Sancha of Léon

On this day, 7 November 1067, Sancha of Léon passed away. She was my 29th great-grandmother through her granddaughter Urraca di León y Castile and my 30th great-grandmother through her granddaughter Teresa of Léon.

Born circa 1018, Sancha de Léon was the daughter of Alfonso V of León by his first wife, Elvira Menéndez. She joined brother Bermudo III of León, born a year earlier.

On 2 December 1022, when Sancha was only four years old, her mother Elvira Menéndez died.

Six years later in 1028, a political marriage was arranged between Sancha and Count García Sánchez of Castile. However, on 13 May 1028, while en route to finalized their marriage, García Sánchez was murdered by the Vela family in the streets of León.

A few months later, on 7 August 1028, her father Alfonso V of León was killed by an arrow while besieging the Muslim town of Viseu, Portugal. With his death, Sancha and her brother Bermudo were orphans at the age of 10 and 11.

Four years passed. Then, in 1032, Sancha was married to Count Ferdinand I of Castile, nephew and successor of García Sánchez of Castile. Santa was 15 years old; Ferdinand was 18.

Together, the couple would have five children. Their first child was daughter Urraca of Zamora, who was born circa 1033.

In 1034, Sancha’s father-in-law, Sancho the Great, conquered the imperial city of León, forcing Sancha’s brother Bermudo III to seek refuge in Galicia.

The next year, 1035, Sancho the Great died. Consequently, Bermudo III attempted to seize back control of León and Tierra de Campos, the territory between the Cea and Pisuerga Rivers.

Because neither Sancha’s husband nor her brother was willing to relinquish their claim on this land, the Battle of Tamarón was waged on 4 September 1037. During the battle, Bermudo III was unhorsed, surrounded, and killed. Ferdinand I then took possession of León by right of his wife, who was the heiress presumptive.

That same year, 1037, son Sancho II of Castile was born in Zamora, Spain.

Then, on 22 June 1038, Sancha’s husband Ferdinand I was crowned king of León. Sancha was named queen consort. Sancha took her responsibilities as queen seriously and was involved in the day-to-day administration of the combined kingdoms of Léon and Castile. In addition, Sancha, a devout Catholic, was the benefactor of Basilica of San Isidoro, a church and monastery established by Sancha’s father Alfonso V of León. When she became queen, Sancha chose Basilica of San Isidoro to be the site of the royal burial chapel. She was also the secular abbess of the Monasterio de San Pelayo, a Benedictine convent in the town of Oviedo.

Circa 1039, Sancha gave birth to a daughter named Elvira of Toro.

Then, circa 1041, son Alfonso VI of León and Castile (my 28th and 29th great-grandfather) was born.

Her final child, García II of Galicia, arrived about April 1042.

On 15 September 1054, Ferdinand defeated his elder brother García at the Battle of Atapuerca and reduced Navarre to a vassal state under his late brother’s young son, Sancho García IV. On 29 November 1057, Ferdinand’s army conquered Lamego and Duero. Then, on 25 July 1058, his forces overtook Viseu.

In addition to raising her children, Sancha, along with her husband, took part in the Reconquista, the political, religious, and military movement aimed at usurping Muslim rulers on the Iberian peninsula. In 1060, Ferdinand invaded Zaragoza, capturing the fortresses of Berlanga, San Esteban de Gormaz, and Vadorrey, before proceeding to Huermeces, Santiuste, and Santamara. Because the Zaragozan emir Ahmad al-Muqtadir was preoccupied on another front, he opted to submit to Ferdinand and pay tribute.

With al-Muqtadir sidelined, Ferdinand turned his attention to the emir of Tolédo, Yahya ibn Ismail al-Mamun. In 1062, Ferdinand invaded Tolédo, taking Talamanca and besieging Alcalá de Henares. As a result, al-Mamun agreed to pay tribute, and Ferdinand withdrew his forces.

In 1063, Ferdinand raided Badajoz and Seville. Again, a ransom was paid for his withdrawal.

That same year, the relics of Saint Isidore were transferred to the Basilica of San Isidoro, and a community of canons was established to maintain the monastery and oversee the relics. Sancha, along with her husband Ferdinand I, then commissioned a crucifix as a gift for the Basilica of San Isidoro. Carved from ivory, this cross is the earliest known Spanish crucifix that depicts the body of Christ.

Meanwhile, back on the battlefront, Ferdinand’s forces laid siege to Coimbra. Six months later, on 25 July 1064, Coimbra fell.

Finally, in the autumn of 1065, Ferdinand embarked on his last military campaign, invading Valencia and defeating the emir Abd al-Malik al-Muzaffar. However, during the Siege of Valencia and the Battle of Paterna, Ferdinand I of Léon and Castile fell ill, forcing him to return home to Sancha. Unfortunately, Ferdinand never recovered from his illness and died at the age of 47 on 24 December 1065. Sancha had his remains interred in the Basilica of San Isidoro.

Following Ferdinand’s death, Sancha was made regent of Leon-Castile, and the kingdom was divided between their children. Sancho received the Castile region; Alfonso, the León region; García, the Galicia region; Elvira, the city of Toro; and Urraca, the city of Zamora. Sadly, this was not a peaceful division of assets, and Sancha was forced to play peacemaker between her three sons.

The stress of trying to maintain the peace must have been too much for Sancha because two years after her husband’s death, Sancha of Léon died on 7 November 1067. She was laid to rest beside her husband in the Basilica of San Isidoro.

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Categories: Famous Faces and Places, On This Day, Our Families' Faithful, Royal Roots, Watts-Stark Line | Tags: , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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3 thoughts on “Sancha of Léon

  1. Pingback: *Press it* Sancha of Léon #107 | Its good to be crazy Sometimes

  2. Me neither, Eilene. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Sounds like lots of murder and mayhem. I would not have enjoyed such a life, me thinks.

    Liked by 1 person

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