Military Wiki
Conquest of Majorca
Part of The Reconquista
Assault on Madina Mayurqa
Result Conquest of Majorca by the Crown of Aragon, Treaty of Capdepera and creation of the Kingdom of Majorca
Aragonese Flag Crown of Aragón
Flag of Marseille.svg Marseille
Fr narbona.png Narbonne
Flag of Genoa.svg Republic of Genoa
Cross Templar.svg Knights Templar
Malteserkreuz.svg Order of Malta
Flag of Almohad Dynasty.svg Almohad Caliphate territory of Majorca
Commanders and leaders
Aragonese Flag James I of Aragon
Aragonese Flag Guillermo II de Montcada
Aragonese Flag Berenguer de Palou II
Aragonese Flag Nuño Sánchez
Aragonese Flag Peter I, Count of Urgell
Bandera de Aragón Hugo IV of Ampurias
Aragonese Flag Bernardo de Santa Eugenia
Flag of Almohad Dynasty.svg Abú Yahya
Flag of Almohad Dynasty.svg Abu-l-Ulà Idrís al-Mamun
Flag of Almohad Dynasty.svg Fat Allâh (in Fautil•la)
Flag of Almohad Dynasty.svg Abu Hafs ibn Sayrî
Flag of Almohad Dynasty.svg Xuiap de Xivert
Units involved
Aragonese army
500 knights
15 000 peones
25 ships
12 Galleys
Aragonese Navy
18 Taridas (a ship of burden)
100 vessels
1 000 knights
18 000 Infantry.[1]

The Conquest of the island of Majorca on behalf of the Christian kingdoms was carried out by King James I of Aragon between 1229 and 1231. The city of Madina Mayurqa (now Palma de Mallorca) fell in December during the first year of the battle, but the Muslim resistance in the mountains lasted another three years.

The arrival of the Christian troops had been agreed upon with a local chief in the Port de Pollença, but the strong mistral winds forced James I to divert to the southern part of the island, where he finally landed at midnight on September 10, 1229, on the coast of the present tourist resort of Santa Ponsa, the population centre of the Calviá municipality.[2]

After the conquest, King James I divided the land among the nobles who accompanied him on the campaign, as provided in the Llibre del Repartiment (book of distribution).[3] Later, he also carried out the conquest of Ibiza, which ended in 1235, while Menorca had already surrendered to him from 1231.[4] The first repopulation of Majorca consisted primarily of Catalan settlers, but a second wave, which took place towards the middle of the century, saw the arrival of Italians, Occitans, some Aragonese and Navarrese in addition to Catalans. This settlement was possible as a result of a legal statute allowing them possession of the property seized during the conquest. An annual capitation tax was levied.[5] There were still some Mudejar and Jewish still residing in the area, the latter of which enjoyed official status which protected their rights and allowed them to carry out their activities freely, in addition to granting them fiscal autonomy.[5]

While the monarch occupied the island he created the Kingdom of Majorca, which became independent of the Crown of Aragon by the provisions of his will,[6] until its subsequent conquest by the Aragonese Pedro IV, during the reign of James II of Majorca.

The ratification of the pact to carry out the invasion, concluded between James I and the ecclesiastical and secular leaders, took place in Tarragona on August 28, 1229. It was open and promised conditions of parity for as many as wished to participate. His motto, in Latin, was the following: "omnes homines de terra nostra et aliunde venientes qui hoc jurare voluerint et venire nobiscum in viaticum supradictum-ad insulas Baleares."[7]


The geographical location of the island allowed for intensive large-scale trade. The island soon became a meeting point for traders from various Mediterranean coastal areas: Perpignan, Maghreb, Genoa, Granada, Valencia and Catalonia, where a conglomerate was formed by Jews, Christians and Muslims transporting and selling all kinds of goods.[8] Majorca's location meant that it was a hub between the Christian and Islam boundaries, ideally situated at the intersection between Spain, southern France, Italy and North Africa.[9] The island was valued more as a transit point to the Muslim world than for its own merchandise. It was a land of opportunities for merchants which also meant that, commercially, it could never be truly independent, since its economy was strongly linked to international traffic.[9] The market came to be an active one for trade and was monitored by the Consulate of the Sea, which ensured respect for law in all business transactions.

Map of Barbary Coast made in 1630 by Gerardus Mercator.

Map showing the territorial division of the Balearic Archipelago during the period known as the Oriental Islands of al-Ándalus.

Although Majorca had already suffered an initial landing and plundering in 707 by the eldest son of Musa ibn Nusair, Governor of the Umayyad caliphate in North Africa, it was not until 903 that it was conquered by Issam al-Khawlani, ruler of the same caliphate, who took advantage of the destabilization of the island population caused by Normandy raids that had been carried out previously.[10][11] After this conquest, the city of Palma, then still having traces of the presence of the Roman Empire, became part of the Emirate of Córdoba in al-Andalus. The last governor rebuilt it and named it Madina Mayurqa.[12][13] From then on, Majorca experienced substantial growth which led to the Muslim-controlled Balearic islands becoming a haven for Saracens pirates, besides serving as a base for the Berbers who used to attack Christian ships in the western Mediterranean, hindering trade between the trade areas of Pisa, Genoa, Barcelona and Marseille.[14] The main financial sources for the islanders were the spoils from the raids on Christian territories, control of naval trade and taxes that the farming communities of Majorca paid to the Emir.

Conquest of the island by Ramón Berenguer III

Ramon Berenguer III thrusting the sign of Barcelona in the Fos castle (Fos-sur-Mer, Provenza), by Marià Fortuny (1856 or 1857), Reial Acadèmia Catalana de Belles Arts de Sant Jordi (on trust at the Palau de la Generalitat de Catalunya).

Within this context of trade and piracy, in 1114 the Count of Barcelona, Ramon Berenguer along with other nobles, such as the Viscount of Narbonne and the Count of Montpellier, organized a retaliatory expedition against the island, along with nobles from Pisans and other Provençal and Italian cities.[15][16] The objective of this mission was to wrest Majorca from the Muslims and to prevent the attacks and obstruction of the convoys and ships belonging to Christian merchants.[15][16]

However, after a long siege that lasted eight months, Berenguer had to leave for his own territory because an Almoravid offensive was threatening Barcelona, leaving the command to the Genoese, who ended up ceding to the Muslims and fleeing with all the spoils.[17][18][19]

Nevertheless, this issue served to lay the foundations for future Catalan naval power and to strengthen business contacts in the Mediterranean.[20]

In Pisa there are still some remains that were moved from Mayurqa. There is also an account of the expedition in a Pisano document called Liber maiolichinus, in which Ramón Berenguer III is referred to with the appellate "Dux Catalensis" or "Catalanensis" and "catalanicus heros", while his subjects are called "Christicolas Catalanensis". This is considered the oldest documented reference to Catalonia that have been identified within the domains of the Count of Barcelona.[21]

The destruction of the islands prompted the Almoravid Caliph to send a relative of his to govern. The new wāli gave birth to a dynasty, the Banu Ganiya,[22] which, from its capital at Madina Mayurqa, tried to reconquer the Almoravid empire.[23]

King Alfonso II, using Sicilian ships, organized a new expedition and again attempted the conquest of the island, but was unsuccessful.[24]

Almoravid and Almohad Empire

Mapamundi from the geographer Al-Idrisi (1100–1162), who was born and educated in al-Ándalus during the Almoravid period then moved, in the middle of the century, to the Normandy court of Roger II of Sicily.

After the withdrawal of the Count of Barcelona’s troops Majorca was again in Muslim possession under the control of the Almoravid family, Banû Gâniya, who, due to the Almohad reunification and the advance of the Christians, created a new independent state in the Balearic Islands.[19] Trade between the various Mediterranean enclaves continued but the Muslim attacks on commercial ships did not stop. In 1148 Muhammad ben Ganiya signed a treaty of non-aggression in Genoa and Pisa, which was revalidated in 1177 and in subsequent years.[19] The wāli was one of the sons of the Almoravid sultan, Ali ibn Yusuf, thus his kingdom had dynastic legitimacy. He proclaimed its independence in 1146.[25][26]

When Ganiya acceded to the Majorcan seat there were already temples, inns and sanitary conveniences that had been built by the previous wāli, al-Khawlani. So the city had social meeting places and amenities as well as three walled enclosures and some 48 mosques spread across the island.[27] There were also hydraulic and wind mills which were used to grind flour and extract groundwater.[28] Majorcan production was based on irrigated and rainfed products: oil, salt, mules and firewood, useful products to the military regime of the time.[27]

During this period rich irrigation agriculture was developed: water sources, ditches and channels were constructed. Lands were divided into farmsteads and operated by family clans in collectives. Management and administrative functions were concentrated in Medina plus all kinds of artisans and merchants. Cultural and artistic life thrived and the city soon became a trade centre between East and West.[10]

Although the Almoravids preached a more orthodox compliance to Islam in Barbary, Majorca was influenced by Andalusian culture so their religious precepts were relaxed. Pressure from King Alfonso I and the emerging Almohad power led to a crisis in the Almoravid administration and, after the fall of Marrakech in 1147, it eventually succumbed to this new empire.[29] In 1203, an Almohad fleet that was leaving Denia, fought a fierce battle against Ganiya,[30] the last Almoravid stronghold of the Andalus period, incorporating Majorca into their domain. It was then ruled by different wālis who were appointed from Marrakech, until 1208 when Abu Yahya was appointed as its governor.[23] He created a semi-independent principality, with only a formal submission to the Almohad emir.

Status of the Crown of Aragon

Coat of arms of the Crown of Aragon.

Having pacified their territories and having normalized economic recovery following the drought that began in 1212, the crown of Aragon began to develop an expansionary policy that would permit them to expand their domains.[31] During that same year, the Muslims were defeated at the battle of Las Navas de Tolosa, an event that led to the subsequent Almohad decline and allowed the Aragonese kingdom to create a program to reassert its power.[32] This expansion, initially projected northward was cut short just a year later, during the events of the Battle of Muret, where the father of James I, Peter II of Aragon died in combat. Thus, in order to expand their domains, improve economic opportunities and channel the outward thrust of the nobility, expansion to the south and the Mediterranean was planned.[33][34] By then, James was only five years old and, after a series of events, he was interned in the Templar castle of Monzón, in the province of Huesca, under the tutelage of Simon de Montfort,[35] where he received an education in a religious and military environment that developed a strong character and a warrior personality.


James I wanted to conquer Valencia and the Balearic Islands, but the motivation for invading either territory was attributable to various goals and expectations. Valencia was a rich land that could be used to provide new territory for the population of the Kingdom of Aragon and Catalonia so that the nobility could obtain new fiefdoms. This was the option preferred by the Aragonese. In addition, the king of Castile, Ferdinand III, had tried to take parts of Valencia that were, in principle, reserved for the King of Aragon. However, the choice of the conquest of the Balearic Islands was preferred by Catalan and Provence merchants since Majorcan merchants competed with them. Besides, at that time, the islands were a haven for pirates and a base for the Barbary corsairs who hindered trade with north Africa and the rest of the Mediterranean.[36] The taking of the Baleares represented not only a retaliatory strike for the damage caused to the merchants, but it also represented the beginning of a planned expansion in order to obtain trade monopoly with Syria and Alexandria, thereby enhancing trade with Italy and the rest of the Mediterranean. It was after the success achieved in Majorca that James decided that he was ready to conquer the kingdom of Valencia, which capitulated after the Battle of Puig in 1237.[37]

Fernando II of Aragon on his throne flanked by two shields with the emblem of the Royal Seal of Aragon. Frontispiece of a 1495 edition of Catalan constitutions.[38]

Catalan Courts Assembly

The Catalan Courts (a medieval advisory council) held in December 1228 in Barcelona discussed the desirability of carrying out a military campaign against the Balearic Islands or against Valencia. The three estates took part in this assembly in which the king guaranteed the Bishop of Barcelona the concessions from the churches on the islands.[39]

The Barcelona Courts of December 1228, an assembly at which the details of the military campaign to the island of Majorca were discussed.

During this period there was a group of families of the upper bourgeoisie who formed the minority leadership of the city.[40] These families had acquired their power and wealth at the end of the previous century and were also the leaders of the city government. Their interests centred around both their foundational municipal privileges as well as in the future conquests of the monarch. In order to increase the profitability of their investments, they demanded more and more stringency towards their nobility or proprietary rights. Father Grony, the representative of the city of Barcelona, offered the king assistance from the city for this expedition.[40] After that first assembly there were others, until finally, the king had chosen the option of Majorca.

The attack on Majorcan lands was already supported by traders and businessmen, so only the support of the nobles was pending; this was essential in carrying out the expedition. According to James I, it was the expert Catalan navigator Pedro Martell who had encouraged him to embark on that enterprise during a dinner banquet that the latter held in Tarragona in late 1228.[41][42]

Both the political and religious agenda of the enterprise were clearly defined in the discourses at the courts. James I opened his speech by uttering a verse in Latin, whose origin is not clear, "Illumina cor meum, Domine, et verba mea de Spiritu Sancto" (Enlighten my heart, O Lord, and my words by the Holy Spirit) but which was often used in medieval times to seek divine inspiration for the rest of the sermon. James suggested that the expedition would be a "good work".[43] The church and the influence of religion in the reign of James I is manifold, his life and work reflecting the importance of Raymond of Penyafort, the Dominicans and Peter Nolasco, and the founding of the order of Mercy.[44]

According to the philologist Rafael Alarcon Herrera, from the beginning of the adventure the spiritual values of the Templars were evidenced. In 1129 the order had already included the Balearics in its list of territories to conquer a year before their recognition in the Council of Troyes. Thus, during the dinner, they apparently alluded to the monarch that the invasion was "God's will", a fact which may have encouraged the young king, given the connection of that house[45] to his birth and education. In fact, much of the conquest was planned and executed by the Templars, proof of which is in the gift of the castle, the Jewish district, more than a third of the city and an exclusive port to the order[46] after the conquest.

Although it cannot be said that the reasons for the templars house assisting in the invasion were due to causes other than the expansion of the Crown of Aragon, it is believed that this order represented the best troops that James I had throughout his kingdom.[47]

As James I himself narrates in Llibre dels fets, the conquest of the island of Majorca was presented to the Aragonese monarch by merchants at a dinner given by the navigator, Pere Martell in Tarragona.

Financing and support from the nobility

It is possible that, though the purpose of the dinner was to determine the necessary investments for the venture, the attack on the island was already decided. At that meeting, the Catalan nobles granted their support, and economic and military aid to the king by providing a number of knights and an undetermined number of foot soldiers.[42] The collection of the bovaje tax (this was a tax on yokes of oxen paid to the King and used to fund military ventures) within the Crown's domains to cover the costs was also negotiated, as well as the signing of a peace treaty and a truce throughout the Catalonia region.[48][49] In return, they would receive a share of the conquered lands proportional to the support given to the conquest. The king promised to appoint arbitrators for the distribution of lands and loot.[50] The men who were finally appointed for this task were the Master of the Knights Templar, Bishop Berenguer de Palou of Barcelona, Bishop of Gerona, Count Nuño Sánchez del Roussillon (who, after the king, was the most important figure in the venture),[51] Count Hugh IV of Ampurias,[52] Catalan knights Ramón Alamán and Ramón Berenguer de Ager and the wealthy gentlemen of Aragon, Jimeno de Urrea and Pedro Cornel.

The king also requested a loan of 60, 000 Aragonese pounds from the merchants, promising that it would be returned when the city of Majorca was taken, although it is unknown if they were given in gold or silver.[53] Concerning assistance that the citizens of his kingdom could contribute towards the campaign, he remarked that he could not give them anything in return, since he had nothing, but that on achieving victory he would turn over property covering the entire length of sea from the beaches of Barcelona up to the beaches of Majorca, so that today, in setting the boundaries of a property next to a beach, instead of pointing to the beach or the sea as a boundary, the land is situated as the owner's portion of the sea from the beach of their property to the beach on Majorca.[54]


Seal of the Knights Templars, with the well-known image of two knights mounted on one horse, a symbol of their initial poverty. The text is written in Greek and Latin characters "Sigillum Militum Xpisti:" which means "Seal of the soldiers of Christ".

In the first meeting of the court the operation was presented only for subjects of the Crown, but when the venture began to be considered as a crusade and fall within a papal bull, it was then open to all who wished to participate. Thus, private groups and Jews began to join.[55] The latter minority group was called Xuetes and their importance was partly qualitative as they represented the industrial, commercial and scientific activity of the crown.[56][57] From his perspective, James I even considered this set preferable to Christians from the nobility, who could become political rivals, so that stimulation of this group of citizens to move their homes to new conquered territories served as a cornerstone for his policies as they were subjects whose contribution to the economy and the colonization of the island would be substantial.[58] The king's sympathy for the Jewish collective came from an early age. From he was recognized as king in 1214, he had a Jewish doctor named Açac Abenvenist at his disposal. Besides taking care of his health, this doctor was once commissioned to obtain a temporary truce with the Muslims.[59]

The nobles and bishops who contributed goods and troops to the formation of the army included some nobles from the royal family, such as Nuño Sánchez himself, Ramón Berenguer IV's grandson, who took 100 knights. There was also Count Hugh IV of Ampurias, who, along with his son Ponce Hugo, contributed 60.[60] Among the nobles there was also the most important magnate in Catalonia, Guillermo Ramón de Moncada who, along with his nephew, Ramón brought 400 knights.[61] The members of the clergy also provided men: Berenguer de Palou and the Bishop of Gerona, Guillermo de Montgrí, allocated 100 men to each company.[62] The Archbishop of Tarragona, Aspàreg de la Barca, and Ferrer de Pallarés, prelate of Tarragona (who later became bishop of Valencia), also took part, providing a galley and four knights, and also became part of the king's War Council.[63]

It was not only the nobles and prelates who were committed to the venture, but also free men and cities, and not only Catalans,[n. 1] provided ships and financial support to the cause. Barcelona, which, along with Tortosa and Tarragona were the hardest hit by piracy, had a major role in the meetings of the Court, as demonstrated by the involvement of a significant number of its citizens. Berenguer Gerard and Pedro Grony were directly involved in the talks and Berenguer Durfort, a member of a powerful merchant family, was appointed, after the conquest, the first mayor of the City of Majorca.[64] The venture was presented as a crusade against the infidels, like that undertaken against Peñíscola following other courts held in Tortosa in 1225. King James took the cross in Lleida in April 1229.[n. 2]

Although the conquest was primarily initiated by the Catalans, there was collaboration with many other cities and towns in Provence: Montpellier, Marseilles and Narbonne, or Italian cities such as Genoa.[65][66] The cities of Tortosa, Tarragona and Barcelona, the most affected by the pillaging of pirates, were the ones who offered the most ships. It was Ramón de Plegamans, a wealthy businessman in the royal service, who was in charge of preparing the fleet,[n. 3] but later did not participate in the campaign.

Although the lower class within the Aragonese cities declined to collaborate, in a meeting held in Lleida a few days after the Barcelona Courts, James was able to get a good number of Aragonese nobles to take part because of their vassalage links with the king. The Lleidans ended up supporting the venture, though at first it appeared that they would not participate, because, like the Aragonese, they were more interested in Valencia, a fact that James subsequently took advantage of when preparing for the conquest of that Muslim kingdom.[50][67] Finally, among the knights who embarked on the expedition, about 200 came from Aragón of which 150 were provided by Pedro Cornel and 30 from Pedro de Lizana,[n. 4] the king's chamberlain who was eventually appointed governor general of the island.[68]

Other Aragonese nobles, especially men who were part of the advisory board of the monarch, included Atho de Foces,[69] Gil de Alagón, Artal de Luna, Blasco de Alagón and Rodrigo de Lizana. Although they all followed the monarch in the conquest of Valencia, many of his mesnaderos settled on the island in order to receive benefits in the division of spoils, further promoting the repopulation of Aragon leading to extensive economic and social activity.[70]

Papal bull and final preparations

Image of a manuscript from pope Gregory IX.

Preparations for the venture intensified. Armed with the papal bull that Pope Urban II had granted to James' grandfather, Peter I of Aragon in 1095, Pope Gregory IX dispatched two documents on February 13, 1229 in which he reaffirmed his power to grant pardons in Aragon, to those men who would organize themselves into military groups against the Muslims. He also reminded the coastal towns of Genoa, Pisa and Marseille, that a trade veto had been imposed on military materials for the Majorcans.[19]:17[71]

In August 1229, the archbishop of Tarragona donated 600 cuarteras[n. 5] of barley and one day later, the King reaffirmed the promises of the granting of land. He also instituted prosecutors and received the oath from several knights.[19]

The rejection of the Aragonese caused "the Conqueror" great annoyance but, upon arrival in Barcelona, he was pleased that a powerful navy had been prepared. In addition to about 100 small boats, there were 25 warships, 12 galleys and 18 táridas to transport horses and siege engines.[72][73]

Although the Catalan armed naval fleet had been around since the ninth century, even before the Castillian, it was James I who, during his reign, led it to demonstrate its true power.[74]

On the day of Our Lady of August, all the barons and knights of Catalonia, along with the king, travelled to Tarragona and Salou, carrying all their equipments: guns, sails, rigging, ships and táridas were loaded with logs, flour, barley, meat, cheese, wine, water and 'biscuit', a type of bread that was re-toasted to harden and preserve it. Before leaving, the king, along with the nobles and his entourage, attended a Mass given by Berenguer de Palou in the Tarragona Cathedral where he also took communion, while the army took communion in a chapel that had been built at the port for that purpose.[75]

Most citizens of Tarragona turned out to witness the grand spectacle of the fleet's departure, gathering along the rocky cliffs rising above the sea. The ship, on which Guillermo de Moncada travelled, was led by Nicholas Bonet and was ordered to be at the forefront, with captain Carroz to the rear, while the galleys were arranged in a circle surrounding the transport ships to safeguard them.[75] The last ship to set sail was a galley from Montpellier which had been originally been intended for the king and his knights but at the last moment, a multitude of volunteers appeared and had to be boarded on the ship.[75]


Christian army

A very rough estimate of the Christian army, composed of aristocratic armies, would give the figure of 1500 knights and 15, 000 footmen, divided among the following:

  • Army of the House of Aragón 150/200 knights.
  • Army of Nuño Sánchez I of Roussillon and Cerdagne,[76] 100 knights.[35]
  • Army of Guillermo II de Bearne y Moncada,[76] 100 knights.[35]
  • Army of Ramón Alemany Cervelló de Querol, 30 knights.
  • Army of Hugo V de Mataplana,[77] 50 knights.[35]
  • Army of Berenguer de Palou II, 99 knights.
  • Army of Guillermo Aycard and Balduino Gemberto, 600 knights and several ships.[19]:20
  • Army of Hugo IV of Ampurias,[76] 50 knights.[35]
  • Army of the obispo de Gerona, Guillermo de Montgrí,[78][79] 100 knights.
  • Army of the Abad de San Feliu de Guíxols, Bernat Descoll.
  • Army of the provost of the archishop of Tarragona, Espárago de la Barca,[80] 100 knights and 1 000 lancers.
  • Army of the Knights Templar.
  • Army of the Knights of Malta.
  • Army of Guillermo I de Cervelló, 100 knights.[35]
  • Army of Ferrer de San Martín,[81] 100 knights.[35]
  • Army of Ramón II de Moncada, 25/50 knights.[80]
  • Army of Ramón Berenguer de Áger, 50 knights.[35][80]
  • Army of Galçeran de Pinós, 50 knights.[35]
  • Army of Bernardo de Santa Eugenia,[76] 30 knights.
  • Army of Guillermo de Claramunt, 30 knights.[35]
  • Army of Raimundo Alamán, 30 knights.[35]
  • Army of Pedro Cornel, 150 soldiers.[35]
  • Army of Gilabert de Cruilles, 30 knights.[35]

Muslim army

According to various accounts, the Muslim king of the island, Abu Yahya, had between 18, 000 and 42, 000 men and between 2, 000 and 5, 000 horses.[82] The main commanders of the governor were: Abu-l-Ulà Idris al-Mamun, Fat Allâh (in Fautil•la), Abu Hafs ibn Sayrî and Xuiap de Xivert, an Almohad refugee of Xivert, that is believed was taking refuge from the revolt by Zaian, the Valencian, against the Almohads. He had an army of 3, 000 soldiers, consisting of 20 to 30 men on horseback and a total of 15, 000 civilians with women and infants.

The weaponry of the Muslims did not differ much from that of the Christian: meshes, spears, mallets, arrows and leather shields resistant to swords. As evidenced from a display at the Museum of Catalan Art, one of the widely used Muslim weapons from the battlements consisted of the Fustiballus, similar to a slingshot contraption, whose bands were tied to a wooden stick.[83] The Muslims also had catapults and low shot machines, called algarradas by James I, very light, fast handling, and capable of destroying several enemy tents.[84]


Journey and landing of the troops

Outline of the first confrontations on the island.

View of San Telmo, with Dragonera Island in the background and the Pantaleu islet in the center. Municipality of Andrach.

Santa Ponsa bay with the Puch de Galatzó mountain in the background. The photo was taken from the location of the landing.

The expedition left for Majorca, from Salou, Cambrils and Tarragona on September 5, 1229, with a fleet of over 150 vessels, the majority of which were Catalan.[85] Various sources indicate an armed contingent of between 800 and 1, 500 men and 15 000 soldiers.[85][86] The Muslim king of the island, Abú Yahya, had between 18 000 and 42 000 men and between 2, 000 and 5 000 horses[82] (according to various reports) and got no military support, neither from the peninsula, nor from North Africa, by which they tried to hinder as much as possible the Christian advance towards the capital.

Some of the Christian ships were built at the expense of the crown, but most of them were private contributions.[87] Because of his experience and knowledge of the Balearics, Peter Martell was appointed head of the fleet, while Guillermo de Moncada, who previously, and because of the risk that the enterprise entailed, had asked the king to allow him to take charge of the mission, served as lieutenant, all under the command of James I, who due to his enthusiasm, did not allow impositions and rejected the petition.[87] The royal vessel, heading the fleet, was skippered by Nicholas Bonet, followed by the vessels of Bearne, Martell and Carroz in that order.[87]

The journey to the island was hampered by a severe storm that nearly caused the convoy to retreat. After three days, between Friday 7 September and part of Saturday, the entire Christian fleet arrived at Pantaleu island,[88] located on the coast of the present town of San Telmo, a hamlet belonging to the municipality of present-day Andrach. James I's forces were not bothered by the threat of early conflict with the Muslim fleet, in case it arose. However, the storm was so harsh that the king, during the storm, swore to Santa Maria that he would build a cathedral to venerate her if their lives were spared.[89] Local tradition has it that, the first royal mass was held on this island and that a water trough where the king watered his horse was kept there, but in 1868 it was destroyed by revolutionaries who wanted to eliminate the vestiges of the former feudal system.[90]

While the Christians were preparing to begin the assault, Abu Yahya had to suppress a revolt that had been caused by his uncle, Abu Has Ibn Sayri and as a reprimand, was preparing to execute 50 of the rioters. However, the governor pardoned them so they could help in the defense work. However, once pardoned they left the Medina for their homes; some of them preferred to side with the Christians, as was the case of Ali de Pantaleu, also known as "Ali de la Palomera" or by Ben Abed, a Muslim who provided supplies to James I for three months.[82]

Battle of Portopí

Battle of Portopí. Fragments of the mural paintings of the conquest of Mallorca from the Palacio Aguilar in Barcelona and conserved in the Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya. Dated: 1285–1290

A Moroccan Army with a Christian Banner.

Monument at the site where Guillermo and Ramon Moncada died in combat, now part of the Paseo Calvia network, near the present tourist resort of Palmanova.

The battle of Portopí was the main armed conflict in open terrain between the Christian troops of James I and the Muslim troops of Abú Yahya in the entire conquest. It took place on September 12, at various points on the Na Bourgeois mountains (formerly called Portopí highlands), about halfway between Santa Ponsa and the City of Majorca, an area known locally as the Coll de sa Batalla.[91] Though the Christians were victorious, they suffered significant casualties, including Guillermo II de Bearne and his nephew, Ramón, whose relationship had previously been confused believing that they were brothers, so they were usually referred to as "the Montcada brothers".[92] Before the start of the skirmish, the Muslim army had been deployed throughout the Portopí highlands, knowing that the Christians would have to cross these mountains on their way to the medina. On the other hand, hours before the confrontation and aware of the danger that threatened them, Guillermo de Moncada and Nuño Sánchez debated who would lead the vanguard of troops, which ended up being directed by Moncada. However, they penetrated the Muslims awkwardly, falling into an ambush that left them completely surrounded, until they were killed.[93] James I, who was unaware at the time of death of these men, followed the same route, advancing with the rest of the army, intending to join them and participate together in the fray, until he came upon the enemy in the mountains. The Moncadas' bodies were found disfigured by multiple injuries and they were interred in rich caskets at the Santes Creus monastery in the present municipality of Aiguamúrcia, in the province of Tarragona.[94]

According to the chronicles of the historian Desclot Bernat, the Christian forces left much to be desired, as there were several times when the king had to insist that his men enter the battle, even admonishing them on two occasions when he exclaimed the phrase that later passed down into Majorcan folk history: Vergüenza caballeros, vergüenza (for shame knights, shame".[95][96] Finally, the military superiority of the Christians caused the Muslims to withdraw. When James I's knights requested a pause to pay tribute to the nobles who had died, the Muslims were left to flee to the medina where they took refuge. Desclot says in his article that only fourteen men were killed, probably relatives of the Moncadas, among whom were Hugo Desfar and Hugo de Mataplana but only a few ordinary people died.[97]

At night, James I's army stopped to rest in the present town of Bendinat, where according to legend, he ate some soup with garlic. The popular tradition has it that after dinner the king uttered the words in Catalan bé hem dinat (We have eaten well) which could have given that location the name.[98] The news of the death of the Moncadas was given to James I by Berenguer de Palou and two days later, on September 14, they were sent to bury his remains amidst scenes of grief and sadness.

Siege of Madina Mayurqa and the pacification of the island

The siege of Medina Mayurqa lasted for more than three months. In this image, the assault on Jerusalén in the First Crusade.

Grief over the loss of the Moncadas and the decision over the next location of the camp, kept the king and his troops busy for the next eight days. From there, they moved and camped north of the city, between the wall and the area known today as "La Real". James I ordered two trebuchets, a catapult and a Turkish mangonel to be mounted and they subsequently began to bomb the city.[90] The actual site of the camp was strategically chosen based on proximity to the canal that supplied water to the city, but far enough from the springs and Muslim mangonels. James bore in mind what happened to his father in Muret and, sensing that the siege was to extend longer than anticipated, ordered the construction of a fence around the camp that would ensure the safety of his troops.[99]

The trebuchet, a siege engine from the medieval era, that could launch some two projectiles per hour at a target.

While the Christian army camped outside the medina, they received a visit from a wealthy and well regarded Muslim named Ben Abed who, appearing before the king, told him that he was in command of 800 Muslim villages in the mountains and wanted to offer all kinds of help and hostages provided the king maintain peace with him, a fact which, together with advice on the practices of the besieged, represented powerful help to the Christians. As a first test of submission, Abed handed James twenty horses laden with oats, and goats and chickens, while the king gave him one of his banners, so that his messengers could appear before the Christian hosts without being attacked.[75]

The response from the besieged was immediate and they answered with fourteen algarradas and two trebuchets. Faced with the unstoppable advance of the king's troops, the Moors tied several Christian prisoners completely naked on top of the walls to prevent it from being bombed. These, instead, screamed exhortations to their compatriots not to cease firing.[100] James I, hearing the pleas in which they said that their death would bring them glory, he commended them to God and redoubled the discharges. Despite the discharges going over their heads, this caused the Muslims to return the prisoners to their cell, seeing that their blackmail was unsuccessful.[100] In response to the Muslim ploy, James I catapulted the 400 heads of infidels who had been captured in a skirmish (commanded by lieutenant Vali, Fati Allah), trying to reopen the water supply to Medina that the Christians had previously blocked.[82]

On sensing their loss, the Muslims offered various negotiations to discuss the surrender of Abú Yahya. James I, in order to cut losses, save lives and get an intact city, was in favour of reaching an agreement. The relatives of the Moncadas and the bishop of Barcelona demanded revenge and extermination.[101] Abú Yahya then withdrew as James was not accepting the conditions. The Wali assured that from then on every Saracen would be worth twice as much.[16] Given this context the king was forced to yield to the desires of his allies and continue with the campaign that culminated in the taking of Palma de Mallorca.

Taking of Madina Mayurqa

Hugo IV of Ampurias and Pero Maça, Lord of Sangarrén, during the conquest of the island.

The strategy used to conduct a siege on a walled city usually involved encircling the city and waiting for its defenders to suffer the consequences of thirst and hunger. Due to the weather conditions on the island during this time of year and the low morale and fatigue of James I's troops, the king elected to attempt to break down the walls and assault the towers in order to end the venture as soon as possible. Among the various machines that were usually used at the time were wooden siege towers, woven wattle, battering rams, lath crossbows and trebuchets.[83]

After heavy fighting that lasted for months during the siege, the Christians began making inroads, knocking down walls and defence towers.[102] The siege was so difficulty that when the Christians opened a gap on one of the walls, the Muslims erected another wall behind made of stone and lime to cover it.[16] One of the main strategies of the Christian attack was to conduct underground conflict using mines to undermine the walls, but the Muslim counterattack responded with countermines.[102] Finally, on December 31, 1229, James I managed to take Mayurqa Madina.[102][103] The initial moment occurred when a gang of six soldiers managed to place a banner on top of one of the towers of the city and began to signal to the rest of the army to follow, while shouting: adentro, adentro, que todo es nuestro![104] ("in, in, everything is ours!). The soldier who went ahead of the rest of the troops, waving the banner of the Crown of Aragon on that tower and encouraging the other five to follow was called Arnaldo Sorell, and was subsequently knighted by James I in return for the courage of his achievement.[105] The rest of the Christian army entered the city shouting, "Santa Maria, Santa Maria", an act that was typical of medieval times.

The chronicler, Pedro Marsilio, by order of the second son of James I, King James II, and whose manuscript is in the cathedral of Palma, recounted in his chronicle that 50 men launched their horses against the Saracens in the name of God, while shouting aloud: ayúdanos Santa María, madre de nuestro señor (Help us Holy Mary, Mother of Our Lord) and again: vergüenza caballeros, vergüenza!, while their horses butted forward and stirred up the Saracens who had remained in the medina, while thousands of others fled through the back gates of the city.[106]

James' triumphal entry occurred through the main gate of the Medina called in Arabic Bab al-Kofol or Bab al-Kahl and locally Porta de la Conquesta or Porta de Santa Margalida, the Porta de Esvaïdor or Porta Graffiti.[107] A commemorative plate was retained from this gate as it was demolished in 1912, years after the wall had also been destroyed.[107] In the Diocesan Museum of Majorca, there is a medieval picture with a fight scene in the altarpiece of San Jorge developed by the Flemish painter, Peter Nisart.[107]

It is said that, after taking the city, the Christians apprehended Abú Yahya and tortured him for a month and a half for him to confess to them where treasures of piracy were kept. They even cut the throat of his 16 year-old son in his presence, while his other son was converted to Christianity to save his life. Finally, the wali was tortured to death, but never revealed where he hid his wealth.[55] At the same time, they burned the medina and slaughtered the people who had failed to escape through the north door and had been left behind in the houses, although a few were converted to Christianity to save their lives.[108] The slaughter was so great that thousands of corpses could not be buried. Thus, shortly afterwards, the Christian troops were depleted by a plague epidemic produced by the putrefaction of the bodies.[109]

According to the Chronicles of James I, though it appears to be literary information according to the epic atmosphere of the campaign, 20, 000 Muslims were killed, while another 30, 000 left the city without being noticed. On the other hand, in the Tramuntana Mountains and in the region of Arta, they had managed to shelter some 20, 000 people including civilians and armed men, but these were finally captured by the Christians.[110]

Dispute over the division of the spoils

As soon as they entered the medina, the conquerors began to take over what they saw, so that soon discord began to emerge among the troops.[111] Given this situation, the king suggested first dealing with the Moors who had fled to the mountains, to avoid a possible counter-attack, but the greed to seize the goods of the vanquished prompted the Bishop of Barcelona and Nuño Sánchez to propose that the auction be made public.[111] The booty collected during the early days was abundant, each taking what they felt. When it was revealed that they had to pay, this sparked a revolt that ended in them storming the house where the pavorde of Tarragona had been installed.[111] Given these events, James ordered that they bring everything they had gotten to the castle where the Templars were settled. He then communicated to the people that the distribution would be fair, and that if they continued looting homes they would be hanged.[111] The sacking of the city lasted until April 30, 1230. A month before the master of the "house of San Juan" had arrived in the island with some of his knights. He requested that, in addition to land, they were given one building and some property.[112] James gave in to their demands and gave them la casa del deracenal (the deracenal house) plus four galleys that the wali had captured from the island.[112] Another of the problems that James I faced was the abandonment of the city by the troops once the military targets were achieved. Thus he sent Pedro Cornel to Barcelona to recruit 150 knights to finish conquering the rest of the island.[5]

Muslim resistance

Location of the last pockets of Muslim resistance in Majorca.

As a result of internal disputes among the conquerors over the distribution of the spoils, the Muslims who escaped were able to organize in the northern mountains of Majorca and hold out for two years, until mid-1232, when the complete conquest of the territory was accomplished. However, the majority of the Muslim population did not offer much resistance and remained disunited, facilitating the invasion.[113] To combat pockets of resistance that had been organized in the mountains, several cavalcades were organized. The first one, led by James I, failed because the troops had little strength and were plagued with illness.[5] The second raid took place in March, against the Muslims who had been hiding in the Tramuntana Mountains. A group of rebels were found there and they surrendered on condition that they agreed not to receive assistance from other Moorish groups who were in the mountains.[5] While the Christians fulfilled the agreement, they took the opportunity to look for new arrivals. A detachment under the command of Pedro Maza found a cave where a large number of Muslims had hidden; they eventually surrendered.[5]

James, having solved the major problems and eager to return to his states, decided to return to Barcelona, naming Berenguer de Santa Eugenia, as his lieutenant. He later became governor of the island and was in charge of destroying the Muslim resistance in the castles and mountains of Majorca.[114]

James' return trip to Catalonia was carried out in the galley of the Occitan knight, Ramón Canet, apparently the best of the fleet,[115] on October 28, 1230, arriving three days later in Barcelona to a reception with many festivities, as news of his victory had already reached and his vassals wanted to extol him as the greatest monarch of the century.[114] However, shortly afterwards, it was rumoured that a large Muslim squadron was forming in Tunisia to fight back and wrest the island. Thus he returned to Majorca and managed to take the castles where part of the Muslim resistance was found: the castles of Pollensa, Santueri in Felanich and the Alaró in the town of the same name.[114] The last stronghold of the Saracen forces were clustered in Pollensa, within what is known as the castle of the King, located on a hill 492 metres above sea level.[116] Once he had taken these fortresses and convinced that no army would come from Africa to confront him, he again returned to Catalonia.[114] During the period from December 31, 1229 to October 30, 1230 the towns located in the Pla, Migjorn, Llevant and the northeast of the island were taken. Finally, those who did not manage to flee to North Africa or to Menorca were reduced and turned into slaves, although a few managed to remain on their land.

The last pocket of resistance caused James to again return to the island in May 1232, when about 2, 000 Saracens, who had taken shelter in the mountains, refused to surrender or yield to anyone besides James I himself.[114]

Muslim perspective

One of Majorca's leading historians and archaeologists, Guillermo Rosselló Bordoy, worked alongside philologist Nicolau Roser Nebot in the translation of the first known Muslim account of the conquest of Majorca, Kitab ta'rih Mayurqa, discovered by Professor Muhammad Ben Ma'mar.[117] The work, which was discovered since the late sixteenth century but was believed lost,[118] was found in a CD in a library in Tindouf, when, under the auspices of a patron, they were doing worldwide cataloguing and digitization work of Arab documents.[119] This contribution is the first time that details of the conquest became known from the point of view of the conquered.

Its author was Ibn Amira Al-Mahzumi, an Andalusian born in Alcira in 1184 who fled to Africa during the war and who it is believed died in Tunisia between 1251 and 1259.[120] His account is considered of important historical and literary value, since it is the only document that recounts the vision of the campaign on the part of the conquered.[120] In its 26 pages it describes previously unknown details, such as the name of the landing site – Sanat Busa – which in Arabic means place of reeds.[120]

Ma'mar Ben Muhammad, professor of the University of Oran carried out the first transcription and annotation[121] and subsequently Guillermo Rosselló Bordoy translated it into Catalan in 2009. Since its introduction it rapidly became a small best seller in the Balearics.[122]

Among other information, it confirms the presence of 50 ships for the Christian fleet as well as its detour through the Tramuntana coast, as it was spotted by scouts from coastal watchtowers who informed Abú Yahya. The accounts of the treatment given to the Muslim governor of Majorca do not agree. It seems that he was assassinated with his family without fulfilling the promises made in the capitulation treaty as the Christian accounts maintain. The Muslim account concurs with other details such as the capture of the Christian ships in Ibiza as an excuse for the invasion, the landing site, the Battle of Portopí and 24, 000 Muslim casualties.[123]

Distribution of land and property

James I divided the island between the royal house, the nobility, the church, according to the Llibre del Repartiment. Image of James I in the City Council of Palma.

At the time, Majorca had 816 farms.[62] The distribution of land and property on the island was complete and was performed as previously agreed in Parliament and according to what was available in the Llibre del Repartiment.[124] King James I divided the island into eight sections, half became the medietas regis and the other half the medietas magnatis.[125] That is, half of the island passed into the hands of the king and the other half to the participating nobles or arbitrators of the distribution. Information exists only on the properties and lands composing the medietas regis, which were what appeared in the Llibre del Repartiment, but it is believed that the medietas magnatis was similar.[n. 6] The groups that had greater participation in the enterprise were Barcelona and Marseille, the first with a total of 877 horses and the second with 636, followed by the house of the Templars who had 525.[51][126] The nucleus of the island feudal system which James I installed consisted of jurisdictional units that were subjected to the provision of a number of armed men to defend the kingdom, called chivalry, although some of them, because of their relevance, seniority or importance to the successful bidding lord, came to be called baronies.[127] The Knights had a number of privileges that made them figures honoured by the king, mainly due to the nobility of their lineage and their kindness.[128] Some of their rights and customs include that they did not sit down to eat with their armour-bearer, but with some other honourable knights or gentleman who deserved this privilege.[128] However, the legal system allowed the cavalries to be leased or sold to third parties, even though they were knights, a fact which in return gave them lesser civil and criminal jurisdiction, permission to collect certain manorial rights or establish a Clergy.[127]

Medieta regis and magnatis

The medietas regis comprised about 2113 houses, about 320 urban workshops and 47 000 hectares divided into 817 estates.[129] In turn the monarch divided this part among the military orders that supported the conquest, mainly the Knights Templar, the infants, officers and the men in their charge and the free men and the cities and towns. Thus, the Order of the Knights Templars received 22 000 hectares, 393 houses, 54 shops and 525 horses. The men in the service of the monarch[n. 7] got 65 000 hectares. The cities[n. 8] received 50 000 hectares and the infant Alfonso, his first-born, got 14 500 hectares.

The medietas magnatum were partitioned between the four main participants, which in turn were to distribute the land among their men, freemen and religious communities. The four participants were Guillermo Moncada, viscount of Bearn,[n. 9] Hugo of Ampurias, Nuño Sánchez and the Bishop of Barcelona.

Origin of the conquerors

The conquerors came from various locations and in different proportions, so that some of current the names of the towns bear the names of their masters, such as the village of Deya, name of the conqueror who was probably Nuño Sanz' main knight since this class of settlers were given the villas and castles.[105] Similarly other names were created such as Estellenchs, by the Estella and Santa Eugenia gentlemen, from Bernardo de Santa Eugenia.[105] Thus, according to the Llibre dels Repartiment, the conquered lands were divided among people from Catalonia (39.71%), Occitan (24.26%), Italy (16.19%), Aragon (7.35%), Navarra (5.88%), France (4.42%), Castille (1.47%) and Flanders (0.73%).[65] Due to the extermination or expulsion of most of the native population, there was not enough manpower to cultivate the fields, so the island's first franchise letters were issued in 1230. These offered privileges which attracted more settlers for the purpose of cultivation.[10] The new Majorcan population came mainly from Catalonia, more specifically in the north-east and east, from Ampurdán, although there was somewhat of a Moorish population left. As a result the language of Majorca is an eastern Catalan dialect, (which was already used in the texts of the Royal Chancellery by the Crown of Aragon, whose scribes included Bernat Metge, one of the most important figures of Catalan literature)[10] derived in turn from Limousin, called Majorquin.[130]

Many typical Majorcan surnames, as they came into hereditary use throughout the various strata of the island in the thirteenth century, refer to the original lands of the first re-populators.[131] Some examples are Català (Catalan), Pisa (Pisa), Cerdà (from Cerdagne), Vallespir, Rossello (Roussillon), Corró (the population of Valle Franquesas) or Balaguer and Cervera (towns in the province of Lleida).

The toponymic picture of the island after 1232 was composed of various mechanisms; anthroponyms, denominatives, phytonyms and geographic names, but the origin of many others are still unclear because of the permeability to all kinds of influences linked to the Balearic island from antiquity.[132]

It seems that, before the conquest, the Christian population on the island was low or even non-existent. A mosque, known today as the Sant Miquel church, had to be converted in order to hold the first mass after the taking of the city. This suggests that the Christian worship and priesthood were non-existent.[42] Majorcan historians say, that during the long period of Muslim captivity, religion and the Catholic faith were never completely extinguished, given that the Santa Eulàlia Cathedral, whose original construction predates the Saracen invasion, never served as a mosque, although it is unclear whether the troops of James I found some Mozarabic Christians.[133]

Menorca and Ibiza

After the capture of the island and annexing it to the Crown of Aragon, James I dismissed an attack on Menorca because of the casualties suffered during the conquest of Majorca and because the troops were needed for the conquest of Valencia. At this point, they thought of a strategy that allowed them to somehow gain Menorca. Ramón de Serra, acting commander of the Knights Templar,[134] advised the king to send a committee to the neighbouring island to attempt to obtain a Muslim surrender. The king decided that the Master Templar, Bernardo de Santa Eugénia, and Knight Templar, Pedro Masa, would accompany him, each with their respective ships.[135] While the delegation started the discussions with the Muslim neighbours, in the place where the Castle of Capdepera now stands, James I ordered large fires to be ignited, that could be clearly seen from Menorca as a way to make the Moors from the neighbouring island believe that there was a great army encamped there ready to invade. This act had its desired effect, causing the recapitulation of Menorca and the signing of the Treaty of Capdepera.[73] After the surrender, Menorca remained in Muslim hands, but after the signing of the treaty of vassalage and the payment of taxes on the "Miquel Nunis tower" in the current Capdepera, on June 17, 1231, it became a tributary to the king of Majorca.[136] The island was finally taken in 1287 by Alfonso III of Aragon.

The conquest of Ibiza was appointed by James I to the archbishop of Tarragona Guillermo de Montgrí, his brother Bernardo de Santa Eugenia, Count of Roussillon, Nuño Sánchez, and the Count of Urgel, Pedro I.[137] The islands were taken on August 8, 1235 and incorporated into the Kingdom of Majorca. The repopulation was carried out by people from Ampurdán.


After the conquest the Cathedral of Santa Maria of Palma was constructed on the old mosque, as was the custom in that era.

The Royal Palace of La Almudaina, next to the Cathedral, was reconstructed following the Gothic style of the era.

Flag of the Kingdom of Majorca.

At first, the new Christian city was divided into two parishes: Santa Eulalia and San Miguel, these functioning as administrative, labor and spiritual centres. The latter parish is considered by Majorcan historians as the oldest temple in Palma because its construction was carried out on a Muslim mosque after the invasion, although with minor changes in the original structure to be adapted to Christian worship.[138]

Subsequently, Majorca was constituted as a territory of the Crown of Aragon, under the name "regnum Maioricarum et insulae adyacentes".[50] At first they began using the Catalan system known as usages or usatges, as the laws of the island, and the regime called Universitat de la Ciutat i Regne de Mallorca[n. 10] was also established for the City of Majorca. Madina Mayurqa was renamed Ciutat de Mallorca or Mallorques (Ciudad de Mallorca in Catalan) because James I endowed it with a municipality covering the whole island.

Subsequently, the city experienced a period of economic prosperity due to its privileged geographical location, ideal for trade with North Africa, Italy and the rest of the Mediterranean.

On September 29, 1231, contravening the pact with the nobles, James I exchanged the kingdom of Majorca for lands in Urgel with his uncle Prince Peter I of Portugal,[19]:22 an agreement that was finalized on May 9, 1232, the prince being assigned 103 royal agricultural estates and serving as lord over the island.[19]:25

The criminal justice system began to make use of new tactics that became gradually imposing. In the letter of repopulation archaic provisions were added, self governance arrangements were admitted; the aggressors who had been injured by the use of the word "renegat" (renegade) or "cugut"(cuckold) received impunity.[139] It also allowed for the perpetrator and victim of crime to agree to settle their differences with financial compensation.[139] From the first moments, thanks to the repopulation letters, there were notaries public. One of the first to hold this office, which had identical characteristics to those in Catalonia, was Guillem Company. This appears in an August 14, 1231 document.[140] Both James I and the rest of the judicial lords, created a notary that would document judicial and property acts within their jurisdiction, whose role came with financial compensation, as perceived from the rates that corresponded to deeds authorized to the holder.[139]

Muslim culture and religion received strong oppression after the conquest.[141][142] Although not all Muslims remained in captivity, mechanisms were not provided for their conversion to Christianity, nor were they allowed the expression of their religion publicly.[141] Those who collaborated with the invasion received special treatment, some of those who recapitulated retained their status as free men and could pursue crafts or trade, while many others were sold to serve as slaves.[141]

Soon, the beneficiaries were able to take advantage of the acquisitions. The Knights Templar were allowed to settle 30 Saracens families who participated in the olive harvest, and at the same time, through a pact with the Jews in which they guaranteed water supply, the latter learned the art of drawing navigational charts.[143]

Taxation as a public mechanism for detraction was still not formalized. The major source of income for the king was feudal in nature rather than political. Another source of revenue was the payments from non-Christian communities by way of trade impositions.[144]

The mosque was used as a Christian church until about 1300 when construction began on the Santa Maria cathedral, known for being the only Gothic cathedral in the world that is built closest to the sea, and also, for having one of the world's largest rose windows, popularly known as the Gothic eye.[n. 11]

The water supply system of the medina consisted of ditches entering through the main gate of the city and flowing to the royal palace. It was feudalized and became privately owned by royal grant, its distribution carried out through concession fees imposed by each owner.[145]

After the decline of the population by the Black Death pastoral activities were enhanced and this helped to provide low cost supplies to the textile industry of the local population and improved their ability to sell products to Italian cities. The city by no means lost its function as a transit hub for commercial shipping activity in North Africa.[9]

Although the Romans had introduced the art and craft of growing grapes for wine making, the Moorish population limited its consumption based on Koranic prohibitions. Its cultivation was reintroduced and stimulated by the Aragonese Cortes by a planting licensing regime. This granted a period of relative prosperity.[146]

The process of land occupation was slow. For 15 years after the conquest there were plots where only a quarter was cultivated, while most of the people settled in the capital and its surroundings.[147]

In 1270, the indigenous Muslim population that had been subjected by the invaders was extinguished, expelled or replaced by continental settlers or slaves.[148]

After the death of James I, the kingdom, along with other possessions in southern France, was inherited by his son James, who became the king of Majorca, independent of the Crown of Aragon until the subsequent return to the crown. Some streets of Palma commemorate his name and this chapter of the island, among which include the Abu Yahya square. The "calle 31 de diciembre" (December 31 Street), crosses the square and refers to the date of the triumphal entry of the Christian troops into the city.


Celebration of the battle between Moors and Christians in the tourist resort of Santa Ponsa, commemorating the landing made in the bay on September 10, 1229.

In 2009, a tour with 19 panels in four languages was opened, Known as "the landing routes", it involves a walk around the outskirts of the town of Santa Ponsa along three different routes: Christian, Muslim and the battle.[149]

On September 9, 2010, during the commemoration of the 781 years of the landing, Carlos Delgado Truyols, the mayor of the municipality of Calvia, reiterated his support for historical approaches, "the conquest of Majorca, from the political point of view was not a Catalan conquest, but it was of a plural nature and involved Christendom". He also reclaimed the Majorcan dialect as the official language of Majorca.[150]

In 2010, the remains of a Berber woman of the era were found in the town of Arta. It is estimated that she had taken refuge in a cave with the keys to her home, along with more than two dozen people, who it is believed were unaware that the island had been invaded three months earlier.[148]

The capture of the capital is commemorated during the "Festa de l'Estendart" on the 30 and 31 December annually. This festival was declared "Bien de Interés Cultural". Since the thirteenth century it has been considered one of the oldest civil festivals in Europe. During the event, which usually results in protests by nationalist groups, a proclamation is made and a floral offering made to the statue of James I located in the Plaza of Spain in Palma.[148] It is believed that the name of the festival refers to the soldier that placed the royal standard in the tower and told the rest of the Christian troops that they could storm the city.[151]


In the folk literature of the Catalan-speaking territories there is a wide range of stories and legends featuring James I, such as, for example, one that is told of the king, during a banquet held at the residence of Pere Martell. In the middle of the banquet he is said to have ordered them to leave his food and drink and to not touch anything until his victorious return from the island.[152]

Among his troops, James I also had the presence of Almogavars, mercenaries who lived for battle and war and are usually sold to the highest bidder.

The attire of the Christian troops consisted of a hemispherical helmet reinforced by a ring from which a kind of protector for the nose could be hung. Their helmets were made of wrought iron plate that after a period of honing was often painted mainly to improve their conservation, but also as a means of identifying the warriors carrying it.[153]


Monument dedicated to James I in the Salou porch. Its construction began in 1965 and shows an effigy of the Conquistador on a stone horse in a galley.

Interior patio of the Palacio Aguilar.

Although in the late Middle Ages the predominant architectural style of the bourgeois class was Gothic, both James I and the monarchs who succeeded him on the throne of Majorca were devoted to developing policies and promoting commercial maritime trade.[154] The commercial character of this policy was developed by Catalans, Valencians and Majorcans, while the kingdom of Aragon was assimilated in part to the social and economic patterns of Castile, engaged in agriculture, livestock and the dominance of the nobility.[154] Within Majorca there began to emerge a massive development of civil Gothic architecture which became abundant in the area. The rich and powerful bourgeois built palaces, auctions and county councils contrary to the pretensions of the Aragonese monarchs.[154]

During the Christian occupation architectural works of the Muslim world on the island were all virtually destroyed and only the Arab baths located in the garden of the Palma mansion of Can Fontirroig survive.[155] Its construction date is estimated in the tenth century and it is believed that it could have been attached to a Muslim palace.[dead link] [156] It maintained its well-preserved arches and 12 columns decorated with capitals of an uneven design and a square hall-topped dome.[156]

In terms of paintings, there are many works of art that have been made throughout the history of the island. Between 1285 and 1290, the reception hall of the Royal Palace of Barcelona was painted with images of the conquest; three canvases are conserved on which the cavalry, labourers, spearmen and archers are depicted. There are also fragments of other paintings in the Palacio Aguilar representing the meeting of the courts of Barcelona in 1228.[157]

With the intent of decorating its halls, the cultural society "Mallorcan circle" convened a painting competition in 1897 about the battle field events during the conquest. One of two winning entries, entitled "Rendición del walí de Mallorca al rey Jaime I" (Surrender of the wali of Majorca to King James I) by painter Richard Anckermann, done on a huge canvas, reflected the triumphal entry into the city by James on horseback and dressed in a coat of mail. The other entry depicted the surrender of the Vali.[93]

See also


  1. Montpellier, Narbona, Marsella and Génova also participated and subsequently obtained profits from the conquest.
  2. Lomax
  3. According to the The Crònica de Bernat Desclot
  4. José A. Sesma
  5. A cuartera is a dry measure which equates to approximately fifteen pecks
  6. Salrach
  7. According to Salrach, some 300 men.
  8. Barcelona, Tarragona, Marsella, Lerida, Gerona, Besalú, Villafranca, Montblanc, Cervera, Lérida, Prades, Caldes, Piera, Tàrrega, Vilamajor and Argelès-sur-Mer.
  9. Died during the Battle of Portopí.
  10. Established in the Carta de Privilegis i Franqueses of 1249, following the format of similar letters from Tortosa, Lleida or Agramunt.
  11. Most guidebooks on Palma present inaccurate information, in reference to the dimensions of the glass surface. There are some Gothic cathedrals in Europe with rose windows larger in diameter, although the glass area is less than that of Palma. It should be noted that of the Strasbourg Cathedral with a diameter of 15 metres (see the book Merveilleuses cathédrales de France, (Magnificent cathedrals of France), ISBN 2-85961-122-3), and also those in Notre Dame de Paris, whose northern and southern rose windows, built in 1250 and 1260, respectively, and have a diameter of 12.90 metres, see Notre-Dame de Paris.


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  • Barceló, M., Sobre Mayûrqa, Palma de Mallorca, Quaderns de Ca la Gran Cristiana/2, 1984.
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  • Riquer i Permanyer, Borja, Història, Política, Societat i Cultura dels Països Catalans. Volume 3. La forja dels Països catalans. Segles XIII-XV., Barcelona, Enciclopèdia Catalana, S.A., 1996. ISBN 8441224838
  • Lomax, Derek W., La Reconquista, Barcelona, RBA Coleccionables, S.A., 2006. ISBN 978-84-473-4805-3
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