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Rev. Alban Butler (1711–73). Volume X: October. The Lives of the Saints. 1866.

October 22

SS. Nunilo and Alodia, Virgins and Martyrs, in Spain

RODERIC having dethroned and pulled out the eyes of Vitiza, the Gothic king of Spain, and excluded his children from the crown, usurped himself the throne, in 711. Count Julian, the most powerful nobleman in Spain, and governor of that part which was contiguous to the Straits, out of revenge for an insult which Roderic had offered his daughter, whom that tyrant had ravished, invited the Moors or Saracens from Africa into Spain. Mousa, who was governor of those Saracens, having obtained the consent of the caliph Miramolin, sent first only twelve thousand men under a general named Tarif, who easily possessed themselves of Mount Calpe, and the town Heraclea, which these Moors called from that time, Gibraltar, or, Mount of Tarif, from this general, and the word Gibel, which in Arabic signifies mountain; whence Ætna in Sicily was called by the Saracens, Gibel. These Moors maintained their ground in this fortress, and being reinforced from Africa, defeated the Spaniards in Andalusia. King Roderic was no more heard of after this battle; but two hundred years after, his tomb was discovered in a country church in Portugal: from which circumstance it is conjectured that he fled, and hid himself in that country. Tarif made himself master of Mantesa, Malaga, Murcia, and Toledo, the capital of the Gothic empire. Mousa, jealous of his success, crossed the Straits with another army, took Seville, Merida, and other places, and in three years time the Moors or Saracens were masters of all Spain, in 716, and carried away an immense booty. A misunderstanding arising between Tarif and Mousa, they were both recalled by Miramolin, and Mousa’s son Abdalasisa left governor of Spain, and Seville made the capital, though Tarif had resided at Cordova. The Spanish Goths chose Pelagius, the sole surviving prince of the blood royal, king of Spain, in 716, who assembled an army in the mountains of Asturias, recovered that country, Galicia, and Biscay, and afterwards Leon; and erected the Christian kingdom, called first of Asturias, afterwards of Leon. This prince gave great proofs of his valour and piety; as did his successor, Alphonsus the Catholic. The Saracen governors, especially the third, called Abderamene, ruled with great cruelty, and often carried their arms into the southern parts of France; but were repulsed by Charles Martel. This governor Abderamene, surnamed Adahil, in 759, shook off all dependence upon the sultans of Egypt, took the title of king, and fixed his court at Cordova; and the other Moorish governors in Spain imitated his example. After the first desolation of war, many of these princes tolerated the Christians in their dominions, and allowed them to build new churches and monasteries, under certain conditions and according to the laws of a polity established by them; but, in the ninth century, a most cruel persecution was raised at Cordova, by King Abderamene the Second, and his son Mahomet.  1
  Among the numberless martyrs who in those days sealed their fidelity to the law of God with their blood, two holy virgins were most illustrious. They were sisters, of noble extraction, and their names were Nunilo and Alodia. Their father was a Mahometan, and their mother a Christian, and after the death of her first husband, she was so unhappy as to take a second husband who was also a Mahometan. Her two daughters, who had been brought up in the Christian faith, had much to suffer in the exercise of their religion from the brutality of this stepfather, who was a person of high rank in Castile. They were also solicited by many suitors to marry; but resolving to serve God in the state of holy virginity, they obtained leave to go to the house of a devout Christian aunt, where, enjoying an entire liberty as to their devotions, they strove to render themselves every day more agreeable to their divine Spouse. Their fasts were severe, and almost daily, and their devotions were only interrupted by necessary duties or other good works. The town where they lived, named Barbite or Vervete (which seems to be that which is now called Castro Viejo, near Najara, in Castile, upon the borders of Navarre), being subject to the Saracens, when the laws of King Abderamene were published against the Christians, they were too remarkable by their birth and the reputation of their zeal and piety not to be soon apprehended by the king’s officers. They appeared before the judge not only undaunted, but with a holy joy painted on their countenances. He employed the most flattering caresses and promises to work them into a compliance; and at length proceeded to threats. When these artifices failed him, he put them into the hands of impious women, hoping these instruments of the devil would be able, by their crafty address, to insinuate themselves into the hearts of the virgins. But Christ enlightened and protected his spouses, and those wicked women, after many trials, were obliged to declare to the judge that nothing could conquer their resolution. He therefore condemned them to be beheaded in their prison; which was executed on the 22nd of October, 851, or, according to Morales, in 840. Their bodies were buried in the same place; the greater part of their relics is now kept in the abbey of St. Saviour of Leger, in Navarre. Their festival is celebrated with an extraordinary concourse of people at Huesca, in Arragon, and at Bosca, where a portion of their relics is preserved. See St. Eulogius Memorial, l. 2, c. 7; Ambr. Morales, in schol. ad Eulog. p. 286; Mariana, &c.  2