When the morning dawned the king gazed with admiration at this city which he hoped soon to add to his dominions. It was surrounded on one side by vineyards, gardens, and orchards, which covered the hills with verdure; on the other side its walls were bathed by the smooth and tranquil sea. Its vast and lofty towers and prodigious castles, hoary with age, yet unimpaired in strength, showed the labors of magnanimous men in former times to protect their favorite abode. Hanging gardens, groves of oranges, citrons, and pomegranates, with tall cedars and stately palms, were mingled with the stern battlements and towers, bespeaking the opulence and luxury that reigned within.
In the mean time, the Christian army poured through the pass, and, throwing out its columns and extending its lines, took possession of every vantage-ground around the city. King Ferdinand surveyed the ground and appointed the stations of the different commanders.
The important mount of St. Christobal, which had cost so violent a struggle and faced the powerful fortress of Gibralfaro, was given in charge to Roderigo Ponce de Leon, marques of Cadiz, who in all sieges claimed the post of danger. He had several noble cavaliers with their retainers in his encampment, which consisted of fifteen hundred horse and fourteen thousand foot, and extended from the summit of the mount to the margin of the sea, completely blocking up the approach to the city on that side. From this post a line of encampments extended quite round the city to the seaboard, fortified by bulwarks and deep ditches, while a fleet of armed ships and galleys stretched before the harbor, so that the place was completely invested by sea and land. The various parts of the valley now resounded with the din of preparation, and was filled with artificers preparing warlike engines and munitions; armorers and smiths with glowing forges and deafening hammers; carpenters and engineers constructing machines wherewith to assail the walls; stone-cutters shaping stone balls for the ordnance; and burners of charcoal preparing fuel for the furnaces and forges.
When the encampment was formed the heavy ordnance was landed from the ships and mounted in various parts of the camp. Five huge lombards were placed on the mount commanded by the marques of Cadiz, so as to bear upon the castle of Gibralfaro.
The Moors made strenuous efforts to impede these preparations. They kept up a heavy fire from their ordnance upon the men employed in digging trenches or constructing batteries, so that the latter had to work principally in the night. The royal tents had been stationed conspicuously and within reach of the Moorish batteries, but were so warmly assailed that they had to be removed behind a hill.
When the works were completed the Christian batteries opened in return, and kept up a tremendous cannonade, while the fleet, approaching the land, assailed the city vigorously on the opposite side.
"It was a glorious and delectable sight," observes Fray Antonio Agapida, "to behold this infidel city thus surrounded by sea and land by a mighty Christian force. Every mound in its circuit was, as it were, a little city of tents bearing the standard of some renowned Catholic warrior. Besides the warlike ships and galleys which lay before the place, the sea was covered with innumerable sails, passing and repassing, appearing and disappearing, being engaged in bringing supplies for the subsistence of the army. It seemed a vast spectacle contrived to recreate the eye, did not the volleying bursts of flame and smoke from the ships, which seemed to lie asleep on the quiet sea, and the thunder of ordnance from camp and city, from tower and battlement, tell the deadly warfare that was waging.
"At night the scene was far more direful than in the day. The cheerful light of the sun was gone; there was nothing but the flashes of artillery or the baleful gleams of combustibles thrown into the city, and the conflagration of the houses. The fire kept up from the Christian batteries was incessant: there were seven great lombards in particular, called the Seven Sisters of Ximenes, which did tremendous execution. The Moorish ordnance replied in thunder from the walls; Gibralfaro was wrapped in volumes of smoke rolling about its base; and Hamet and his Gomeres looked out with triumph upon the tempest of war they had awaked. Truly they were so many demons incarnate," concludes the pious Fray Antonio Agapida, "who were permitted by Heaven to enter into and possess this infidel city for its perdition."