Doing God’s Work: The Monks

It is week 25 in the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks writing challenge. This week’s writing prompt is Unexpected. Unexpected? The one thing I have learned in more than two decades of genealogical research is to expect the unexpected. You never know what you are going to uncover! Take for example my recent “religious” findings…

My genealogical researches have uncovered dozens of ancestors who devoured themselves to God, so many so that I began a series of posts titled Doing God’s Work: Our Families’ Faithful. This is the eighth installment. In the previous post of this series, I presented the life and times of Ela of Salisbury, an abbess.  This one focuses on the life of three direct ancestors who were monks. Yes, you read right… monks.

Bermudo I of Asturias

The first ancestor is my 38th great-grandfather, Bermudo I of Asturias (a country located on the Iberian Penisula). Born circa 750, Bermudo I was the son of Fruela of Cantabria. the king of Asturias (a country located on the Iberian Penisula).

In 788, Bermudo was elected by the palatine officials (the nobility of the royal palace) to replace the King Mauregatus, who had passed away. It has been speculated that Bermudo was considered as the candidate to prevent the succession of Alfonso II, the heir of Fruela I. At the time of his appointment, Bermudo was a deacon.

Bermudo reigned for three years. During that time, he defended against an Arab-Berber invasion of Álava and Galicia and was ultimately defeated in the Battle of the Burbia River in the year 791. That battle was the first major engagement in a series of campaigns launched against Asturia in the 790s. After the defeat, Bermudo abdicated his throne, though whether voluntarily (as the Chronicle of Alfonso III states, “because he was [or remembered he was] a deacon”) or because he was forced is unknown. Nevertheless, he was considered a generous and illustrious man in his time, and, as the Chronicle of Albeda asserts, “merciful and pious.”

Bermudo was succeeded by Alfonso II, with whom he was on good terms. Bermudo’s son later reigned as Ramiro I. Bermudo lived until 797, with many sources claiming that he spent his remaining days as a monk.


Fortún Garcés of Pamplona

My second “monkish” ancestor is Fortún Garcés of Pamplona, my 36th great-grandfather.

The eldest son of García Íñiguez of Pamplona and Urraca, little is know of Fortún Garcés’ life. His father, the king of Pamplona cultivated an alliance with the kingdom of Asturias to stand strong against Muslim foes. García Íñiguez was involved in repeated armed conflicts the Banu Qasi and Muhammad I, emir of Córdoba. In 860, Muhammad’s armies invaded Pamplona and captured Fortún and his daughter Onneca Fortúnez and took them hostages. Muhammad’s forces besieged and ultimately destroyed the castle of Aibar, resulting in the death of García Íñiguez. After his father’s death, Fortún Garcés was returned to Pamplona to rule.

Unlike his predecessor, Fortún Garcés’ reign was much more accommodating of the Banu Qasi clan. Unfortunately, his stance angered some Pamplonese nobility. When the tensions would become too great, Fortún Garcés would convalesce at the Monastery of Leyre.

In 905, the Pamplonese nobility had enough of Fortún Garcés’ diplomacy and took away his crown, naming Sancho Garcés as his successor. No longer burdened by the throne, Fortún Garcés retired to the Monastery of Leyre in that year, spending his remaining days there as a monk. He died in 922.


Robert de Ros

The final ancestor who spent part of his life in monastic living was Robert de Ros (my 24th and two-times 25th great-grandfather), one of the sureties of the Magna Carta. To read more about his life, please check out this post.

Categories: Cole-Marriner Line, Famous Faces and Places, Our Families' Faithful, Watts-Stark Line | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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