Friday, September 24, 2010

A Visit to Casilda's Shrine

Elizabeth Borton de Trevino, a 20th century writer from California who was fluent in Spanish, visited Casilda's shrine in preparation for a novel about the saint entitled Casilda of the Rising Moon that was published in 1967.

Borton traveled first to Rome, and then to Spain.  She visited both Burgos and Casilda's shrine near Briviesca to see what she could learn. At the Cathedral of Burgos, the Canon Librarian found for her "all existing books and chronicles about Casilda" and helped her to "translate the old Spanish into modern idiom" for her notes. At Casilda's shrine, Borton spoke with the priest who was the chaplain.

In an afterword to the novel, Borton wrote about what she learned during these investigations.  Here is an excerpt of what Borton had to say:
"She lay, I was told, in a stone tomb in a small church erected upon the site of the hermitage where she had passed most of her life in a remote part of Castile. . . .

"[At the shrine] was a canyon, ending in a steep cliff face; it was topped by the small church where Casilda's body still lies in its stone tomb. Down below were several caves and the health-giving springs, which are still patronized today. The cave where Casilda is said to have lived and the little promontory where she set up her wooden cross and passed hours in ecstatic visions are shown and are much venerated.

"I went into the church. It was a Sunday and country people from all about had come to attend mass. . . . The sacred vessels, the crucifix, and the Holy Book were on the stone sarcophagus. In it lay the Saracen princess, dead more than nine hundred years. . . .

"La santa had gone about the countryside curing people of their ills, [a local man] told me, but angels had followed her brushing away her footsteps from the road with their wings, so that no enemy might pursue and surprise her . . .

"Her body, [the chaplain] told me, is incorrupt, having become petrified but showing no discoloration or decomposition. However, it is somewhat mutilated because of relics taken from it at the command of Spanish kings and queens who were devoted to her, notably the great Isabel the Catholic. In a special case, there is preserved a long tress of Casilda's hair, a rich dark gold. Some ancient carvings on the walls of the sanctuary -- the older walls around which the later church was constructed -- tell outstanding events in the life of Casilda.

"Afterward, I visited the pozo blanco, the 'white springs,' where Casilda regained her health and where pilgrims come to be cured of their ills today, and the little cave where the Toledan princess lived in absolute poverty.

"Yet, although Casilda is remembered as a holy woman, austere and poor, in the countryside where she worked her miracles and died, memories of her in Toledo and in art galleries show her only as a beautiful princess, dressed in the richest of silks, the darling of her father, the King of Toledo."
I must note here that I have read a great deal of information about Casilda on Spanish websites and so far I have not found any asserting that Casilda's body is incorrupt.  I have also not found anything that confirms Borton's statement about Queen Isabella.  I will continue to look into these matters.

Borton de Trevino, Elizabeth; Casilda of the Rising Moon (Farrar, Strauss & Giroux, 1967), pp. 183-185.

Statue of St. Casilda that is in her shrine.

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