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A History of Aragon and Catalonia. Social and Political Conditions during the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Centuries. book. History Aragon Aragon



Social and Political Conditions during the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Centuries

[245] The nobility and clergy. Serfs and villeins. Jews and Mudjares. Results of the struggle between the Crown and the nobility. Administration. Relations with the Papacy. Social conditions in Catalonia. Serfs and overlords. Municipal development. Barcelona. Separatist tendencies. Finance. The Army and Navy. Commerce.

As regards Aragon, no great changes are to be noted in the relations between the different classes and the State. The distinction among the nobility which has been previously explained remained unaltered, with the exception that the Cortes of 1451 abolished the old custom whereby the King was able to create infanzones who might be of plebeian origin. The ricoshombres were able to receive lands and honours from the King as before, on condition of dividing them among their subordinate vassals and fulfilling their obligations to military service. Towns or fortresses that might thus have been entrusted to them as honores could be reclaimed by the King at any moment. The nobility could not build castles without the royal permission. They might go on service outside the realm to other princes, but upon condition that their action was in no way prejudicial to the interests of the King. No great change was made in the privileges of the clergy, who were exempt from taxation, were allowed to conduct their own courts for purely ecclesiastical cases, but were not to use their churches or monasteries as asylums for criminals. The increasing importance of the towns implied an increase in the influence of the middle class. Some town councils were inclined to aim at the extortion of privileges from the Crown, analogous to those enjoyed by the nobility, whereas others, more particularly in the south, preferred to conduct their affairs without continual reference to the Crown. The class of [246] serfs or villeins was but little affected by these changes. The burden upon them was rather increased than lightened, and the social struggles which took place in Catalonia do not appear to have brought any relief to the class of serfs in Aragon. The nobility were certainly forbidden by such laws as that of 1247 to oppress the population of estates entrusted to them as honores, but there were a number of customary rights which contradicted this prohibition and allowed the overlord to punish his vassals, and, if necessary, "to kill them by hunger, or by thirst, or by imprisonment," and, in the case of an oppressive or tyrannical overlord, the villein had no opportunity of appealing to another or to a higher court of justice. In this and other respects the social organisation of the province of Aragon was more rigorously feudal than that of Catalonia or of any other part of the Peninsula.

No great change took place in the position of the Jews, who were persecuted and oppressed both by popular opinion and by the law. They were allowed to lend money on usury when no other means of getting a livelihood were open to them, were obliged to pay the Church dues and occasionally to attend exhortations from Dominican preachers. Sporadic outbursts of anti-Semitism took place, and the Jews, where they could, emigrated to Africa. In 1412 Vicente Ferrer, the famous preacher, is said to have persuaded a large number of Jews to accept baptism, after which they formed the class known as Marranos. About the same time, Pope Benedict XIII convened a council at Tortosa for public discussion with the Rabbis, the end of which was that the Jews were forbidden to read the Talmud or other anti-Christian writings. Thus the Jewish communities rapidly diminished in Aragon. At the same time we hear of meetings of rich Jews at the end of the thirteenth century, and in the early years of the fourteenth. In 1354 representatives of all the Aljamas in the kingdom of Aragon met together and drew up a memorandum which provided that their communities should elect five deputies with full powers to negotiate with the King on matters of importance to the Jewish communities. The mudjares enjoyed better conditions of life. They were certainly obliged to observe special dress regulations and to pay heavy dues to their [247] overlords, but they had their own magistrates, their own places of worship, and were allowed to continue their religious observances, notwithstanding the objections raised by various Popes. Both the Crown and their overlords were very sensible of the fact that much of the wealth of the country was due to the assiduous work of the mudjares, while, for a considerable portion of this period, religious indifference rather than proselytizing zeal was the prevailing state of mind. Thus both the kings and the nobles are found conceding considerable privileges to this Moorish population. Pedro III allowed them to buy and sell as they pleased, and to change their habitations when they wished. Alfonso III brought criminal eases in which they were concerned under Christian jurisdiction, which often treated the Moors more leniently than their own courts would have done. Thus the Moorish populations are both important in number and comparatively prosperous during this period, both in Aragon and Valencia. During the fifteenth century, heavy restrictions were laid upon them; both their liberty of movement and their religious freedom were curtailed, and it was no longer possible for them to emigrate to the kingdom of Granada as they had been in the habit of doing. We find mudjares serving in the Army, and apparently proving themselves loyal troops.

The chief characteristic of the constitutional history of this period is the struggle between the King and the nobles, and this was fought out in Aragon with greater vigour and with more definite results than in the neighbouring kingdom of Castile. The general policy of the nobility was to confirm and increase their ancient privileges and to regard the State as an organization worked by a number of aristocrats for their own benefit. The King, on the other hand, was anxious to centralize his power and to secure that every class in the kingdom obtained due measure of justice. We have seen that in the Cortes of Exea in 1265 the nobles succeeded in establishing the Justicia as an arbitrator between their own class and the King. This official was appointed by the King with the special function of dealing with lawsuits among nobles. We have also seen the nobles securing the General Privilege from Pedro III, when the Justicia becomes a judge of all lawsuits at court and is subjected to the influence of [248] that powerful party which wished to abolish the legislation of James I and to return to the old confusion of custom law. The privileges which the nobility then extorted brought about the struggles which filled the reign of Alfonso III, and the granting of the new privilege called the Privilege of the Union, by which the King undertook not to proceed against any member of the Union without the consent of the Cortes and of the Justicia. The Cortes of Aragon were to meet every year in Zaragoza, when the King was to accept the advice of a number of councillors representing the interests of the nobility. If he contravened the Privilege, members of the Union could refuse obedience without incurring the charge of treachery. The state of affairs was summed up by Alfonso III in the saying that Aragon had as many kings as there were ricoshombres. James II succeeded in disregarding some of these conditions, but the aristocratic party reasserted its power under Pedro IV, when it declared the rights of the Union to depose the King, if he punished nobles without the approval of the Justicia and the Council. The kingdom was divided into districts governed by the nominees of the Union, which not only defied the Crown but oppressed those who did not agree with its principles, in particular the democratic townships of the south, and any other royalist parties. This struggle was definitely decided in favour of the Crown by the victory of Epila, after which Pedro IV, at the Cortes of Zaragoza in 1448, abolished the Privilege, while preserving the essential liberties of Aragon, and returning in general to the position as it had existed under James II. After this event, the Crown is certainly predominant, and when civil struggles broke out in the reign of Juan II, they were by no means of the bitter character which had marked previous civil wars, nor was the predominant position of the Crown called in question. Thus it may be said that, after Pedro IV, the Crown becomes the centre of the political organization. The functions of the Justicia are reduced to those of a court of appeal, with subordinate judicial authorities. The Cortes of 1348 certainly made the Justicia a life appointment and irresponsible to the Crown, with powers as previously explained (see chap. viii). On the other hand, we find the Crown obliging a new appointment to sign documents confirming his liability to dismissal. Pedro IV also arranged [249] that the Cortes should meet every two years, and not annually, as the Privilege of the Union had declared. Catalonia and Valencia retained their own Cortes, and when these bodies were not sitting they were represented by juntas or committees, known in Aragon as the Diputacin-General and in Catalonia as the Generalitat, which were intended to watch legislative and financial practice. Pedro's successors made few changes in the constitution, as he had left it, which was thus based upon royal absolutism, though this did not imply the suppression of a very large number of local privileges and customs. Such an event as the Compromise of Caspe was enough to show that, notwithstanding the disturbed spirit of the age, Aragonese society had developed a political sense which realized the necessity of a centralized monarchy.

We find during this period a gradual development of administrative and financial organization; a hierarchy of court officials for collecting taxes and tributes worked side by side with the judicial authorities. A distinction is made between the King's private property and income and the revenue of the kingdom as a whole, the latter being placed under the charge of a particular officer, whose business was to secure the payment of the various tributes due to the Crown. It cannot be said that the system worked successfully. The evils of financial administration apparent in almost every country in Europe were no less obvious in Aragon. Public offices were bought and sold, taxes were farmed out or exploited and embezzled by their collectors, while punishment was difficult or impossible, as practically the whole of the upper classes of society were more or less tainted with guilt. The Army and Navy underwent but little change in organization, but seem to have been generally able to raise a force when it was wanted. The custom of engaging mercenary companies seems to have grown, especially during the wars between Pedro 1V and Pedro I of Castile, and was also suggested by the employment of the almogvares in Italy and in the East. The maintenance of popular order, and the work of policing the country-side, was left to the municipalities and to the nobles, who were supposed to check robbery and murder under pain of death if they did not perform this duty.

[250] The relations of the Aragonese Crown and the Papacy during this period were largely influenced by two events: the extension of the Aragonese dominion in Italy and Sicily, and the part which the country played in the Great Schism. The most famous of the opposition Popes, Pedro de Luna, known as Benedict XIII, was, as has been said, himself an Aragonese, and established himself for a considerable period upon Aragonese territory. He was a man of considerable influence in the Church before he was elected to the Papacy. He had induced Juan I of Aragon to recognize Clement VII, the Pope then resident in Avignon. His energy in the cause of clerical reform displayed in the National Council at Valencia in 1388 largely contributed to secure his election as Pope on the death of Clement VII in 1394, one of his warmest supporters being San Vicente Ferrer. Under the name of Benedict XIII he was distinguished both by his piety, which led him to found numerous convents and churches, and also by his zeal in the cause of education. He was a generous benefactor to the University of Salamanca, and the University of St. Andrew in Scotland owes its foundation to him. His legitimacy as Pope was recognized by both Castile and Aragon until the election of Ferdinand of Antequera. Ferdinand was anxious to bring the Schism to an end, and, under the influence of the Emperor of Germany, attempted to induce Benedict to resign. This he refused to do, and retired to Pescola with a few cardinals among his supporters in 1416. Then followed the General Council, which appointed Martin V as the sole legal Pope, and called upon the supporters of Benedict XIII to withdraw their allegiance to him. However, he maintained his position until 1424 when he died, as was supposed, in consequence of a dose of poison administered by a friar. His party of cardinals declined to submit to Martin V, and appointed the Canon of Barcelona as the new Pope, Gil Muoz, who eventually resigned in 1429 at the Council of Tortosa, when the Schism came to an end. His brief term of office involved Alfonso V in quarrels with Pope Martin V, and Alfonso then definitely established the rule known as Pase regio, which laid down that papal bulls should have the King's approval before circulation in the country. The abuses connected with papal appointments were a strong argument in favour of [251] this principle. James II had granted to the Pope the right of appointing bishops. Cathedral chapters had objected, but the principle had been followed during the period of the Schism. Private influence and nepotism had produced several bad appointments; Clement V sent a young cousin of his to the see of Zaragoza, and Benedict XIII himself made an equally unsatisfactory choice for the Archbishopric of Toledo. The Popes, on the other hand, were anxious to assert the rights of vassalage which had been acknowledged by Pedro II. Pope Martin IV thus excommunicated Pedro III and deprived him of his lands and sovereignty as a contumacious and rebellious son of the Church, declaring that any Catholic prince who could take them might occupy the possessions of Aragon. Upon the whole, the Aragonese kings maintained that authority in ecclesiastical affairs that had been a tradition of the Crown since Visigothic times, and were prepared to intervene in ecclesiastical disputes, and to settle them in their own interests, whenever necessary.

The social history of Catalonia during this period underwent considerable changes in consequence of the revolution of the serfs and the rise to power of certain municipalities, the chief of which was, of course, Barcelona. The period is marked by the diminishing influence and power of the nobility, who were overshadowed by new political and economic influences. The power of the various baronial lords in the north of Catalonia had been gradually absorbed by the Count of Barcelona and afterwards by the centralizing policy of the Aragonese monarchs. The chief point of interest, therefore, became the question of the relations between overlords and their vassals or serfs, especially with regard to questions of tribute and jurisdiction. The greater part of the territory was, from this point of view, in the hands of the nobles, who asserted feudal rights over the population there settled. Estimates made in the middle of the fourteenth century showed that some two-thirds of Catalan territory were thus removed from the direct jurisdiction of the Crown and were under the management of nobles, knights or ecclesiastical communities, and the process of alienation and appropriation by the Crown of these rights, if it proceeded regularly, was slow and lengthy. The serf population (payeses de remensa) was heavily burdened with obligations of tribute and service. [252] The complicated system of customs, dues and rights of passage, the obligation to hand over particular portions of the produce of the soil and to perform forced labour upon the roads and fortifications had become both a heavy burden and a continual source of irritation, while the extraordinary difference between local customs in these respects made any uniformity of practice impossible. In some cases the peasant's wife was obliged to act as nurse to the children of the overlord. If the peasant killed a pig, he was obliged to hand over the best part of it to the overlord, without whose permission he could not sell his crop nor, if he died, could his family bury him, without surrendering some part of his personal possessions. Petty impositions of this kind in some cases numbered as many as twenty-five or thirty possibilities, in addition to the ordinary rent or tribute that was due from the occupant of the soil. In short, the Catalan appears to have been much worse off than the Castilian peasant. Some attempts had been made to secure a right of manumission, or to allow him to redeem some of these obligations by monetary payments, and such kings as Pedro III, Juan I and Martin the Humane had done their best to alleviate the peasants' unhappy lot, but their efforts had been frustrated by the shortsightedness of the nobles and the general spirit of conservatism. They had, however, shown the peasant that there were prospects of better things, and his discontent was inflamed by the famines and plagues which ravaged Catalan territory during the middle of the fourteenth century. Maria, the wife of Alfonso V, espoused the cause of the peasant class with particular zeal, and arranged for the collection of a tribute which was to indemnify the overlords for any loss they might suffer from the liberation of the peasant class. The collection of this money and the measures suggested aroused a considerable ferment among the lower orders, who began to combine for purposes of revolt, when they had paid the money and saw no immediate result. Trouble began in 1462 when peasants are found combining to attack their overlords, besiege their castles, sack their houses and plunder them upon the highway. Queen Juana attempted to use this movement for political purposes against the General Council of Barcelona and the citizen party. The peasant class thus came under the [253] protection of the Crown in some quarters, while others preferred to turn for help to the municipalities. War broke out in 1462, though hostilities were interrupted by the French invasion in that year. A temporary pacification was followed by another outbreak in 1475, which was particularly directed against the exactions of the Church. A large number of the peasants withheld their payments and continued in a state of revolt until the death of Juan II, and the social problem was not settled until the time of Ferdinand the Catholic.

The losers in all this conflict were the nobility. From the time of Alfonso V it was impossible to depend upon the payment of tribute from the class of serfs, while the old counties which had been the chief bulwark against the encroachment of the royal power had entirely disappeared by the time of Martin. The nobles themselves, with singular shortsightedness, made their position worse by private quarrels and struggles with the municipalities. The lower orders of nobility, knights and so-called hombres de paraje, who formed a kind of country aristocracy, were thus enabled to obtain considerable influence, for they regarded the high nobility as their natural enemies and were inclined to support the Crown. It is true that a check to the decay of the power of the feudal nobles could be found in the tendency of the Crown to sell or to alienate royal property for the purpose of raising money, such sales carrying with them considerable rights of jurisdiction; but, upon the whole, it may be said that the power of the nobles steadily declined as that of the Crown, the lower classes and the towns increased.

It was during this period that the towns attained to the height of their power. They also followed the example of the nobility and bought rights of jurisdiction from the Crown, extending their authority by the use of various ancient privileges. It was possible for a municipality, for instance, to extend to a neighbouring village the right of carreratge, which meant that the village was considered as one of the streets of the town which took it under its protection. The Kings naturally objected to this process, if it implied the withdrawal of the tributes due to them. But in general the Crown helped the municipalities both to free their towns from the authority of the nobles and to increase their privileges [254] and, had the municipalities been able to avoid the continual plague of internal feuds and dissensions which occasionally brought one corporation into armed conflict with another, their influence would have reached very much further. From the thirteenth century onwards a certain uniformity of development in town life can be observed. The foundation of municipal government was the assembly of the citizens, and, when this became too unwieldy, the administration was carried on by a council of some kind; a curia, cort or senado, composed of the leading men, the jurados or prohombres, from whose meetings the plebeian element was excluded, and who were often appointed without plebeian concurrence. This tendency to aristocratic government was checked in the fourteenth century, when we find the common people securing rights of representation upon the councils. At the same time the General Assembly by no means disappears in every case. The town might thus become the centre of a district including minor towns and villages, under the administration of a royal official who exercised jurisdiction on the part of the Crown without infringing the administrative rights of the municipality as such. Towards the end of the fourteenth century the municipality was able, in some cases, to secure possession of this royal office, and the Kings were naturally anxious to form strong municipalities upon the frontiers of feudal territories which they suspected of aspirations to independence. The nobles attempted to counteract this influence by forming municipalities or allowing them to grow under their own influence and control. In such cases we find the overlord retaining the rights of justice, with control of the salt works, mills and water-courses, etc., claiming a certain proportion of the cattle or produce of the soil, and the right to appoint certain leading officials, while the population controlled the common property of the corporation, through the General Council, which was usually formed of a certain number of councillors and four leading men (consules) who were all of the middle classes. It naturally depended upon the energy of the municipality, or the political power of the overlord, how far this kind of constitution would persist in subjection or would manifest its right to independence.

Barcelona may be regarded as the type of Catalan municipality [255] in the highest state of development. As a municipality, indeed, it passed the norms of the Peninsula, and developed a vitality like that of the Italian city-states. It was their nearest equivalent outside Italy, and so their rival in Mediterranean commerce and thalassocracy. From them it differed by the greater driving force it obtained from its hinterland of sovereign states, and also by the disturbance continental politics could offer to its maritime adventures. During the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries the organization of local government did not greatly change from the type established under James I, except that the powers of the municipality were recognized by successive monarchs, in particular Pedro III and James II. The government of the town was carried on by a body of councillors (concelleres), and by a muncipal council (consello). The councillors varied in number from 128 to 177, and contained representatives of every class of population, their business being to maintain public order, administer the municipal finances and guard the town privileges, the last-mentioned duty being carried out with the most jealous care, which occasionally brought them into conflict with the royal authority. The administrative and judicial powers of the town extended far beyond its actual limits; the right of carreratge, together with other privileges, had given Barcelona control of a whole series of townships along the coast-line, and in the fifteenth century Barcelona was generally regarded as the capital of Catalonia, maintaining a number of' subordinate officials in the various towns under its control. Such a situation naturally led to occasional differences with the Cortes or Diputaci-General of Catalonia, and Barcelona at times attempted to make life difficult for other towns by imposing a commercial embargo, as happened in one instance with Valencia. On the other hand, her influence was also exerted in the cause of peace, and we find her intervening in quarrels between municipalities or internal quarrels within her township. The subordinate officials who managed these wide interests were appointed by the Council. Such were the Batlle, or chief magistrate, the Claver, who supervised the financial department, the Mestre Portol, who was in charge of the harbour, the Consul del Segell, who stamped the textile and other fabrics which the town produced, as a guarantee of their good quality. Typical [256] also of the commercial life was the class known as Homes Honrats, the distinguished citizens and the rich and powerful merchants who had risen above their fellows, and enjoyed the same reputation and the same rights as members of the nobility under other circumstances. Enough has been already said concerning the struggles of the municipality with the Crown and the nobles. On the whole, the Catalans were inclined to be suspicious of the Kings of Aragon, and the accession of Ferdinand I and the House of Castile was regarded as the admission of a foreigner, who for that very reason was objectionable, apart from his absolutist and centralizing ideas. On the other hand it must be said that the Catalans were generally inclined to support the international policy of the Aragonese Kings and their enterprises overseas, which they naturally regarded as a means of extending their own commercial interests. They certainly grumbled at the long absence in Italy of Alfonso V and the expense of his wars, but were in agreement with the general policy of the undertaking. The chief points upon which they came into conflict with the Aragonese monarchy were those which aroused some suspicion of an infringement of their privileges: Ferdinand I had trouble over the question of a tax payment; Pedro IV and Alfonso V were regarded as acting without due regard for the privileges of the town, and this general spirit of independence rose to the point of rebellion, as we have seen, in the wars between the Prince of Viana and Juan II. A Catalan party then appears, formed for the most part of nobles and middle class, showing a distinct movement in favour of separatism, inclining at one time to a union with France, and when this project came to an end, suggesting a republican organization upon the model of the Italian states. The struggle between the Catalans and Juan II was certainly brought about by the King's behaviour to the Prince of Viana, but its continuance was due to the clash of two opposite theories; monarchical absolutism on the one hand, and municipal freedom upon the other. The victory of the Crown did not imply the disappearance of the traditional rights of Catalonia. In fact the privileges of Barcelona itself were somewhat increased; but the Crown had, none the less, asserted its superiority, and this fact in the long run implied the overthrow of the particularist point of [257] view, upon which the assertions of the municipality were founded.

Catalonia had Cortes of its own, which usually met independently of the Cortes of Aragon. Their most important function was that of voting taxation. They insisted that redress should precede supply, and on more than one occasion were dismissed without granting the supplies required by the King. There was also a General Assembly of the Cortes of the whole Catalan-Aragonese kingdom, including Catalonia, Aragon, Valencia, Mallorca, Roussillon and the Cerdagne. In 1888 it was agreed that the King should make his opening speech at this meeting in Catalan, and that the Infante should reply in Aragonese in the name of the Cortes. There was also a body known as the General Deputation or Generalitat, which varied in number from time to time, and which was composed of individuals representing each class in their respective Cortes. Their business was to watch over the maintenance of the privileges, in case the King or his officials should infringe them by any course of action, and to take the oaths of fidelity from the Viceroy, Governor or other high functionary who might from time to time be installed. They were also responsible for the naval defences of the coast and for supplying arms to the military forces, if these were mobilized. They might also in extraordinary cases call a meeting of the Cortes or consult with the leading individuals upon any line of policy to be followed. Naturally these conflicting authorities produced a considerable amount of legislation, and judicial powers were in such variance as to amount almost to confusion. The large towns had judicial rights of their own, as had also the nobles upon their own territories, notwithstanding the fact that the King was regarded as the ordinary fount of justice. Attempts were made to reduce these anomalies to some form of order by the promulgation of legal codes, but individual corporations and townships had their own legal codes which were also published. We have, for instance, the constitutions and customs of Lrida, of Gerona, of Tortosa, side by side with the ordinances of the royal household, published in the time of Pedro IV. The general tendency of legislation was to go back to the tradition of the Roman jurists, but it was obviously necessary for a litigant who left his own territory to make careful enquiry [258] into the laws and customs prevailing in any other area in which he had business.

State finances during this period cannot be regarded as other than badly organized; while taxation was increased, the Kings were constantly involved in pecuniary difficulties which they attempted to relieve by the sale of rights and the alienation of royal territories when they could not secure special grants from the Cortes. The Deputation of Catalonia was more orderly in its proceedings and could count upon a regular income derived from import and export duties, from taxes payable by various classes of the population in the nature of taille or gabelle, and from the tax known as the botlla, a leaden seal placed upon textile and other wares exposed for sale. Naturally a number of officials were maintained to secure the due imposition and collection of these moneys, which were paid to the bank or taula at Barcelona, and were then available for naval and military expenses, for the payment of judges and for grants to the monarchy. The municipalities naturally had their own financial arrangements, side by side with this general fund, one of the chief expenses of which was the defence of the Catalan territories. This was the special business of the Deputation, which had the right of enlisting and paying troops, providing arms and munitions and supplying them to the King in case of need. The backbone of the Catalan army at this time was the troops raised by the townships (somatents). The nobles certainly maintained their own bands of followers whom we find in conflict with the lower orders, in the rising of the serfs and in the struggles with Juan I, but they were overshadowed in importance by the municipal troops. The municipalities occasionally forbade their citizens to enlist in the royal army, for fear of impairing their own military strength. The Barcelonese troops were organized in companies upon a basis of trade guilds, led by captains of their own choice, with a commander-in-chief known as coronel. Of greater importance was the Catalan navy, the development of which was continually stimulated, not only by foreign wars, but by the necessity of maintaining a defence against the continual aggressions of piracy. The Navy consisted of three classes of vessels: royal ships built or hired and maintained at the expense of the King, ships belonging to [259] the Generalitat, maintained by the corporation for coast defence and paid from the particular funds which they controlled, and the municipal vessels of Barcelona which the township had the right of maintaining by a privilege more than once confirmed. Some feudal lords also had vessels of their own, and occasionally used them for piratical purposes. These forces when concentrated might amount to a very considerable fleet. Important as were the occasional expeditions overseas, the ever-present necessity was the defence of the coasts against pirates and corsairs, both Christian and Muslim in origin. The latter were chiefly concentrated in Algiers, but others were continually lurking in the Balearic Islands or in the neighbourhood of the coastline. A system of coast-guards and means of communication between them were developed, by which news of a sudden descent could be immediately passed to the nearest municipality. In spite of these precautions and of occasional punitive expeditions, piracy seems to have been a profitable business. So many prisoners were taken by the Moors that a particular organization, the Order of Mercy, was brought into existence to provide for their ransom.

The remarkable successes of the Catalans in naval warfare, especially in the great days of Roger de Lauria, were due not only to a long tradition of seamanship, but to careful preparation and strict discipline. The famous compilation of maritime law and custom, the Consulat del Mar, contains a collection of ordinances on the subject of warships, which explains the organization of the crew for offence and defence. Each ship had its comitre or captain, its condestable, who commanded the fighting troops on board, its senescal or purser with whom was associated a cominal or quartermaster; pilot, chaplain and surgeon were also carried. Of tactics not much is known; the Catalans attached great importance to the efficiency of their crossbowmen, whose skill was notorious over the Mediterranean and who appear to have laid the foundations of several important naval victories, as, for instance, that gained over the French in the Bay of Rosas in 1285; their better found and better handled vessels had little difficulty in ramming and sinking an enemy's ship, when the crossbow had thrown the crew into confusion. When Pedro of Castile attacked the port of Barcelona in [260] 1359, one of the guardships is said to have discharged a "bombard" which severely damaged one of the invading vessels; but it does not appear that cannon of any kind were a regular part of naval armament at that time. It was possibly this unwonted invasion which induced the magistrates of Barcelona to organize a standing force of city crossbowmen who could be embarked, if occasion required, and to institute public shooting competitions with prizes upon certain days in the year. Discipline was severe, and the captain of a ship who fled from two enemy vessels was liable to the death penalty for cowardice.

Aragon and Valencia were able to export some agricultural produce, and to this Catalonia added manufactured goods, especially textiles of various kinds, the production of which had grown considerably during the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. Catalan merchant ships went to all the chief Mediterranean ports and also to those of Northern Europe; Catalans were established in Bruges in 1389, and were the first people to provide maps of the Danish coast and of the Baltic; manuals of seamanship and navigation were also produced. Their relations with Germany were regular and far-reaching; German merchants were resident in Barcelona; in 1502 a Catalan-German vocabulary was printed in Perpignan. In all important towns the kingdom of Aragon had its consuls who were not merely commercial agents, but were also bound to protect the interests and the property of their compatriots. Barcelona encouraged home manufactures by protective duties against foreign wares of similar character; the importation of grain was encouraged and a heavy export duty retained what was produced in the country for home consumption, as Barcelona had a considerable industrial population to feed. New industries were encouraged and foreign experts were introduced to start them. As the city grew wealthier, it spent much money upon the improvement of its harbour, an example followed by Valencia which became a formidable commercial rival to Barcelona. Communications inland were also much improved throughout the kingdom of Aragon; roads were laid down or remade, bridges were built, and towards the close of the thirteenth century a postal or messenger service was begun.


This work was originally published by Methuan Publishing Ltd. in 1933.
Pagination of the original edition is indicated set off in brackets, as in [19].

 

Ample your information on Aragon

If you want to extend your information on Aragon you can begin crossing another interesting route is the Mudejar, Patrimony of the Humanity, also you can extend your cultural knowledge on Aragon examining its municipal and institutional heraldry without forgetting, of course, some of its emblematics figures as Saint George Pattern of Aragon also book of Aragon.

Also Aragon enjoys a diverse and varied Nature where passing by plants, animals or landscapes we can arrive at a fantastic bestiario that lives in its monuments.

The information will not be complete without a stroll by its three provinces: Zaragoza, Teruel and Huesca and his shines, with shutdown in some of its spectacular landscapes like Ordesa, the Moncayo or by opposition the Ebro.

Also you can dedicarte to the intangible ones: from the legend compilation that also does to universal Aragon you can persecute the presence of del Santo Grial in Aragon.



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