Crusaders, Condottieri, and Cannon: Medieval Warfare in Societies around the Mediterranean

By Donald J. Kagay; L. J. Andrew Villalon | Go to book overview

THE LOST KINGDOM OF SIURANA: HIGHLAND
RESISTANCE BY MUSLIMS TO CHRISTIAN
RECONQUEST AND ASSIMILATION IN THE
TWELFTH CENTURY
Lawrence J. McCrank

Imagine a Muslim highland pastoral and woodland paradise in northeastern Spain, that after four centuries of prosperity and semi-autonomy due to its mountainous isolation, suddenly came to a cruel and bitter demise with the Christian Reconquest after the mid-twelfth century. It was a world lost to written history, except through folksong and legend embellished as tragedy and romance, reinforced by ruins and an awareness that the area, the Priorat of Catalunya Nova, is culturally distinctive still to this day.

One tale tells of a beautiful Muslim princess, 'Abd al- 'Azia (transcribed variously, i.e., Abd-elazia), devoted to her lover and lord el rey moro,or rezuelo,named Almira Almoniniz.1 This is perhaps a corruption of the sobriquet amir al-mu'minin, or “Prince of believers, rather than a personal name. Indeed, one Catalan chronicler, Pere Tomich, relying on some sources no longer extant, names a certain “Dentença” as the Muslim master of the Mountains of Prades who ruled from the castle of Siurana. He attempts to link this to a latter surname associated with the barony of Falset in the mountains of Prades, as if to suggest that the Muslim lord of Siurana was a Mudejar who, after the Reconquest, had retained some holdings there, but this is assuredly a corruption.2 So the exact identity of

____________________
1
The story is recorded by Jaime Finestres y de Monsalvo, Historia del real monasterio de Poblet (Barcelona, 1746; repr. 1947–55), 2:43–45; and was elaborated by Victor Balaguer, Las ruinas de Poblet (Madrid, 1885), pp. 55–93; and was retold in abbreviated form by Joaquin Guitert y Fontsere, El real monasterio de Poblet (Barcelona, 1929), pp. 107–109.
2
Pere Tomich, Histories e conquestes dels Reys d'Arago e Comtes de Catalunya (Barcelona, 1534), facsimile ed., Antonio Ubieto Arteta, Textos Medievales, 29 (Valencia, 1970), p. 76: e empres de conquistar les muntanyes de Prades que tenien moros: en les quals havia un Rey moro appellat Dentenca: lo qual ya per te[m]ps lo Reye de Aragon avien lancat de dites muntayes el die heretaren del castell Dentenca: e lo dit Dentenca recullis en lo castell de Siurana; e aqui lo dit Rey Aldefonsus lo pres a merce: e seulo lo ser Chrestia: e mes li nom Guillem Dentenca: e de aquell son exits los Dentenca e lur linatge: e lo Rey dona lo Mora e Falcet: e total la Baronia qui es dita Dentenca en les dires muntanyes de Prades.Thus, claims Tomich, this Guillem Dentença was the same as or the successor to the Moor King Dentenca of Siurana. Dentencaseems to be a Catalan corruption of den t[in]encafrom tenencia, which really refers back to the original landholding rather than to a personal name. Nor does it seem likely that the inheritor, Guillem, would have been a Mudejar prince without clearer identification. Moreover, the root Tenca defies transliteration from Arabic or easy identification with any Muslim name, but it does reflect similar post twelfth-century Latin-Romance corruptions that occurred in Cistercian documents related to Poblet and her estates. In the case of Poblet's daughter house midway between Tortosa and Valencia, Benifaza or Benifasa (from the Muslim overlords of the district the Banu Hassa), the central domain or tenencia became known simply as the Tinença of Benifasa, as noted by Robert I. Burns, The Crusader Kingdom of Valencia: Reconstruction on a Thirteenth-Century Frontier (Cambridge, MA, 1967), 1:216.

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