Azorean Folktales: Genadius the Necromancer and the Island of the Seven Cities

Artist: Oswald Walters Brierly [Public domain]


The legend of the Archbishop Genadius and the Island of the Seven Cities is a folktale from the island of São Miguel in the Azores archipelago an autonomous region of Portugal.  It tells a version of the legend of the Island of the Seven Cities of Antillia and presented here is a retelling of that folktale based on the source below.  The story begins with a young man named Genadius who was born into a rich and powerful family in Portugal.  He was greatly spoiled and allowed many indulgences by his father. When ever he could not get his own way he would fly into a tantrum.


Nevertheless, he was a young man who possessed great curiosity about everything and he was very adventurous. He experimented with many strange and unorthodox ideas and practices and one day discovered he could summon up the dead.  This greatly excited him and he worked hard and learned all he could from books on the subject. He spent many hours in practice and became adept in the skills of necromancy and the black arts and even learnt how to call upon Satan. However he was a young man who soon tired of things and would move quickly from one project to another.


He became disenchanted with necromancy and the black arts and gave himself to Christianity believing that it offered him the greater power.  He became a priest and hermit and dedicated himself to God. Although he stopped using the black arts he combined his abilities as a necromancer to the duties of a Christian priest and performed many good and astounding feats.  Eventually his feats came to the notice of the Supreme Pontiff who was impressed with what he heard and decided to promote and reward him and made him a bishop. Thanks to his powerful and influential family he was soon promoted to Archbishop of Porto.

A Baby Girl

One wet and cold night as he opened his cathedral door he discovered that a baby girl had been laid in a basket before it. There was no clue to who the baby girl’s parents were but she desperately needed a home and shelter so Genadius decided he would adopt her.  Therefore, he took her in and brought her up in fine style giving her the education of a princess and loved her as a daughter.


It so happened that the Iberian  peninsula was invaded by hostile forces from North Africa who crossed the narrow straits intent on conquest and Portugal also came under attack.  Realizing the danger Archbishop Genadius called his six bishops to him and gathered his family and friends together. He had a fleet of seven ships built that would allow them to escape before the marauding invaders arrived.  He filled the ships with supplies, water and livestock and just as the enemy was closing in he gave the order to set sail. 

The Voyage

Each of the clergy took command of one of the ships and the small fleet set sail into the setting sun across the wild Atlantic Ocean.  Their great hope was to find a safe land they could settle in and build a new home for themselves and their families and live in their traditional ways.

Genadius had also taken the girl he had adopted and as many other citizens that the ships could safely carry.  After many days sailing the fleet came across an unknown island that had a great central peak that sloped gently down to the sea on all sides.   There was a good natural harbor where they anchored their ships. He sent out search parties to explore the island and make sure it was safe.

The Island

The reports from the search parties were all  good saying the island was very beautiful and a veritable paradise.   It was uninhabited by humans but abounded in plant and animal life. It was  was safe and fertile with plenty of fresh water and could support all of their people with ease.

Therefore, he gave the order to disembark and unload the ships.  He tasked some of the people to build a camp where they could live in reasonable comfort safe from the elements until more permanent shelter could be constructed.

The Seven Cities

When they were settled and comfortable he called a meeting of the bishops and the elders and told them he planned to build seven cities each with a cathedral.  He and the six bishops would each rule one of the cities and he would rule over them all. After a brief rest from their sea voyage they all got to work and built seven cities each with their own cathedral situated around the island and the people were distributed between them.

After the cities and cathedrals were built the people lived in peace and happiness living in their traditional way unhindered.  In that time the girl Genadius had adopted grew to become a beautiful young woman and began to draw the attention of many young men.

Having grown up mostly on the island she had only ever heard tales about her old home of Portugal faraway over the sea.  As is often the case the stories were exaggerated and embellished and she began to wonder why the people had ever left. She ached to see all the wonders they told her of and began to yearn to return to Portugal.

Unwanted Attention

Genadius could also not help but notice the attention she was receiving from young men and began to worry that she would lose her purity.  Although he knew it was natural for young men to be attracted to young women and vice-versa, he could not help but become increasingly concerned.  The more he saw and the more he thought about it, the more obsessed he became, wrongly believing he was protecting her. Furthermore, her continued questioning of him about their old home in Portugal made him realize she wished to return.

He had grown to love her greatly and did not want to lose her. Therefore, he resorted to his powers of necromancy to hide the island away from any passing ships in case they should dock  on the island by chance.

This worked for a while until one fine morning a caravel with the cross of Jesus emblazoned upon its sails and flying the flag of Portugal appeared on the horizon.  It proceeded to the harbor where it intended to anchor.

The Black Arts

Genadius was both furious and fearful of its arrival and flew into a rage.  He could not understand how his powers of necromancy had failed. As the caravel began to drop her anchor his rage erupted and in fury he resorted to his black arts and called upon Satan for help. As he did so the central peak of the island began spewing out smoke and fumes.  Fire and molten rock rained down destroying everything around. Eventually there was a massive explosion and the island sank slowly into the sea. 

A few survivors made it to the caravel who took them back home to Portugal, but of the island of the Seven Cities no trace afterwards could ever be found.  Some said that it sank below the sea but other seafarers returned with reports of an island that was hidden by mists but would sink below the ocean when approached.

© 25/09/2019 zteve t evans

References, Attributions and Further Reading

Copyright September 25th, 2019 zteve t evans

The legendary necromancer, King Bladud

Geoffrey of Monmouth and King Bladud

An extraordinary and very short account, of King Bladud, one of the early legendary Celtic kings of the Britons, is written in the Historia Regum Britanniae, by Geoffrey of Monmouth. This very briefly tells the story of a king who practiced necromancy and built himself a pair of wings in an attempt to fly.  Geoffrey says of him:-

Next succeeded Bladud, his son, and reigned twenty years. He builtn Kaerbadus, now Bath, and made hot baths in it for the benefit of the public, which he dedicated to the goddess Minerva; in whose temple he kept fires that never went out nor consumed to ashes, but as soon as they began to decay were turned into balls of stone. About this time the prophet Elias prayed that it might not rain upon earth; and it did not rain for three years and six months. This prince was a very ingenious man, and taught necromancy in his kingdom, nor did he leave off pursuing his magical operations, till he attempted to fly to the upper region of the air with wings which he had prepared, and fell upon the temple of Apollo, in the city of Trinovantum, where he was dashed to pieces. (1) (Chapter 10, page 28)

There is also a later legend about how he was cured of leprosy while working as a swineherd which also links him to the ancient founding of the city of Bath.

Descendant of Brutus of Troy

Bladud, or Blaiddyd, was a Celtic king of the Britons who was the son of  King Rud Hud Hudibras, and the tenth ruler from the line of the legendary Brutus of Troy, first King of Britain.  Bladud was supposed to have ruled for about twenty years somewhere between 863 and 500 BC.  Except for the accounts of Geoffrey there is little if any real evidence of either king’s actual existence and Geoffrey is not widely accepted as an accurate historical source by most historians.  Later writers further added to and embellished legends about him.  However, rather than an all powerful, warrior as many kings of the age were presented he is more the scholar, magician, or even the eccentric inventor, which was to lead to his final downfall.

Bladud the scholar

The legend tells how Bladud in his youth was sent by his father to be educated in Athens.  On the death of his father he was said to have returned home bringing with him four philosophers and founding a university in what is now Stamford, Lincolnshire.   This university was alleged to have taught heresies and necromancy and was later closed by Saint Augustine of Canterbury.


Statue of king Bladud at the Roman Baths, Bath, England – by Smalljim – CC BY-SA 3.0

King Bladud’s leprosy

When Bladud returned home from his studies in Athens it was found that he was suffering from a severe skin condition that was taken as leprosy.  Because of this he had to leave the Royal court and became an outcast.  He lost his status as heir to the throne and was forced to make his way in the world the best way he could.

The legend says that before he left the court his mother gave him a gold ring.  This was as a keepsake and also a means to identify himself should there become a need. Sadly, everywhere he went he was shunned and forced to move on as people did not want to risk catching his disease.  To support himself the took a job as a swineherd at a place about two miles from Bath known today as Swainswick.  With pigs as his only company he took to watching them closely and after a while  he noticed the pigs were also beginning to be afflicted by his skin condition.

Fearing the worst and to prevent his employer from finding out he drove the pigs across a river.  There he noticed the pigs were attracted to a boggy area of ground wallowing in mud which was warm because the area was fed by warm water springs.  According to the story when the pigs came out of bog he scraped them clean and discovered their skin condition was cured.

With nothing at all to lose Bladud decided to try the warm mud himself and bathed in it. To his great joy he found that this also cured his skin condition.  Bladud returned to court where he was identified by the gold ring his mother had given him.  He later became king and built a temple  and spa baths ingratitude on the site so that others may benefit from the mud.


Public Domain

Another version tells how while tending the pigs he noted that during cold weather the pigs would go to a bog and come back covered in black mud which he discovered was warm.  From observing them he saw that they appeared to like the warmth. He also noticed that it appeared to work wonders for their skin as they suffered no blemishes or disease as pigs that did not use it suffered. With nothing much to lose he tried it for himself and found the warm mud cured his leprosy, or skin condition.  Returning to his home his father restored him to be his heir and he founded the spas at Bath to benefit others with skin conditions.

Bladud and the founding of Bath

According to legend Bladud was strongly linked to the founding of the spa town of Bath in Somerset.  The Romans developed the famous spa baths calling them Aquae Sulis, which means Waters of Sullis,  after thermal springs dedicated to the Celtic goddess, Sulis whom Romans identified with Minerva.  In later times as it grew it became known as Bath.

There is a legend that it was Bladud who founded the city and created the the thermal springs the city is famous for by magic. Geoffrey says that undying fires were lit whose flames transformed into balls of stone as they died with new flames springing from them to take their place (2).  This may have been a description of how coal was used as a source of fuel for the flames in the temple altars.

Necromancy and flying

According to legend Bladud practiced and encouraged necromancy and trying to communicate with the dead.  From this came the inspiration to built a pair of wings for himself.  He tried them out but collided with the temple of Apollo in Trinovantum, now known as London and reputedly founded by his ancestor Brutus of Troy.  He fell to earth and was killed. The legend tells he was buried in Trinovantum and succeeded by his son Leir, who William Shakespeare wrote his famous play about.

King Bladud’s Pigs in Bath


Sally – Image by Trish Steel –  CC BY-SA 2.0

In more modern times the people of Bath have celebrated their legendary founder in a brilliantly creative way.  In 2008, a public art event called King Bladud’s Pigs in Bath celebrated the legendary origins of Bath.  More than one hundred beautifully decorated pig sculptures were displayed throughout the summer around the Bath area.  Later they were auctioned off to contribute funds towards the city’s Two Tunnels Project, which seems like something the eccentric king would approve!

© 09/02/2016 zteve t evans

References and Attributions

Copyright February 9th, 2016 zteve t evans