tries to run over Rodrigo his horse stumbles and Martin is thrown to the ground.  In hand to hand combat Rodrigo kills Martin.  The King of Aragon announces that the city of Calahorra belongs to King Ferdinand and Castile. 

King Ferdinand tells everyone that Rodrigo’s victory proves that the charges brought against him were false. Rodrigo will be the King’s champion. Rodrigo tells Jimena that her colors are no longer black, but Jimena refuses his offer.  Later Jimena asks Don Garcia if another will avenge her father.  Garcia tells her that no one will fight Rodrigo now.  He is too powerful.  But Garcia says he himself would be willing to kill Rodrigo.  He makes the offer in attempt to get Jimena's love.  Jimena agrees to cooperate with him.  After Garcia leaves she sighs and asks:  "Oh, father, why did you give me such a burden?"

As Rodrigo is the king's champion, his first assignment is to lead an expedition to put down the Moors.  The Moors no longer pay tribute to the Kingdom of Castile and Rodrigo must subdue them.  Don Garcia asks to go along on the expedition.  Rodrigo only asks the king that if he does return, that he will give Jimena to him in marriage.  The king agrees.  The men go off on the expedition.  Princess Urraca speaks with Jimena and asks her if she will marry Rodrigo.  She tells her:  "If it's the king's order, I must obey."  Urraca is disgusted by the offer. 

The expedition heads through a narrow valley and is ambushed.  The men from Castile are having a rough time of it, when Lord Moutamin (one of the five Emirs freed by Rodrigo) comes to the rescue with his men.  Rodrigo tells him:  "You came in good time this day."  The Emir tells Rodrigo that he was betrayed by one of his own.  A dying Castile soldier tells Rodrigo that the traitor is Don Garcia.  Rodrigo confronts Garcia who tells him about the deal he made with Jimena to kill him.  Despite opposition from Prince Sancho, Rodrigo decides no to kill Garcia saying that any man can kill, but only a king can give life. 

Rodrigo and Jimena are married.  But their first night does not go smoothly.  She sits at the opposite end of the table from him and does not speak to Rodrigo.   Then Jimena tells her husband that she and Garcia had planned his death together.  When they finally meet in the bedroom he tells her that he knew about the conspiracy.  He tells her:  "I hoped the marriage would end your hate."  She pulls away from him and tells him that she married him because it was the only way left to avenge her father.  She adds that she will never give her love to him.  Rodrigo leaves, she cries.

Jimena goes to a convent.  The mother superior asks her why she has come back to them.  Jimena says she is looking for peace, but the sister tells here that the peace she looks for will not be found within these walls of the convent.  But she is welcome to stay until she sorts things out. 

The King of Castile dies.  Prince Alfonso tells his older brother Sancho that their father gave him Castile, while giving Leon and Asturia to him (Alfonso).  Princess Urraca will receive the city of Calahorra.  This shocks Sancho and he refuses to accept the split.  So Alfonso tries to kill Sancho with a knife.  In the knife fight that follows, Sancho tells Alfonso that he is too close to their sister, that he covets her.  Just as Sancho is about to kill Alfonso, Urraca comes in to stop him.  Sancho decides to send his brother to the dungeon of Zamora. 

As the guard detail escorts Prince Alfonso to the dungeon, Rodrigo stops them.  He starts to fight all thirteen guards for their prisoner.  Rodrigo wins with a good assist from the Prince himself.  Rodrigo tells Alfonso that he will take him to his sister in Calahorra.  He does so. 

Ben Yusuf rides to Valencia with his men to secure the aid of the frightened Moorish King Al Kadir.  He wants to land his armada on the shores of Spain so he needs the help of Al Kadir.  He tells the King that King Ferdinand is dead and the princes are divided against each other.  Ben Yusuf tells the King that he has a professional assassin who will kill Prince Sancho and blame it on Prince Alfonso.  This will in turn cause a civil war in Spain.  To make certain that Al Kadir will hold Valencia, Ben Yusuf leaves his guards behind. 

Prince Sancho pays a visit to Calahorra in order to force his sister to give up their brother.  Urraca says that Alfonso will stay with her.  Sancho gives her awhile to think it over.  Urraca and Alfonso seek out Rodrigo to ask for his help, but he tells them that since he swore his support to Sancho, he cannot help either side.  So Urraca has to turn elsewhere.  She makes a deal with one of her soldiers (who actually is the Moorish assassin) to kill Sancho.  The assassin rides out of the fort and asks for sanctuary with Sancho's forces.  When he sees Sancho, he tells him that he has words only for his ears.  He says he will help him take Calahorra; that he knows of an unguarded gate.  Sancho foolishly goes with the assassin to check out the gate.  The assassin knifes Sancho from behind and leaves him to die.  Rodrigo sees all this and prepares his response.  When the assassin bangs on the out-of-the-way gate, Rodrigo opens the door and stabs the assassin to death.  He then rushes to the side of the dying Sancho, who asks him:  "I was almost a king, wasn't I?"  Rodrigo answers:  "You are a king, my Lord."  Sancho dies. 

Urraca speaks with Jimena in the convent.  She says that Jimena still loves Rodrigo; Rodrigo has to be stopped; and he will listen to Jimena.  Rodrigo is forcing Alonso to swear that he was not in any way responsible for Sancho's death before the soldiers will accept him as king.  Urraca adds:  "No one can ask a King to swear!"  She leaves. 

Jimena is present at the day of the acceptance of the new King.  Alonso comes to the top of the steps facing the plaza.  The soldiers are arrayed around and in the plaza.  Alfonso asks the soldiers to kneel in a sign of fealty to him, but Rodrigo refuses to kneel when everyone else does.  When Alfonso challenges Rodrigo on his refusal, Rodrigo tells him that he has to prove his innocence.  He must swear on the Holy Book that he had nothing to do with Sancho's death.  Alfonso swears on the Bible.  Not satisfied with this, Rodrigo demands him to swear to three other statements of innocence covering all the various possibilities of conspiracy.  When Alfonso swears to all, Rodrigo finally kneels before him. 

Now Alonso is king and his sister Urraca is by his side.  He exiles Rodrigo for life for his demeaning of the king.  No one is to help Rodrigo in any way at all. 

Rodrigo takes his horse along with another horse carrying many of his belongings and starts to leave the kingdom of Castile.  On top of a hill he stops to give a leper some water.  Jimena shows up on the same hill.  They embrace.  She asks Rodrigo to take her with him.  He answers:  "I have no where to take you."  Jimena doesn't care as long as they are together.  She tells Rodrigo that she loves him. 

Jimena tells Rodrigo that they will find some hidden place where they are not known where they can live peacefully.  They obviously think they are alone.  But when Rodrigo opens the front door he sees hundreds of soldier awaiting him.  Jimena dos not like what she sees.  The soldiers want Rodrigo to be their leader, despite Jimena's protestations.  Rodrigo shouts to the soldiers:  "For Spain!  For Spain!" 

At the palace Alfonso comes in to speak with Urraca.  He complains that he has been plagued by nightmares in which when he strikes the enemy he cuts off his own right arm. 

Rodrigo says good-bye to Jimena.  He says they will see each other again. 


Rodrigo (now with a large scar across his face) arrives at court and prostrates himself before Alfonso.  The King says that he has not forgotten Rodrigo's transgressions but needs his support.  Ben Yousef has landed and will face the Christian forces on the Plains of Sagraias.  Rodrigo begs Alfonso not to fight at the chosen place.  It is too risky.  He should first go to Valencia and take it.  Rodrigo then brings in his Muslim allies.  When the Muslims do not kneel before the king, Alfonso is upset.  But Rodrigo says that the Muslims here are all Moorish kings.  They will help the Christians because they also fear Ben Yousuf.  But Alfonso says something insulting and the kings leaves.  Alfonso then shouts to Rodrigo that he had better be at Sagraias with the Spanish forces or he will be declared an enemy. 

Rodrigo goes back to see Jimena.  For the first time he meets his twin daughters, Elvira and Sol.  Jimena is shocked when she sees his facial scar.  She tells the children that their father has been gone a long time.  Rodrigo says that he is tired of being in exile.  But now he can take his family home to Vivar with honors. 

Rodrigo with his troops joins his Muslim allies before the city of Valencia.  Their joint forces completely surround the city. 

King Alfonso is defeated on the Plains of Sagraias.  He and his troops go to the place where Jimena and her children are staying.  He has a plan.  He will put Jimena and the children in their deepest dungeon because the loss of their forces was the fault of Rodrigo.  Word arrives for Rodrigo that Alfonso will not release his family.  He wants Rodrigo to march on Burgos.  And that's exactly what Rodrigo does.  He shouts:  "To Burgos!" 

Jimena talks to Count Ordonez to ask him to help them escape to join Rodrigo and his forces.  Ordonez agrees. 

On his way to Burgos Rodrigo runs into Ordonez, his family and a troop of soldiers.  Ordonez asks Rodrigo to let him fight along side of him.  Rodrigo welcomes him.  On their way back to Valencia, Rodrigo sees Ben Yousuf 's armada landing Moorish soldiers.  Rodrigo decides that they will have to attack the Moors as soon as possible.  The Spanish forces have virtually starved the people inside the walls of the city of Valencia.  So now Rodrigo shouts to the people that they are not their enemies.  Rather Ben Yousuf is their common enemy.   The enveloping troops catapult bread over the walls of the city.  The city residents as well as the troops compete to grab the bread.  The Muslim leader of the city calls out his Black Guard to force the troops back onto the parapets.  But the Black Guard finds itself outnumbered and surrounded.  The mobs start killing the Black Guard troops.  Rather than fight the people, the Black Guard races out of the city walls to attack the forces of Rodrigo and his allies.  The Black Guard is eliminated by massive clouds of arrows fired by enemy archers.  The Muslim city leader is surrounded by the city residents, grabbed and thrown over the parapet to his death below.  Rodrigo's troops march victoriously into the walled city. 

Inside the city Lord Moutamin and others ask Rodrigo to proclaim himself King.  Rodrigo refuses.  Instead he shouts:  "I take Valencia in the name of Alfonso!"  Moutamin comments:  "What a noble subject!  If only he had a noble king."  Rodrigo sends the crown of Valencia to Alfonso.  Alfonso is surprised and shocked.  He  wants to know what Rodrigo wants from him and is further shocked when the messenger says Rodrigo wants nothing.  On the other hand, however, he would like some help defending Valencia now against Ben Yusuf.  Princess Yurruca shouts:  "No!"  But Alfonso has a different opinion.  He tells her:  "I am king of nothing.  I'm not a king at all."  He runs off to head for Valencia.  Count Ordonez is captured and staked out on a huge X-figure.  Ben Yusuf kills him while shouting:  "It will be our God against yours!" 

Rodrigo checks on the whereabouts of Count Ordonez.  He has not returned from his mission as of yet. 

Ben Yusuf assembles his troops on the beach.  They start marching on the beach to the walled city.  Rodrigo says that they will attack before dawn in order to split Yusuf's forces.  The next morning Rodrigo rides out of the gate shouting"  "For God, Alfonso and Spain!"  Yusuf's cavalry launches a counter-attack.  In the battle an arrow launched from a Moor ship badly wounds Rodrigo.  He and his forces retreat back to the walled city. 

Back inside the city, Rodrigo says that they have to attack again tomorrow.  Rodrigo loses a lot of blood.  Lord Moutamin tells Jimena that the only chance Rodrigo has of surviving his wound is to remove the arrowhead.  But Rodrigo refuses to do this.  He tells Jimena that she cannot save his life.  Instead, she must help him give it up.  Jimena is shocked at what she hears, but she reluctantly tells Lord Moutamin about her husband's decision.

Outside the city Ben Yusuf shouts to his troops:  "Allah be praised!  The Cid is dead!"  They will not come out and fight!  Inside the city Rodrigo's officers try to tell the city residents and the troops that the Cid is alive and well and that they attack tomorrow.  But the residents and troops do not believe the Cid is alive.  So Rodrigo gets himself out of bed, struggles over to a place overlooking a large part of the city and shows himself to the people.  The people spot him and then burst into cheers for him.  Rodrigo shouts:  "Tomorrow morning I will ride with you!"

Back in his bed Rodrigo tells his wife that he must be on his horse and at the head of his soldiers, alive or dead.  King Alfonso and his troops arrive.  Alfonso speaks with Rodrigo and asks him to forgive him.  Rodrigo tells the King:  "Its not easy for a man to conquer himself.  But you have."  Tomorrow they will fight side by side.  Rodrigo shouts for Jimena.  He tells her to remember him riding with his king.  He dies. 

Rodrigo is propped upright in his saddle on his white horse.  The officers ride with the Cid through the ranks of their troops.  The shout goes up:  "For God, the Cid and Spain!"  The Moors can't believe what they see: the Cid at the head of his army.  The Moors fall back.  Yusuf tries to stop them from retreating, but just manages to get himself stomped to death under the hooves of the horses of the oncoming army.  Many of the Moors run into the Mediterranean Sea to swim back to their ships. 

The last scene is of Jimena and her two twin girls standing at the parapet looking out toward the action. 


Good movie.  A big, sweeping epic.  And how can you beat Sophia Loren and Charlton Heston?  There wasn't much good news for what became Spain for centuries.  The Caliphate of Cordoba dominated from 711-1009 followed by the period of the thirty-nine successors from 1009 to 1252.  It was not until 1492 before the last of the Moors were pushed out of Spain.  So no wonder El Cid became a national hero of Spain.  His was a story of victory, even if only for awhile. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.


Historical Background:


Roman Presence. 218 B.C. to 568 A.D.

Visigothic Kingdom. 568 to 711.

568-586.: The Visigoth king Leovigild expels the imperial civil servants and attempts to unify the Peninsula. The end of the Roman empire in Spain.

Muslim Spain. 711-1009. Caliphate of Cordoba.

711: from Africa, Muslim troops cross the Strait of Gibraltar and defeat the Visigoth king Rodrigo at the battle of Guadalete.

712: Muza ben-Nosair completes the Muslim conquest. End of Visigothic period.

1009-1090  --  Fragmentation of the Cordoban Caliphate.

1009 - 1252. The period of the thirty-nine successors of the united Caliphate became known as the first Taifas (petty kingdoms), a period of great fragmentation and disunity.

Around the year 1000, the southern and central parts of today's Spain and Portugal (including the cities of Coimbra, Saragossa, Salamanca, Toledo, Valencia, Cordova, Seville, Granada, and Malaga) were controlled by the Caliphate of Cordova.  Northwestern and central north were controlled by the Kingdom of the Asturias and Leon (including the county of Castile).  The northeastern part of today's Spain was divided between the Kingdom of Navarre (containing the city of Pampona) on the west and the County of Barcelona on the east. 

1000 to 1033: Sancho III of Navarre subdues the counties of Aragon, Sobrarbe and Ribagorza, takes possession of the County of Castile and makes an arrangement with Bermudo III of Leon with the idea of taking away his dominions from him and proclaiming himself as emperor. On his death, however, he leaves Navarre to his son Garcia III; Castile to Fernando I; and Aragon, Sobrarbe and Ribagorza to Ramiro I.

1035 to 1063: Fernando I conquers Coimbra and obliges the Muslims of Toledo, Seville and Badajoz to pay him tribute. Before his death, he shares out his territories between his sons: Castile goes to Sancho II and Leon to Alfonso VI.

El Cid

El Cid stands out as a central figure of the long struggle of Christian Spain against the Moslems in Spain.

1043 -- born Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar at Vivar near Burgos; El Cid Campeador ("The Lord Champion"); his father was a minor Castilian nobleman.

1065  --  Ferdinand I dies.  He had divided his dominions between his three sons, Sancho, Alfonso, and Garcia, and his two daughters, Elvira and Urraca.  But Sancho, who now held the Kingdom of Castile, thought he should have it all since he was the eldest and worked toward taking the lands from his siblings. 

Grew up in the household of the future king, Sancho II of Castile, who did this out of gratitude for the services of Rodrigo's father to the State.

Did well in the military campaigns against Aragón for control of Zaragoza as the king's premier knight. He was made alferez (standard-bearer or commander-in-chief) of the king's troops. He was given the title of seid or cid (lord, chief) by the Moors.

1070  --  Sancho now moves against his siblings.  With the key support of Rodrigo, Sancho was able to take Leon and Galicia from his brothers. He then took the city of Toro from his sister Elvira.

1072  --  While laying siege to his sister Urraca's city of Zamora, Sancho was treacherously slain before the gates of the city by one of Urraca's soldiers.

Alfonso became King Alfonso VI.  There is a story that says the Castilians refused Alfonso their allegiance until he swore that he was not involved in the murder of his brother.  Rodrigo was the only noble who was not afraid to administer the oath for fear of offending the new king.  Rodrigo administered the oath at Santa Gadea before the assembled nobility. After this, Alfonso bore Rodrigo a good deal of  ill-will.

1074  --  Alfonso hid his ill-will toward Rodrigo and the Castilians by permitting Rodrigo to marry the king's niece Jimena. 

1076  --  Alfonso sends Rodrigo to collect tribute from the king of Seville, Alfonso's vassal, and then had him accused of retaining part of the funds. He then banishes Rodrigo from the land.  Rodrigo then becomes a soldier of fortune. He fought for many different rulers, not caring whether they were Christians or Moors.

When Yusuf, the founder of Morocco, attacks Christian Spain, Alfonso turns to Rodrigo for his support. But because of a misunderstanding, he failed to join the king.  The king then moved again against El Cid taking all his possessions, imprisoning his wife and children, and re-banishing him. So Rodrigo was back to being a soldier of fortune. 

1081 -- In eastern Spain Rodrigo works for the Moorish king of Zaragoza.

1086  -- The Christian advance obliges the Muslim kings of Granada, Seville and Badajoz to call to their aid the Almoravides.

1090 -- the Muslim Almoravides invade the Iberian Peninsula.

1094  -- after learning that the Moors had driven the Christians from Valencia, Rodrigo decided to retake the city and become lord of that capital. After a fierce siege, El Cid captures Valencia, which he rules in spite of Almoravid attacks. There in the Dominion of El Cid, Rodrigo spent the last of his life there.  One of his daughters married the Infante of Navarre while another married the Count of Barcelona.

1099 -- El Cid dies.  He is buried at the monastery of San Pedro de Cardena near Burgos.

Many legendary tales came out of the life of El Cid, especially, the "Poem of El Cid."

1102 -- The followers of El Cid leave Valencia and the African Muslims occupy the Peninsula as far as Saragossa (Zaragoza).

1492  --  It is not until this date that the Muslims were completely pushed out of Spain.  Taking advantage of the rivalry of the last Muslim governors of Spain, the Catholic Monarchs, Isabel and Fernando, completed the Reconquest by taking Granada (January 2nd). Discovery of America (October 12th).


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