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Towards the middle of the fourteenth century, Toledo was invested by the troops of Don Enrique de Trastamara, the brother of that king, called by some the Cruel, by others the Just, to whose cause the Toledans were devoted, and for whom they were defending with conspicuous valor their native city. Many a time and oft had the loyal and brave denizens of the “City of Swords” sallied forth across the magnificent bridge of San Martin, and throwing themselves with irresistible impetuosity against the besieging forces encamped in the Cigarreles, had inflicted on them severe loss. Indeed, so disastrous had these frequent sallies proved to the army of Don Enrique, that he determined to destroy the bridge, a structure of great beauty, and conspicuous even amongst the many architectural monuments possessed by Toledo.

But indifferent though Don Enrique was to the charms of the bridge of San Martin it had a special value in the eyes of the Toledians, from the fact that it formed their only means of access — unless indeed by crossing the Tagus by boat —to the Cigarreles, that Champs Elysees of Toledo, whose praises have been sung by well nigh all the poets of Castille.

One night the soldiers of Don Enrique might have been seen hewing down the magnificent trees which surrounded their camp, and piling them on the bridge of San Martin; but with such care and precautions against surprise was the work of devastation carried on, that not until day was dawning did the Toledians suspect the loss they were about to sustain. Then, indeed, a horrible glare overspread their beloved Cigarreles, now laid waste, lit up the waters of the Tagus, brought out into mournful distinctness the ruins of the palace of Roderick, the last Visigothic king of Spain, and illuminated the Moorish tower which still overlooks the river.

The Toledians, roused by this sinister splendor, hastened to rescue the favourite bridge from the imminent ruin which menaced its existence; but in vain was all their haste, for a fearful crash, which echoed mournfully through the caves and windings of the Tagus, told them that the bridge was no more. When the sun rose to gild the dome of the kingly city, the Toledan damsels who crowded down to the banks of the river to fill their jars with the clear fresh water, returned with them still empty, but with hearts full of sorrow and indignation, for the stream of the Tagus was rushing along, turbulent and muddy, whirling round and round in its boiling eddies the still smoking ruins of the bridge of San Martin. The popular indignation knew no bounds, for the bridge, as we have said already, was the only direct means of access to the Cigarreles, the lovely pleasure grounds which the Toledans had inherited from the Moors, together with ail the veritable passion for trees and flowers for which those barbarians, as they have been misnamed, were so conspicuous. The endurance of the besieged, which was beginning to fail them, gained renewed strength from the outrage, and the army of Trastamara speedily found itself the object of a series of furious onslaughts, which ended in a complete and disastrous defeat, and watered the Cigarreles with streams of blood. (7o be continued, )

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Bibliographic details

THE ARCHITECT’S WIFE., Ashburton Guardian, Volume 2, Issue 206, 2 December 1880

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THE ARCHITECT’S WIFE. Ashburton Guardian, Volume 2, Issue 206, 2 December 1880