Perhaps the best-known popular monument in Cordoba is the figure of Gonzalo Fernandez de Cordoba, the Great Captain, and its fame lies not only in its situation – right in the middle of the city’s main square, Las Tendillas – but also in the artistic merit of the equestrian statue by Mateo Inurria.
He was not born in the city itself, but in Montilla, an attractive town in the province with plenty of historical interest, on 1st September 1453. He carried the name of Cordoba with pride through the countless cities and countries where his eventful military career led him.
He spent the first years of his life in Cordoba in the care of his guardian Diego de Carcamo and from time to time returned here during his life. Together with his brother Alonso de Aguilar he took part in some of the rebellions which unsettled Cordoban life in those times, barricading themselves up on one occasion in the Calahorra Tower. As a young man, he left Cordoba to serve as a page to Prince Alfonso de Avila, and later, on the prince’s death, Lady Isabel called him to Segovia. At an early age he stood out for his skill at handling weapons and at conducting military exercises, his gentle manners and his sharp-witted, lively mind.
He first saw action in the War of Succession, when he commanded a company of 120 horsemen belonging to his brother Alonso, and soon after that played a very active role in the conquest of Granada, where his forceful actions won him widespread fame. He was later sent by the King of Aragon to aid the King of Naples, and here he fought a series of successful campaigns in Messina, Cosenza, Laino and Stella. Pope Alexander VI asked for his help against the Corsair Guersi, whom Gonzalo captured, thus freeing the port of Ostia. It was on this campaign in Italy when his soldiers gave him the name of the Great Captain for his exceptional military skills. He soon became known all over Italy under this name by friends and enemies alike – and the name soon spread to Spain and was taken on by the Christian Monarchs as well as by the ordinary populace.