Gateway to the Classics: A Child's History of Spain by John Bonner
A Child's History of Spain by  John Bonner

Flora and Mary

A.D. 840-859

While Abderrahman the Second was Moorish King or Sultan—as the king was sometimes called—of Spain, there was born to an honest Moorish mechanic a daughter, whom he named Flora. Though her father was a Moslem, her mother was a Christian. Now the Moorish law was that children of Moors must be brought up in the Moorish faith; but in secret Flora's mother brought her up to be a Christian.

At that time Moors and Christians were living peaceably side by side. Moslemism was the religion of the country, but the Christians were not persecuted; they had their churches, their bishops, and their priests; nobody troubled them about their religion as long as they were decently respectful to the Moslem faith; but it chanced at that particular time that a wave of religious enthusiasm swept over Spain. In the gloom of their cloisters, monks let their minds dwell upon the history of the early martyrs until their beads were turned, and they could think of nothing but the joy of giving up one's life for religion's sake. They recalled the past glories of their Church, and they groaned in spirit when they remembered that it had been overthrown by infidels.

Such a one was Eulogius, who had spent years in fasting and prayer, till he had destroyed his constitution and upset his mind. Such another was Perfectus, who had worked himself up to such a pitch of frenzy that he went through the streets cursing Mahomet, and was duly arrested and executed for blasphemy, according to the Moorish law. Another such was a monk named Isaac, who went into court, reviled Mahomet in the presence of the cadi, or judge, was taken out and beheaded; whereupon the Christian Church enrolled him in the list of saints, together with others who proved their saintliness by insulting the faith of their fellow-countrymen.

Flora, who was a fanciful, high-strung girl, caught the exaltation of the priests and fled from her home, saying that she was a Christian. Her brother was a quiet Moslem; he was hurt at her conduct, brought her back, and reasoned with her; but as she would listen to nothing, he took her before the judge. According to the Moorish law she had forfeited her life by abandoning the faith of her father; but the judge shrank from sentencing one so young and so beautiful; he ordered that she be whipped, and he enjoined her brother to take better care of her thereafter. His back was no sooner turned than she ran away again, and this time hid herself with a Christian family, where she met Eulogius, the man who had prayed and fasted so long. He fell in love with her, and her Christian friends had to hide her from him as well as from the Moors.

By this time the religious enthusiasm had become a craze. Eulogius made a convert of one of the sultan's guards, who, to show his zeal, reviled Mahomet before his regiment. When he was taken out and beheaded six monks rushed to the court where the judge was sitting and roared at him:

"The guardsman was right! Now avenge your accursed prophet! Here we are, ready to die!"

They were promptly accommodated; and three more monks, who insisted on being beheaded, shared their fate. It looked as though the Christians had gone mad. I do not know what would have happened if the bishops had not called a halt, and proclaimed that suicide was not the road to heaven. Each bishop in his diocese preached against the folly and wickedness of the enthusiasts, and for a time the mania was checked.

But the mad priest Eulogius raved more loudly than ever, and confounded the bishops with extracts from the lives of the saints. He bawled and bellowed so furiously that the Moorish judge, not wishing to execute him if it could be avoided, locked him up in jail to stop his tongue. There he met Flora again, and with her another young and beautiful girl named Mary. Both of them had been imprisoned by the judge, who wanted to evade the duty of putting them to death. In the solitude of her cell Flora had had time to think, and she had seen the folly of insulting the faith which her father had professed and to which her brother belonged. She was ready, when her release came, to behave quietly, as became a young girl, and to keep her religious opinions to herself.

When the wild fanatic Eulogius met her, her good resolutions were quickly scattered to the winds. He overwhelmed her with his frantic fury. He besought her by the love he bore her not to let the opportunity of martyrdom escape. He entreated of her to show her true Christian spirit by reviling the Moors and their prophet. And the weak girl, probably loving him as he loved her, and believing him to be her best friend and adviser, did as he bade her. She and Mary went before the cadi and cursed Mahomet; whereupon the judge, whose patience was worn out, ordered them to execution; and their heads were severed from their bodies on November 34th, 851.

When she told Eulogius that he had convinced her, and that she was ready for martyrdom, he exulted and said:

"I sought to confirm her in her resolution by showing her the crown of glory. I worshipped her; I fell down before this angel, and besought her to remember me; then I returned less sad to my sombre cell."

When the Moors turned this maniac priest out of his sombre cell, the Christians of Toledo chose him to be their bishop. He had not been long preaching when another beautiful girl was missing. She also was traced to Eulogies who was training her for the glory of martyrdom. They were both arrested and taken before the judge. Eulogies, who had quite lost his head, burst forth with a storm of curses against Mahomet. Whereupon the judge sentenced him to die, as the law required; but before his execution a friend of the Sultan tried to save him, offering to get him a pardon if he would withdraw what he had said before the cadi. He stoutly refused, declaring that he had nothing to recant. Whereupon his bead was struck off, eight years after Flora, by his persuasion, had voluntarily given up her life.

I have no doubt that Eulogius was honest. But it is not enough to be honest, if the honesty be displayed in a way that will injure others. A blind teacher cannot escape blame for his teaching on the ground that his motives were pure. In the coming chapters of this history you will often be shocked by tales of religious persecution; I suspect that the fashion was set by the yearnings of Eulogius and his brethren for martyrdom.

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