El Cid (1961)


These days it often seems that people’s concepts of history come from films and historical novels rather than history books.

The film El Cid is not bad by Hollywood standards, in that a lot of it corresponds to historical reality (I hesitate to use the word ‘fact’ seeing as how the victors write history).

Nevertheless most of the characters existed, although when King Ferdinand dies and his children fight for his kingdom, there seem to be a brother and sister missing.

It’s often hard to work out who the baddies are in this film as some of the Moors fight on the Christian side to help a Christian king whose descendents will later churlishly have them expelled from Spain. 

The famous jousting duel, supposedly to decide the ownership of Calahorra in Aragon was filmed below the spectacular remains of Belmonte Castle in Cuenca province. The fact that Belmonte castle dates from the XV century doesn’t spoil what is otherwise a splendid XI century duel.

Today you can still find the flattened land halfway up to the castle through some rabbit-infested shrubbery where the joust took place on what was previously a football pitch. The area is within the two walls that extend down from the castle before enveloping the town, where they have largely been demolished or used to build houses. However, the two main walls from the castle are still intact, and on the one to your right, as you look up at the castle, is a small tower called Torre Albarana, where they filmed the scene in which Prince Sancho is stabbed to death.

Apparently, Charlton Heston called a halt to the filming in Belmonte when he saw a woman on top of the castle keep. It is believed that she was the last Empress of France, Eugenia de Montijo, wife of Napoleon III.