The Chronicle of San Juan de la Peña: A Fourteenth-Century Official History of the Crown of Aragon

By Pedro IV; Lynn H. Nelson | Go to book overview

Introduction

Background

Most American medieval history textbooks pass rather quickly over the Crown of Aragon. There are many reasons for this, not the least of which is the traditional emphasis that such textbooks place on England, France, and the Holy Roman Empire. Moreover, the Crown of Aragon was a peculiarly medieval phenomenon and did not survive into the modern era. In the fourteenth century, however, it had reached the height of its power and was the most powerful Christian state in the Mediterranean. It was also enjoying a cultural and scientific renaissance, and the poets, artists, scholars, and musicians of the Crown of Aragon were admired and respected throughout Europe.

The monarch of the Crown of Aragon, Pedro IV, or Pere III, as he was styled in his Catalan territories, carried the titles of King of Aragon, of Valencia, of Mallorca, of Sardinia, of Corsica, and of Sicily; Count of Barcelona, of Roussillon, and of Cerdagne; Duke of Athens and of Neopatria; and Baron of Montpellier; in addition to other dignities. His navies ruled the western Mediterranean and held the balance of power in the eastern reaches of that sea. His consulates were established in all the major ports, Christian and Muslim, of the Mediterranean littoral, and merchants from his realms traveled freely and traded where they wished.

King Pedro had many capitals: Zaragoza, Valencia, Palma, Perpignan, Palermo, and Montpellier, but Barcelona was his particular favorite. During his long reign, from 1336 to 1387, he made the city one of the most impressive and beautiful in all of Spain. Many of Pedro's works still stand there: the great ship-building yards; the churches of Santa María del Pí and Santa María del Mar; the royal palace with its great audience chamber, the Tinell; and the Saló de Cent, the hall he had built for the meetings of the representative assembly. His court was renowned throughout Europe for its splendor and grace. Pedro, surnamed "the Ceremonious," held courtly conduct in high esteem, and the court of Barcelona became a model of polish and refinement. The Crown of Aragon was not known simply for

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