Early Aragon

Aragonese Overseas Expansion, 1282-1479

Flag of (Greater) Aragon, from FOTW.

Shield, upper left : Mallorca
Shield, upper right : Valencia
Shield, lower left : Aragon
Shield, lower right : Catalonia

A.) The Growth of the Aragonese Seaborne Empire

During the later 13th century, the cusader movement was declining. The French House of Anjou had managed to secure a number of crusader states, as well as the old Norman KINGDOM OF SICILY, for themselves.
In 1282 the Aragonese secured Sicily by occupying the island and killing the Angevins they could get a hold of (the SICILIAN VESPERS), taking revenge for what happened to the Aragonese in the Languedoc during the 'crusades' against the Albigensians and a Sicilian revenge for what the Angevins did to the last Staufer King. Sicily was to remain Aragonese until the latter was merged with Castile to form Spain in 1479. The Angevins held on to the Kingdom of Naples.
In 1297 the Aragonese challenged Pisan and Genovan rule over SARDINIA, hitherto contested between the Italian republics of Pisa and Genova. The Aragonese claim to the island was recognized in 1328, but for long periods of time hardly extended beyond the city walls of Cagliari and ALGHERO, the latter a city where still today a Catalan dialect is spoken. In 1311 the GRAND COMPANY, a band of Catalonian mercenaries who, in true Gothic tradition, had signed up to serve the Byzantine Emperor; when he failed to pay them, they took the DUCHY OF ATHENS. Aragon had become a major Mediterranean power, it's capital BARCELONA risen to an equal of Venice.

click here for maps showing the Mediterranean world in 1300 and 1400, from De Imperatoribus Romanis (in French)

B.) The structure of the Aragonese Complex of Territories

The territories within the Aragonian realm were split among various branches of the dynasty; for years, the KINGDOM OF MALLORCA, including the other Balearic islands and various territories located in the Languedoc, such as Roussillon and Montpellier, was technically independent. So was the Kingdom of Sicily, an Aragonese SECUNDOGENITURE. The Duchy of Athens was run by the Grand Company, as an Aragonese fief, lost in 1381 to Corinth. Although over extended periods of time ruled as separate states, the Aragonese sphere was repeatedly reunited under one king.
In a document of 1243, King James called himself King of Aragon, Mallorca and Valencia, Count of Barcelona, Urgell and Lord of Montpellier. What is indicated as the Kingdom of Aragon on many historical maps in fact was a conglomerate of territories which were held together by the ruling dynasty, but otherwise managed on their own. Aragon proper, capital Zaragoza, was the largest of these territories and was always listed prominent (first) among the dynasty's many titles. The kings, however, resided in BARCELONA, the capital of Catalonia. As Barcelona was only a county, it was listed further down. Yet, Barcelona's harbour connected Aragon with it's various possessions spread over the Mediterranean.
Mallorca and Valencia were conquests; the Muslim population at the time of the conquest (the far majority) was expelled (Baleares) resp. banned to the countryside (Valencia). PALMA DE MALLORCA and VALENCIA became both capitals as well as bustling harbours, competing with Barcelona.

Aragon, as far as it covered stretches of modern Spain, thus fell into 4 distinct regions - Aragon proper, Catalonia, Mallorca and Valencia. The Kingdom of Aragon feateured prominently in it, because in the core union of Aragon and Catalonia (Barcelona), the Kingdom of Aragon outranked the County of Barcelona. Yet Catalonia dominated the Empire. Both Mallorca and Valencia became Catalan-speaking areas, as opposed to Aragon where Castilian is spoken. Aragonese policy centered around overseas expansion, which was in Catalonian interest rather than in that of landlocked Aragon.
Aragon, Catalonia, Valencia and Mallorca had distinct parliaments (CORTES), administrations, sets of law. The areas were preserving their distinct identities over centuries. After Aragon and Castile merged to form the unified Kingdom of Spain, Catalonia saw frequent risings - which hardly found any resonance in Aragon proper. The distance separating Catalonia from Aragon proper seemed to be larger than that separating Aragon proper from Castile.
Ecclesiastically, Aragon proper and Catalonia, together with Navarra, formed the ARCHDIOCESIS OF TARRAGONA (suffragans of Tarragona after 1318 : Barcelona, Lerida, Gerona, Urgel, Vich, Tortosa, Solsona). The Baleares, since 1237, formed an exempted bishopric. In 1318, the ARCHDIOCESIS OF ZARAGOZA was formed (suffragan dioceses at Jaca, Huesca, Tarazona, Barbastro and Teruel), covering Aragon proper and Navarra. In 1458, the ARCHDIOCESIS OF VALENCIA was founded. The church organization is a reflexion of the political division of Aragon. The Patron Saint of Aragon and Catalonia is St. GEORGE (in Catalan Jordi).

List of Kings of Aragon, 1250-1479 List of Kings of Mallorca, 1250-1343
James I. the Conqueror
Peter III. the Great
Alfonso III. the Liberal
James II. the Just
Alfonso IV. the Good
Peter IV. Ceremonioso
John I.
Martin I.
Ferdinand I.
Alfonso V.
John II.
Ferdinand II.

House of Trastamara

Personal Union with Navarra
Union with Castile

James I.
personal union w. Aragon
James II.
James III.
Peter Ceremonioso
Dynastic Union with Aragon)

Lists of Rulers of medieval Aragon, of Mallorca, Menorca , from obsidian, if necessary scroll down
Titles of European Rulers : Aragon
Origin of the Catalan Political Institutions, from Generalitat
Castile and Aragon, Tarragona, Valencia, Majorca and Iviza, articles from Catholic Encyclopedia
History of Barcelona, from See Barcelona; History of Mallorca from Mallorca Service (click general information, click history); History of Mallorca, from Mallorca Select (chronological table)
Architectural History of Zaragoza and Huesca , from Spaintour
Ransoming Captives in Crusader Spain, The Order of Merced on the Christian-Islamic Frontier, by James William Brodman, scholarly, 6 long chapters
The Crusader Kingdom of Valencia, Reconstruction on a 13th Century Frontier, by R.I. Burns, from LIBRO
History of Aragon and Catalonia, by Henry John Chaytor, from LIBRO
Sicily under Spanish (Aragonese) Rule, 1296-1713, from A Timeline of Sicilian History, completed until 1412
DOCUMENTS James I : The Barcelona Navigation Act of 1227,
James I : Trade Privileges for Barcelona, 1232,
James I : Improvement of Harbor Facilities in Barcelona, 1243,
James I : The Barcelona Maritime Code, 1258 ,
A Business Agreement between a Jew and a Christian in Barcelona, 1235-1242,
Royal Grants to the Jewish Community of Barcelona, 1241-1271,
Ordinance of the Jews of the Crown of Aragon, 1354,
Jewish Views of Royal Monetary Policy in Aragon, 13th Century from Medieval Sourcebook
Maps of Aragon 1162-1327, and of the Aragonese Empire, from Libro/H.J. Chaytor 1933
Atlas de Historia de Aragon, from Univ. of Zaragoza, in Spanish, many
Political maps, Europe 1300, 1400, 1500, from euratlas commented maps

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted in 2000, last revised on November 9th 2004

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