King Saint Fernando III was born in the monastery of Valparaiso in Spain in the year 1199 – exactly 100 years to the month after the death of his illustrious ancestor, Rodrigo Diaz, who was known by the honorary title of El Cid He was a true son of the Cid, of noble heart and bearing. In him would be combined the soul of a knight dedicated entirely to God, the irresistible power of the Cid and, due to his royal heritage, the authority to marshal the might of an entire nation against the enemies of Christ.
Saint Fernando’s father was King Alfonso IX of Leon, and his mother the saintly Lady Bereguera. As his parent’s marriage was annulled by Pope Innocent III, St Fernando was actually raised by his grandfather, King Alfonso VIII of Castile, and his mother. King Alfonso VIII was a great warrior and knight, to whom Christian chivalry was more than just a code of conduct or a set of rules to which he adhered; it was a pursuit of virtue meant to guide him in all of his thoughts and actions. In striving for the ideal of knighthood, he attained a true nobility of character. Living a life of honor, King Alfonso was a magnificent warrior who courageously defended the Church and his kingdom of Castile. He was also an excellent role model for young Fernando, who wanted nothing more than to be a knight of Christ.
Saint Fernando was still a young man when he became king of Castile. His kingdom was in tatters, as there had been numerous raids by both Christian and Moor into Castile, as well as internal rebellions. Saint Fernando worked tirelessly to restore his realm to prosperity and administer justice throughout his land, though he continued always to train as a warrior.
On the day Saint Fernando became a knight, he prayed:
“Christ, my Lord, I am in Thy hands, the same way this sword is in mine. Show me, my King, what Thou wantest of this Thy knight.”
In the silence and stillness of the night, St Fernando heard Christ answer him:
“I want to make your whole life like a representation and marvelous parable so that the coming centuries may contemplate the war that I, Eternal King and Universal Lord, wage against the powers of darkness, to conquer the entire earth for my Father. Fernando, you will be the noble and considerate king who leads his vassals in this great enterprise, the courageous and mortified King who, above all others, charges ahead in the midst of danger and endures the strain of hard work and the fatigue of battle. You will be the generous and magnanimous King who in victory does not worry about his treasures, but distributes the spoils among his faithful knights.”
God granted to Saint Fernando to see the stark outline of the life that was to be his, a life full of struggles and hardships and warfare. Yet his soul did not quake at the prospect, for he knew that he would be doing God’s will, and that God would be with him as long as he remained true. He was prepared to do whatever was required of him now, and all the days of his life.
King Saint Fernando became one of history’s most gifted and formidable warriors, while being at the same time one of the greatest monarchs who ever ruled. He, like so many men of his time, did not seek to enjoy a long life so much as he sought to live a good life. Thus, he spent his entire life in the service of God, rather than wasting his time in service to himself.
King St Fernando was a man of clear and deep faith, who realized that everything depends on God and that it is He Who grants the victory. He knew, nonetheless, that the Lord never wants to help those who are lazy but to assist with grace those who do everything that is in their power. This effort becomes a prayer of action, when combined with trust in Him.
As a consequence of his holy intentions, all of Saint Fernando’s ventures met with success. He was absolutely invincible, personally as well as while directing his armies, conquering hearts and minds as completely as he did cities and strongholds. He knew that there is no holier enterprise than to do one’s duty before God, and that his first obligation was to rescue his own country.
This great Catholic monarch truly lived his faith, and by his chivalry, loyalty, and generosity of character was worthy of the high regard and friendship of those who had once fought against him. By the kindness and gratitude he showed toward those who rendered service to him, and by his great generosity, he captured the affection and won the willing obedience of his nobility. He always and everywhere applied himself whole heartedly to his duties as king, zealously seeking after justice and prosperity for his people. He was a model of righteousness and proper conduct for his sons, and by his example earned the respect and love of all his children. He was to them the most tender and caring of fathers, leaving them an incomparable heritage the like of which few Christian monarchs could boast.
The legacy of King Saint Fernando III is far-reaching and eternal. It was he who had permanently combined the Kingdoms of Leon and Castile, and with that might he conquered more Islamic territory than any other Christian, expelled the Muslims from most of Andalusia and turned their remaining kings into his obedient vassals. King Fernando’s achievements clearly outstrip those of King Sancho II and King Jaime I, not to mention those of king’s Saint Louis IX, Frederick II and Edward I. At a time when the crusading efforts of all the rest of Christendom hardly sufficed to maintain a foothold on the coast of the Holy Land, Fernando inflicted on medieval Islam its greatest defeat up until that time.
King Saint Fernando had been known as “the Saint” during his lifetime, so it should come as no surprise that immediately after his death his subjects unanimously awarded him a place in celestial glory. St Fernando soon became the object of public veneration, and that same year Pope Innocent IV declared that King Saint Fernando of Castile enjoyed the reputation of “having always followed the path of obedience to the Divine precepts, and that he greatly contributed to the spreading of the worship of the Holy Name of Jesus.”
The body of St Fernando is incorrupt, and he can still be seen in the Cathedral of Seville, for he rests now enclosed in a marvelous gold and crystal casket worthy of the Castilian king. King Saint Fernando is the only king whose earthly crown has never been taken away, for his golden crown still encircles his head as he reclines beneath the statue of the Virgin of the Kings, awaiting the day of resurrection.
"Very little has been written about St. Fernando III. Very few Catholics even know he existed, let alone his origins and the noble Catholic blood that flowed through his veins. From Charlemagne to El Cie to Alfonso VIII, and beyond himself to the beloved Queen Isabella of Spain, some of the greatest Catholic figures in history have shared ni this lineage of warrior-saints. And yet, all throughout the last four centuries, the honor and due reverence to this man among men has lain hidden among the shadows of time, awaiting the day when modern man would take notice of this King among kings; this Warrior among warriors; this Saint among saints.
Now, that day has come! Mr. Fitzhenry has put down on paper the life of a true Catholic hero; one that we can happily place in the hands of our Catholic youth and say, "Read this. This is what is expected of a Catholic man."
St. Fernando III breaks through the apathy, so prevalent in today's society of egotism, diversity and political correctness, and rekindles within the Catholic heart the fight for our one, true Faith...and ultimately, Christ as King. Viva Christo Rey!
Director, Our Lady of Victory School
A recent Podcast review, 5 Great Books on Medieval Spain, by Real Crusades History.
Gloria Romanorum Review
Did you know that one of the greatest kings in Spanish history, Fernando III, was also a saint? I didn't. But thanks to author James Fitzhenry, I do now. Fitzhenry, who also penned El Cid: God's Own Champion, has written this detailed yet approachable biography of this fascinating and inspiring example of Catholic manhood. St. Fernando III: A Kingdom for Christ is geared toward Catholic homeschooled kids, probably in the twelve and older age range. But the writing is exceptional and as a mature reader of nearly 40, the book easily held my attention.
Replete with family turmoil, civil strife, stunning miracles, romance, and dozens upon dozens of skirmishes, pitched battles, and sieges, the tremendous scope of St. Fernando's worldly accomplishments leave the reader dumbfounded. But the heart of this book is St. Fernando's total devotion to Christ and his Blessed Mother. Everything he did, he offered to God without reservation. In his willingness to suffer personal hardships, unfailing mercy toward his enemies, love for his wife and children, and care for the poor and afflicted, St. Fernando was a model of Christian virtue. In his everyday life, and especially when he faced a crisis, he turned to the Virgin and believed to the depths of his soul that she would intercede for him. And based on the magnificent achievements of his life, who can doubt that she did? For at the same time that the Christian states in the Holy Land were failing despite the best efforts of great crusading armies led by the most important crowned heads of Europe, St. Fernando was able to weld together the small kingdoms of Castile and Leon and use their combined might to reconquer almost all of Andalusia from its Muslim overlords.
So in short, this book is a gem. St. Fernando III is a Catholic hero who deserves to be more widely known. Now thanks to James Fitzhenry and his enjoyable book, he will be.
Amazon Book Reviews
Mr. Fitzhenry, after success with his great work, El Cid: God's Own Champion, in 2007, outdid himself with the story of St. Fernando, or San Fernando Rey. This new book reads like a novel full of suspense, but based on the life of one of the most amazing saints, yet before this great book, little was known about him. This book tells of his strength in battle. He also consulted the Blessed Virgin, to whom he was very devoted, even carrying a statue of her (Virgin of Battles) on the horn of his saddle.
Fernando was brave, fearless because of his strong faith, and always "knew" he was under the direction of God and accomplishing His will.
I received this book as a Christmas present and looked at it as, "Ho hum". That changed quickly, due to Mr. Fitzhenry's captivating writing style, in-depth research utilizing 31 reference books and therefore, what may have seemed to be legend has come to life as accurately as an author could accomplish covering the Thirteenth Century.
It is always so trite to review a book by saying, "This was so exciting, full of surprises and breathless close-calls, that I couldn't put it down." Albeit true with Fernando, I HAD TO SLOW DOWN MY READING! This was because I dreaded completing this great epic--I then paced myself as one might do with a fine wine. After reading a section, there was always much to contemplate, including visions from the Blessed Virgin, and how in Fernando's early life, Fernando's mother the queen, offered great penances and petitions to the Virgin to save her son who had become desperately ill. He was miraculously cured.
In reading this adventure, you will travel through all of the areas of Spain, as Fernando pushes the Moors to the sea, sterilizing virtually all of Spain for Christianity. You will enjoy stories of the miracle of enemy arrows turning around wiping out the enemy who shot them, the appearance St. James several times with a compliment of soldiers from heaven. St Isidore appeared often and even heavenly angels appeared in the middle of battle to bolster Fernando's army. You will treasure stories of faith and more faith, yet Fernando was God's man willing to do anything with the Blessed Mother's prodding, direction and approval and always to please God.
I would suggest this book to adults, but children who are able to read on an adult level will love this book, however a parent could read it to a younger child a bit at a time. In closing, it should be mandatory for high school students and all adults who love their faith. What's next Mr. Fitzhenry? Please hurry!
Del Latham, M.S.
I highly recomend reading this beautiful book and adding it to your libraries - El Cid is a heartwarming and inspiring story giving glorious tribute to the triumph of human faith-and its well detailed events will forever dwell in your mind! El Cid, a book for all ages, will make you forget where you are and take you far into its story. This wonderful little book will strengthen the faith of its readers, no matter how weak or strong it may be. Mr. James Fitzhenry is a very creative and brilliant author. El Cid: God's Own Champion was rated super-high by my husband and two young adult children, and voted the best story book Fitzhenry has put together yet!
I greatly enjoyed reading this book to my children. They were captivated by the fascinating details of this heroes life. The author brought the characters to life with lively energy and beautifully drawn illustrations. This amazing true story is written from a Catholic perspective. El Cid epitomizes the moral virtues that are all but lost in today's society. This is a perfect addition to any home schooling program. I highly recommend this book to anyone with children.
I bought this book for my future children as I want them to read about the heroes of old who once fought to save and defend our culture and our faith. I am myself descendant of Spaniards and have seen with disgust how the science of history these past decades has fallen hostage to ideology, an ideology which loves to hate the Western world and relativitize everything. Spain during the Middle Ages was a society and a nation which fought desperately for its own survival against Islamic aggression. Since Europe in those days was one Christian unity Spain - just like Charles Martel, the Byzantine empire and the sieges of Vienna - fought for the entire Christendom. Latter-day historians driven by progressive ideology have done their best to try to depict Rodrigo Diáz de Bivar as a simple free-booter, however, the sources and general knowledge about medieval Spain reveals a whole different picture. El Cid was and is a true once living example of a man who fought for freedom, faith and family, and as such he presents a true role-model for all Westerners, American and European and christians of all denominations. In this post 9/11 world to read about medieval Spain is sobering reading. Islam was and is the same ever since the days of its violent founder - pure and simple aggression bent on world-domination. Anyone who disputes this should study REAL history.
Defenders of Christendom
Battles - Honor - Miracles!
This book is filled with
amazing stories of little-known
Catholic heroes presenting
spectacles of bravery and
valor never exceeded in all the
annals of history.
gallantry through daring feats
of arms, the knight's faith,
coupled with his marvelous
courage, made him nearly
invincible on the field
of battle. read more . . .
Especially for young children -
Now available as an e-book!
Available for only $1.95 US
as an ebook download.
The exciting life story of
the holy Catholic knight
known as El Cid!
The amazing life story of the
little known incorrupt saint
- King Fernando III!
This highly acclaimed book is
inspirational to young men
and a guide to building a strong
masculine, Catholic character!
Also available as softback!