The legend of Trezenzonio

The account of Monk Trezenzonio is a source of the 11th century that brings together the legend of Breogan and that of Hercules. It is dated prior to the writing of the Estoria de Espanna by King Alfonso X, the Wise, which shows the popularity of the myth as a consequence of the spread of Saint Isidore’s Etimologías.

The document was discovered by Díaz y Díaz and tells of a journey by Trezenzonio to Galicia. According to the account, this personage reaches the region to find an uninhabited land which, following the Muslim invasion, has been abandoned. On his way along the coast, he comes across a high building, the Farum Brecantium. He approaches and climbs it.

He reaches the top to find a mirror on which he thrice sees a far-off island and is overtaken by a desire to travel to it. Once there, he falls into a state of beatitude which lasts seven years, during which time he is fed by supernatural means. Then, an angel tells him to return but he refuses. As a consequence he is punished with blindness and a body covered in ulcers. Seeing himself in this sorry state, he implores divine forgiveness and returns in a boat to Galicia. But upon arriving very near to where he had set sail, he realises circumstances have changed and that the Farum Brecantium is half-destroyed and the city inhabited again.

This interesting account has certain parallels with the account of the Leabhar Ghabala. Ith also climbs to the top of the Tower and from there he sees an island he decides to conquer, which turns out to be Ireland. But the same parallels may be drawn with the legend of Hercules, where mention is made of the mirror on top of the Tower and which is also alluded to in the Estoria de Espanna.

There are, therefore, by the 11th century, two legends on the Tower: one associating its origin to Breogan and the other to Hercules. Both seem to have fused in Trezenzonio’s account.