- Sep 27, 2011
Saint George and the Four Blindfolded Moors
The History of Sardinia in the High Middle Ages under the House of Lacon
The gallop of the thousand horses, spurred onwards by their Muslim riders, made a hellish noise. Preparing to receive the charge, the brave Sards imagined that the whole island trembled under the hooves of those animals. The Saracens, with their curved swords, held up, parallel with the ground looked like devils for the Sardinian soldiers, most of them being simple peasants. The Muslim charge hit the Sardinian line, making a terrible noise, broke it and retreated.
In less than a couple of minutes, what was a somewhat organized army, transformed into a mob. The two Sard leadears, Gonario of Arborea and Salusio of Cagliari, were shouting trying to keep their forces together. A second Muslim charge was approaching them. The two leaders managed to hold their army together, but with the same intimidating gallop, the Saracens were advancing again. “Holy Peter!” shouted Salusio just as the Muslim wave was about to hit them. “Open wide the gates of Heaven; many brave Christians are coming soon!” yelled him so loud that the soldiers around him were convinced that from Heaven, Saint Peter heard his cry. Gonario, next to Salusio, grasping his bardiche, was preparing for the imminent clash. Salusio armed with a heavy mace released a final war cry “For Christ!!!” before being hacked down and killed by a Saracen. Gonario, better prepared, implemented his bardiche in the chest of a beautiful brown horse.
The rider fell of the dying animal, Gonario rushing to deliver the final blow. Taking out his weapon out of the horse, he saw the fair skin of the Saracen lying on the ground in front of him. “These are not Saracens!” shouted Gonario. “Oh yes they are, sir.” told him an old Sard warrior before splitting the head of an enemy with his axe. “Just that they were born Christians, but took as slaves by the Muslims, who converted them.” continued the warrior who seemed to know some things about his enemies. Gonario, taking another look at his enemies face, wavered a moment just enough for the Muslim to reach for his sword, but, waking up from the moment of hesitation he swinged his bardiche, through his enemy’s neck, down into his chest. Soon the place was swarmed by Saracens.
Gonario, about to lose his confidence, turned his large body around, facing east, to pray to Saint George, the patron saint of warriors. Around him, his army was breaking, the Muslims hacking and slashing the fleeing Sards. Gonario fell on his knees and started praying with his eyes open, watching the waves of the Tyrrhenian. As he started to mumble his prayers, suddenly his deep blue eyes sparkled as he watched the calm sea. Several giant crosses of Saint George were appearing on the horizon, just as if they were rising from the water. “A miracle!” thought Gonario, but soon wooden hulls appeared under the giant crosses, drawn on the sails of these ships. The Sard leader finally recognized the crosses. The ones coming from the north-east were proudly displaying the red cross of Saint George, the flag of the Genoese Republic, while the ones approaching from the south-east, drawn on a red background, a white cross, with three spheres on every arm, the coat of arms of the Pisan Republic, recently granted to them by the Pope.
Gonario shouted again from the deepest parts of his lungs, “Men, fight on with courage, the Italians are coming! Hold your ground, men!” and lifted himself from his kneeling position, and started hacking Saracens left and right with his heavy bardiche. His brave Sards regrouped around him, fighting for their lives, while one of them was desperately waving a flag with a cross drawn on it, in the direction of the Italian fleet, to let them know, that Christians were still fighting on the island.
As the Pisans and Genovese were landing, only a handful of Sards were still fighting. The sun was setting over the beautiful landscape of Sardinia, now littered with bodies, mostly Christians. The Italians rushed to the battlefield, relieving the encircled Gonario and his few men. Before the sun had completely set, the Christians had turned the tide of the battle. Gonario, one of the few Sards who survived, had taken four Muslim prisoners after the battle was won. After blindfolding them, the Sard noble, decapitated those four unlucky Saracens with his bloody bardiche. The Genoans, impressed by the courage showed in battle and with the gruesome image of the execution imprinted in their minds, presented Gonario with one of their Saint George’s Cross flag, on which they drawn in each quarter a black blindfolded head, representing the four Moors executed by the Sardinian Giudice, who adopted the flag as his personal coat-of-arms.