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Pirineos-Monte Perdido

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Feudalism and territorial consolidation

The birth of the Kingdom

On the death of Sancho Garcs III in 1035, his estates were divided between his sons and it was Gonzalo who came to wield authority over the whole of Sobrarbe and Ribagorza, assuming the title of king.

However, Gonzalo's early and perhaps suspicious death in 1043 resulted in his realm being annexed by the kingdom of Aragon, whose monarch, Ramiro I, was the preferred royal contender of the authorities of Sobrarbe and Ribagorza. Ramiro thus became king of the nascent kingdom of Aragon, Sobrarbe and Ribagorza.

The feudal system

During this and the next few centuries, the feudal system was at its height.

Initially, a seignior was installed as the lord of a castellany in the service of the king. Later, this castellany became hereditary, passing from father to son with almost full autonomy.

The village was a unit of population and exploitation around which an entire cultural, social and economic fabric revolved, governed by the feudal powers, which could be secular or religious. In Sobrarbe, the great Monastery of San Victorin exercised enormous jurisdictional and seigniorial power over a large number of lands and villages.

The splendour of Romanesque art

The Benedictines (known as the black monks due to the colour of their habit) were responsible for spreading a new art, the Romanesque. Sobrarbe and the Pyrenees-Monte Perdido World Heritage Site are home to a considerable number of edifices in this style.

The Way of St. James

People began to venerate the apostle St. James in Galicia in the early 9th century. An interest in this new reverence for the saint very quickly developed in the Carolingian court and pilgrimages started. It is possible that the first pilgrims travelled by sea, sailing along the Cantabrian coast, or on foot, crossing the Pyrenees at the Palo Pass (Huesca) and the Otxondo Pass (Navarra).
In the 10th and 11th centuries, the routes to Compostela varied depending on shifts in the Moorish occupation of the region and changes in the boundaries of the Spanish March.

Following the conquest of Boltaa in the 10th century, all the natural routes over the Pyrenees were accessible from what is now France today, though there is uncertainty surrounding when they were actually used.

In the Pyrenees-Monte Perdido World Heritage Site, there are a number of places very closely associated with pilgrimages to venerate St. James, such as the Hospital de Riomajou, the Hospital de Bujaruelo and the towns of Bielsa, Torla and Broto, among others.

The pilgrimage to Santiago was one of the notable phenomena of medieval times, but it eventually fell so seriously into abeyance in the 14th century that it virtually stopped completely.

11th and 12th centuries

In 1071, King Sancho Ramrez introduced the Gregorian Reform.

In 1096, the troops of Pedro I took the city of Huesca from the Moors at the famous Battle of Alcoraz.

In 1137, Ramiro II put an end to the crisis of the succession to the throne by offering his daughter Petronila in marriage to the Count of Barcelona, Ramn Berenguer IV, in Barbastro.
Thenceforth his descendants were not just the kings of Aragon but also the counts of Barcelona.

It was then that the Crown of Aragon came into being, consisting of a confederation of states, each with its own laws, jurisdictions, courts and parliaments, joined by pacts under the rule of a single monarch, the king of Aragon, who was also the count of Barcelona, the marquis of Provence, etc.

This was a time of economic and demographic growth in which towns and cities prospered enormously, acquiring greater importance as they did so.
The town of Ansa was founded in 1124 and a charter was given in 1191 to the town of Bielsa by Alfonso II, granting franchises and liberties to the miners who settled there.

Villa medieval de Ansa

13th century: the region of the Pyrenees divided between two different states

In 1213, King Pedro II of Aragon was killed in the Battle of Muret (near Toulouse in Occitania) and the Crown lost a considerable part of his estates: Provence and the vassalage of the counts of Toulouse, who now served the king of France.

This brought about a major change in relations in the Pyrenees, since formerly both sides had been ruled by a single sovereign.

The land was divided into merindades (a merindad was a territorial subdivision that was smaller than a province but larger than a municipality that was governed by a merino, who administered the accounts and the king's justice.

The district as we know it today was divided into the merindad of Sobrarbe and the merindad of the valleys.

The sobrejuntera was a union of several merindades that worked together to fight against wrongdoing. The sobrejuntera of Sobrarbe covered the merindades of Sobrarbe, the valleys, Ribagorza and Barbastro.

Population levels stabilised and wealth began to accumulate in mountainous areas, earned from animal husbandry and exploiting wood, which was transported down the Cinca River to be sold.