Post-classical history

Mallorca Crusade (1114-1115)

A crusade mounted by a joint Pisan and Catalan force under Raymond Berengar III, count of Barcelona, which captured the Balearic islands of Ibiza and Mallorca from the Muslims, although the crusaders were unable to hold on to their conquests.

This crusade, which still awaits its modern historian, is mentioned in numerous sources, but especially in the Liber Maiorichinus, an epic poem 3,500 lines in length, written in unrhymed classical hexameters and modeled on Vergil’s Aeneid. Scholarship on the Liber has been devoted largely to various modern editions of the text, the relationships of the three extant medieval manuscripts, and the identity of the author, either a Lorenzo Veronese or a Lorenzo Varnenesis or Vornensis, or perhaps Enrico Pievano, a priest who appears in the poem among the attendants to the Pisan archbishop as presbiter Henricus plebanus. What is lost in much of the critical commentary is the fact that the author was an eyewitness who accompanied the expedition; that he was privy to the affairs of the Pisan leadership, including haggling with Catalans and peace negotiations with Muslims; and that his account, full of elaborate detail, merits much further study.

The venture was a crusade, preached on Easter Sunday 1113 by Peter Moriconi, archbishop of Pisa, with Pope Paschal II conferring the cross on the Pisans, and with a papal legate joining the expeditionary force in Barcelona in May or June 1114. All participants took solemn vows and were appropriately indulgenced. The island of Ibiza fell to the crusaders in July 1114. However, the larger island of Mallorca proved more difficult. The fortifications of Madina Mayurqa (mod. Palma de Mallorca, Spain), a round of dysentery making its way through camp, the winter of1114-1115, and flagging Catalan resolve (according to the story told by the Pisan author) made victory nowhere assured. The Pisans made sure their ships were repaired, in case Muslim reinforcements arrived from the Almoravids of al-Andalus or the Pisans might need to leave in a hurry. Greek fire eventually wrought enormous damage on the wooden towers of the city, and the first city walls were breached in early February, the Almu- daina section of the city falling on 4 March, with the citadel following on 19 March. Rather than attempt a successful or even temporary colonialism, the crusaders stocked up on booty, celebrated Easter, and returned to their homes, the Pisans returning via Marseilles, where they buried the most illustrious of their dead in the abbey church of St. Victor. It was not until the early thirteenth century that Mallorca came under Christian control.

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