Martyrs of Córdoba

Last updated
Martyrs of Córdoba
DiedBetween 850 and 859, Córdoba, Al-Andalus, modern day Spain
Martyred by Abd ar-Rahman II, Muhammad I of Córdoba
Means of martyrdom Decapitation
Venerated in Roman Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox Church
Notable martyrs Aurelius and Natalia, Eulogius, Liliosa, Perfectus, Roderick

The Martyrs of Córdoba were forty-eight Christian martyrs who were executed under the rule of Muslim conquerors in what is now southern Spain. At the time the area was known as Al-Andalus. The hagiography describes in detail the executions of the martyrs for capital violations of Islamic law, including apostasy and blasphemy. The martyrdoms related by Eulogius (the only contemporary source) took place between 851 and 859.

Spain Kingdom in Southwest Europe

Spain, officially the Kingdom of Spain, is a European country located in Southwestern Europe with some pockets of Spanish territory across the Strait of Gibraltar and the Atlantic Ocean. Its continental European territory is situated on the Iberian Peninsula. Its territory also includes two archipelagoes: the Canary Islands off the coast of Africa, and the Balearic Islands in the Mediterranean Sea. The African enclaves of Ceuta, Melilla, and Peñón de Vélez de la Gomera make Spain the only European country to have a physical border with an African country (Morocco). Several small islands in the Alboran Sea are also part of Spanish territory. The country's mainland is bordered to the south and east by the Mediterranean Sea except for a small land boundary with Gibraltar; to the north and northeast by France, Andorra, and the Bay of Biscay; and to the west and northwest by Portugal and the Atlantic Ocean.

Al-Andalus The territories of the Iberian Peninsula under Moorish rule between 711 and 1492

Al-Andalus, also known as Muslim Spain, Muslim Iberia, or Islamic Iberia, was a medieval Muslim territory and cultural domain that in its early period included most of Iberia, today's Portugal and Spain. At its greatest geographical extent, it occupied the northwest of the Iberian peninsula and a part of present-day southern France, Septimania, and for nearly a century extended its control from Fraxinet over the Alpine passes which connect Italy with the remainder of Western Europe. The name more generally describes the parts of the peninsula governed by Muslims at various times between 711 and 1492, though the boundaries changed constantly as the Christian Reconquista progressed, eventually shrinking to the south around modern-day Andalusia and then to the Emirate of Granada.

Hagiography Biography of a Christian saint

A hagiography is a biography of a saint or an ecclesiastical leader. The term hagiography may be used to refer to the biography of a saint or highly developed spiritual being in any of the world's spiritual traditions.


With few exceptions, the Christians knowingly risked execution by making public statements proclaiming their Christianity in the presence of Muslims. Some of the martyrs were executed for blasphemy after they appeared before the Muslim authorities and denounced Muhammad, while others who were Christian children of MuslimChristian marriages publicly proclaimed their Christianity and thus were executed as apostates. (Coope 1995)[ page needed ]. Still others who had previously converted to Islam denounced their new faith and returned to Christianity, and thus were also executed as apostates.

Martyr person who suffers persecution and death for advocating, refusing to renounce, and/or refusing to advocate a belief or cause, usually a religious one

A martyr is someone who suffers persecution and death for advocating, renouncing, refusing to renounce, or refusing to advocate a religious belief or cause as demanded by an external party. In the martyrdom narrative of the remembering community, this refusal to comply with the presented demands results in the punishment or execution of an actor by an alleged oppressor. Accordingly, the status of the 'martyr' can be considered a posthumous title as a reward for those who are considered worthy of the concept of martyrdom by the living, regardless of any attempts by the deceased to control how they will be remembered in advance. Originally applied only to those who suffered for their religious beliefs, the term has come to be used in connection with people killed for a political cause.

Muhammad Founder of Islam

Muhammad was an Arab religious, social and political leader and the founder of Islam. According to Islamic doctrine, he was a prophet, sent to present and confirm the monotheistic teachings preached previously by Adam, Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and other prophets. He is viewed as the final prophet of God in all the main branches of Islam, though some modern denominations diverge from this belief. Muhammad united Arabia into a single Muslim polity, with the Quran as well as his teachings and practices forming the basis of Islamic religious belief. He is referred to by many appellations, including Messenger of Allah, The Prophet Muhammad, Allah's Apostle, Last Prophet of Islam and others; there are also many variant spellings of Muhammad, such as Mohamet, Mahamad, Muhamad and many others.

The lack of another source after Eulogius's own martyrdom has given way to the misimpression that there were fewer episodes later in the 9th century. [1]

Historical background

In 711 AD, a Muslim army from North Africa had conquered Visigoth Christian Iberia. [2] Under their leader Tariq ibn-Ziyad, they landed at Gibraltar and brought most of the Iberian Peninsula under Islamic rule in an eight-year campaign. The Iberian Peninsula was called al-Andalus by its Muslim rulers. When the Umayyad Caliphs were deposed in Damascus in 750, the dynasty relocated to Córdoba, ruling an emirate there; consequently the city gained in luxury and importance, as a center of Iberian Muslim culture.

Moors Medieval Muslim inhabitants of the Maghreb, Iberian Peninsula, Sicily, and Malta

The term "Moors" refers primarily to the Muslim inhabitants of the Maghreb, the Iberian Peninsula, Sicily, and Malta during the Middle Ages. The Moors initially were the indigenous Maghrebine Berbers. The name was later also applied to Arabs.

North Africa Northernmost region of Africa

North Africa is a region encompassing the northern portion of the African continent. There is no singularly accepted scope for the region, and it is sometimes defined as stretching from the Atlantic shores of Mauritania in the west, to Egypt's Suez Canal and the Red Sea in the east. Others have limited it to the countries of Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia, a region that was known by the French during colonial times as "Afrique du Nord" and is known by Arabs as the Maghreb. The most commonly accepted definition includes Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, and Sudan, the 6 countries that shape the top North of the African continent. Meanwhile, "North Africa", particularly when used in the term North Africa and the Middle East, often refers only to the countries of the Maghreb and Libya. Egypt, being also part of the Middle East, is often considered separately, due to being both North African and Middle Eastern at the same time.

Christians people who adhere to Christianity

Christians are people who follow or adhere to Christianity, a monotheistic Abrahamic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus Christ. The words Christ and Christian derive from the Koine Greek title Christós (Χριστός), a translation of the Biblical Hebrew term mashiach (מָשִׁיחַ).

Once the Muslims conquered Iberia, they governed it in accordance with Islamic law. Blasphemy and apostasy from Islam were both capital offenses. In Islam, blasphemy includes denouncing Muhammad and denying the Muslim faith. Apostasy is the crime of converting away from Islam. Under Islamic law, anyone whose father is Muslim is automatically a Muslim at birth and will be automatically be guilty of apostasy if they proclaim any faith other than Islam. Anyone found guilty of either blasphemy or apostasy was swiftly executed.

Blasphemy is the act of insulting or showing contempt or lack of reverence to a deity, or sacred objects, or toward something considered sacred or inviolable.

Apostasy in Islam is commonly defined as the conscious abandonment of Islam by a Muslim in word or through deed. It includes the act of converting to another religion or non-acceptance of faith to be irreligious, by a person who was born in a Muslim family or who had previously accepted Islam. The definition of apostasy from Islam, and whether and how it should be punished, are matters of controversy and Islamic scholars differ in their opinions on these questions.

Islam is an Abrahamic, monotheistic religion teaching that there is only one God (Allah), and that Muhammad is a messenger of God. It is the world's second-largest religion with over 1.9 billion followers or 24.4% of the world's population, commonly known as Muslims. Muslims make up a majority of the population in 50 countries. Islam teaches that God is merciful, all-powerful, and unique, and has guided mankind through prophets, revealed scriptures and natural signs. The primary scriptures of Islam are the Quran, believed to be the verbatim word of God, and the teachings and normative examples of Muhammad.

During this time, Christians could retain their churches and property on condition of paying a tribute ( jizya ) for every parish, cathedral, and monastery; frequently such tribute was increased at the will of the conqueror. Christians also had to abstain from any public displays of their faith in the presence of Muslims, as such an act was considered blasphemy under Islamic law and punishable by death.

Jizya or Jizyah is a per capita yearly taxation historically levied in the form of financial charge on permanent non-Muslim subjects (dhimmi) of a state governed by Islamic law in order to fund public expenditures of the state, in place of the Zakat and Khums that Muslims are obliged to pay. Muslim jurists required adult, free, sane males among the dhimma community to pay the jizya, while exempting women, children, elders, handicapped, the ill, the insane, monks, hermits, slaves, and musta'mins—non-Muslim foreigners who only temporarily reside in Muslim lands. Dhimmis who chose to join military service were also exempted from payment, as were those who could not afford to pay.

Many Christians fled to Northern Spain; others took refuge in the monasteries of Sierras. Still others converted in order to gain favor or avoid the jizya , and thus the number of Christians shrank eventually to small proportions. [2]

In 786 the Muslim caliph, Abd-er Rahman I, began the construction of the great mosque of Córdoba, now a cathedral, and compelled many Christians to take part in the preparation of the site and foundations. The executions of the martyrs caused tension not only between Muslims and Christians, but within the Christian community. Abd er-Rahman II at first ordered the arrest and detention of the clerical leadership of the local Christian community. As the civil disobedience seemed to subside, the clergy were released in November 851. When several months later there was a new wave of protests, the emir turned again to the Christian leaders as the ones most capable of controlling the Christian community. [3] Instead of imprisoning them, he ordered them to convene a council in Córdoba to review the matter and develop some strategy for dealing with the dissidents internally. He gave the bishops a choice: Christians could stop the public dissent or face harassment, loss of jobs, and economic hardship. [4] Upon the death of Abd-er Rahman II in 852, his son and successor, Muhammad I removed all Christian officials from their palace appointments.

Reccafred, Bishop of Córdoba, urged compromise with the Muslim authorities. Eulogius, who has been venerated as a saint from the 9th century, viewed the bishop as siding with Muslim authorities against the Christians. The closures of monasteries where some of the martyrs had lived occurred towards the middle of the 9th century.

The monk Eulogius encouraged the public declarations of the faith as a way to reinforce the faith of the Christian community and protest the Islamic laws that Christians saw as unjust. He composed tractates and matyrologies, of which a single manuscript, containing his Documentum martyriale, the three books of his Memoriale sanctorum and his Liber apologeticus martyrum, was preserved in Oviedo, in the Christian kingdom of Asturias in the far northwestern coast of Hispania. The relics of Eulogius were moved there in 884. [5]


Wolf points out that it is important to distinguish between the motivations of the individual martyrs, and those of Eulogius and Alvarus in writing the Memoriale. [6] Jessica A. Coope says that while it would be wrong to ascribe a single motive to all forty-eight, she suggests that it reflects a protest against the process of assimilation. They demonstrated a determination to assert Christian identity. [7] Wolf maintains that it is necessary to view the actions of the martyrs in the context of the penitential aspect of 9th century Iberian Christianity. "Martyrdom was in fact a perfect solution... Not only did it epitomize self-abnegation and separation from the world, but it guaranteed that there would be no opportunity to sin again." [8]

The executions

Roderick, a priest of Cabra, Spain, executed at Cordoba, Bartolome Esteban Perez Murillo. Bartolome Esteban Perez Murillo 009.jpg
Roderick, a priest of Cabra, Spain, executed at Córdoba, Bartolomé Esteban Perez Murillo.

The forty-eight Christians (mostly monks) were martyred in Córdoba, between the years 850 AD and 859 AD, being decapitated for publicly proclaiming their Christian beliefs. Dhimmis (non-Muslims living under Muslim rule) were not allowed to speak of their faith to Muslims under penalty of death.

The detailed Acta of these martyrs were ascribed to the aptly named "Eulogius" ("blessing"), who was one of the last two to die. Although most of the martyrs of Córdoba were Hispanic, either Baeto-Roman or Visigothic, one name is from Septimania, another Arab or Berber, and another of indeterminate nationality. There were also connections with the Orthodox East: one of the martyrs was Syrian, another an Arab or Greek monk from Palestine, and two others had distinctive Greek names. [5] The Greek element recalls the Byzantine interlude of power in southernmost Hispania Baetica, until they were finally expelled in 554: representatives of the Byzantine Empire had been invited to help settle a Visigothic dynastic struggle, but had stayed on, as a hoped-for spearhead to a "Reconquest" of the far west envisaged by emperor Justinian I.

List of martyrs

The following list is from Kenneth Wolf's Christian Martyrs in Muslim Spain. [1]

Charged with blasphemy

Charged with apostasy

Eulogius and Leocritia LeocriciaEulogioC.jpg
Eulogius and Leocritia

See also


  1. 1 2 Wolf, Kenneth Baxter. Christian Martyrs in Muslim Spain, Chap.2,, "The Martyrs of Córdoba", The Library of Iberian Resources Online
  2. 1 2 Osuna, Manuel Garcia. "Cordova." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 4. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1908. 18 Feb. 2014
  3. Wolf, Chap 1, "Christians in Muslim Córdoba".
  4. Coope, p.33.
  5. 1 2 "". Archived from the original on 2012-05-26.
  6. Wolf, Chap.3 "The Martyrs of Córdoba and Their Historians".
  7. Coope, Jessica A., The Martyrs of C¢rdoba: Community and Family Conflict in an Age of Mass Conversion", p. 14, University of Nebraska Press, 1995 ISBN   9780803214712
  8. Wolf, Chap.9 "The Martyrs and their Motives".
  9. Holweck, F. G., A Biographical Dictionary of the Saints. St. Louis, MO: B. Herder Book Co. 1924.
  10. (in Greek) Οἱ Ἅγιοι Ἰσίδωρος, Ἠλίας καὶ Παῦλος οἱ Μάρτυρες. 30 Απριλίου. ΜΕΓΑΣ ΣΥΝΑΞΑΡΙΣΤΗΣ.
  11. Orthodox Europe: the saints of Spain at

Related Research Articles

Abd al-Rahman I founder of the Emirate of Córdoba

Abd al-Rahman I, more fully Abd al-Rahman ibn Mu'awiya ibn Hisham ibn Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan (731–788)(عبد الرحمن ابن معاویہ ابن ہشام ابن عبدالملک ابن مروان الداخل), was the founder of a Muslim dynasty that ruled the greater part of Iberia for nearly three centuries. Abd al-Rahman was a member of the Umayyad dynasty in Damascus, and his establishment of a government in Iberia represented a break with the Abbasids, who had overthrown the Umayyads in 750.

Abd al-Rahman II Fourth Emir of Cordoba

Abd ar-Rahman II (792–852) was the fourth Umayyad Emir of Córdoba in the Al-Andalus Iberia from 822 until his death.

Abd al-Rahman III politician

Abd al-Rahman III was an Arab Emir and Caliph of Córdoba (912–961) of the Umayyad dynasty in al-Andalus. Called al-Nasir li-Din Allah, he ascended the throne in his early 20s and reigned for half a century as the most powerful prince of Iberia. Although people of all creeds enjoyed tolerance and freedom of religion under his rule, he repelled the Fatimids, partly by supporting their Maghrawa enemies in North Africa, and partly by claiming the title Caliph for himself.

Mozarabs Christians living under Muslim rule in Medieval Spain and Portugal

The Mozarabs are, in modern historical terms, the Iberian Christians who lived under Moorish rule in Al-Andalus. Although their descendants remained unconverted to Islam, they were mostly fluent in Arabic and adopted elements of Arabic culture. The local Romance vernaculars, heavily permeated by Arabic, spoken by Christians and Muslim alike has also come to be known as Mozarabic language. Mozarabs were mostly Roman Catholics of the Visigothic or Mozarabic Rite.

Al-Hakam I Emir of Cordoba

Al-Hakam Ibn Hisham Ibn Abd-ar-Rahman I was Umayyad Emir of Cordoba from 796 until 822 in the Al-Andalus.

Mosque–Cathedral of Córdoba Church in Andalusia, Spain

The Mosque–Cathedral of Córdoba, also known as the Great Mosque of Córdoba and the Mezquita, whose ecclesiastical name is the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption, is the Catholic cathedral of the Diocese of Córdoba dedicated to the Assumption of the Virgin Mary and located in the Spanish region of Andalusia. The structure is regarded as one of the most accomplished monuments of Moorish architecture.

Saint Perfectus was one of the Martyrs of Córdoba whose martyrdom was recorded by Saint Eulogius in the Memoriale sanctorum.

This is a historical timeline of Portugal.

Emirate of Córdoba independent emirate in the Iberian Peninsula

The Emirate of Córdoba was an independent emirate in the Iberian Peninsula ruled by the Umayyad dynasty with Córdoba as its capital.

Pelagius of Córdoba Spanish saint

Pelagius of Córdoba is a Christian boy who died as a martyr in Cordoba around 926.

Eulogius of Córdoba Spanish bishop and saint

Saint Eulogius of Córdoba (Spanish: San Eulogio de Córdoba was one of the Martyrs of Córdoba. He flourished during the reigns of the Cordovan emirs Abd-er-Rahman II and Muhammad I.

Paulus Alvarus, c. 800 – 861 CE, was a ninth-century Mozarab scholar, poet, and theologian who lived in Southern Iberia during the period of Muslim rule. He is most notable for his writings around the time of a rising high civilization of Islam, owing to the Caliph's efforts. He also wrote the Vita Eulogii, a biography of his close friend and fellow theologian Saint Eulogius of Cordoba. Although Christians living in Córdoba and the rest of Muslim Iberia during his time lived under relative religious freedom, Alvarus was amongst the Christians who perceived the many restrictions on the practice of their faith to be unacceptable persecution; they regarded with extreme scorn Christians who participated in the Muslim government, converted to Islam, or simply concealed their true beliefs. As a result of these religious tensions Alvarus's writings are characterized by contempt of all things Muslim and he considered Muhammed to have been the precursor to the Antichrist.

Aurelius and Natalie were Christian martyrs who were put to death during the reign of Abd ar-Rahman II, Emir of Córdoba, and are counted among the Martyrs of Córdoba.

Speraindeo was a Córdoban Mozarabic abbot, teacher of Eulogius and Alvarus Paulus.

Nunilo and Alodia

Saints Nunilo and Alodia were a pair of child martyrs from Huesca. Born of a mixed marriage, they eschewed the Islam of their father in favour of their mother's Christianity. They were executed by the Muslim authorities of Huesca in accordance with sharia law as apostates. Their feast day is 22 October.

Flora and María were the first two of nine female Christian Martyrs of Córdoba. After denouncing Islam before an Islamic judge, they were imprisoned. Though threatened "with being thrown upon the streets as prostitutes", they were eventually beheaded. They are commemorated on Nov. 24.

Caliphate of Córdoba Former state in Islamic Iberia

The Caliphate of Córdoba was a state in Islamic Iberia along with a part of North Africa ruled by the Umayyad dynasty. The state, with the capital in Córdoba, existed from 929 to 1031. The region was formerly dominated by the Umayyad Emirate of Córdoba (756–929). The period was characterized by an expansion of trade and culture, and saw the construction of masterpieces of al-Andalus architecture. In January 929, Abd ar-Rahman III proclaimed himself Caliph of Córdoba, replacing thus his original title of Emir of Córdoba. He was a member of the Umayyad dynasty, which had held the title of Emir of Córdoba since 756.

Abu Muhammad Yahya ibn Yahya al-Laythi ibn Kathir ibn Wislasen ibn Shammal ibn Mangaya, better known as Yahya ibn Yahya, was a prominent Andalusian Muslim scholar. He was responsible for spreading the Maliki school of jurisprudence in Al-Andalus. Furthermore, he is considered the most important transmitter of Malik ibn Anas' Muwatta.

Abu al-Hakam Mundhir ibn Sa'īd ibn Abd Allah ibn Abd ar-Rahman al-Ballūṭī was a Muslim legal expert and judiciary official in Al-Andalus. In addition to his legal career, he was also considered a prominent theologian, academic, linguist, poet and intellectual.