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This will cross-reference all available documents in our data base related to the UNESCO World Heritage Site
«Pirineos-Monte Perdido»


patrimonio Inmaterial

This will cross-reference all available documents in our data base related to the UNESCO World Heritage Site

The Arab conquest and the county of Sobrarbe

The conquest of the Ebro valley, the Pyrenees and south-east France

Having quickly taken much of the Iberian Peninsula, Tariq ibn Ziyad (the general of the Arab ruler Musa ibn Nusayr) continued his advance, conquering the Ebro valley, the Pyrenees and the lands in the north-east of the peninsula.

Zaragoza fell in 714 and Huesca in 720.

The Arabs were militarily strong and cities requested amán, peace by paying collective tribute, in order to avoid being razed.

Christians who wished to retain their faith (Mozarabs) had to pay jarach, a tax levied individually.

The Moors used the old Roman roads, which were still in perfect condition, as they advanced, imposing Islam and extending Arab influence throughout the Iberian Peninsula and south-east France.

Territorial organisation

The territorial districts retained very similar names and continued to cover almost the same lands. For example, the Pyrenees-Monte Perdido World Heritage Site remained in the same district as before, now known as Barbotania or Barbitaniya, with Boltaña still its chief town.

The Arabs established themselves militarily in the Cinca basin as far as Aínsa and along the Ara to Boltaña, and erected defences to protect their positions.


The rest of the territory, including the mountain valleys, were conquered and subjugated politically, militarily and economically. Property taxes were not introduced nor were people forced to adopt Islam or Arab ways, but they were obliged to pay taxes to the authorities, enabling them to retain their religion and their local chiefs, who administered their own justice.

The district of Barbitania was part of the northern march of al-Andalus, along with the districts of Huesca, Barusa, Lleida, Tudela and Zaragoza.

Moors, Carolingians and indigenous peoples

In the 9th century, Boltaña suffered at the hands of Charlemagne and his local allies, as a result of which the capital was moved to Barbastro, which had recently been founded by Jalaf ibn Rashid.

The Buil-Matidero-Las Bellostas triangle was in effect the nucleus of what would later become the first county of Sobrarbe, initially under Carolingian rule though later under local control following the uprising of García the Bad and his marriage to a daughter of Íñigo Arista, the first king of Pamplona.

It is possible that at this time the mountain valleys organised themselves in a semi-independent manner, swinging uncertainly in their duty of obedience from the Moorish authorities to the Carolingian powers that had newly established themselves in the Pyrenees.

The end of Moorish rule

In the 10th and early 11th centuries, the middle area of Sobrarbe continued to suffer reprisals and in 1006 Abd al-Malik, the son of Almanzor, laid waste to the entire district.

However, the 10th century also saw the start of Navarran rule in the area, as the monarchs of Navarra asserted their power. It is recorded that in 924 King Sancho Garcés I of Pamplona controlled the Aragón River basin and Sobrarbe.

In 1016-1018, the area was liberated when the king of Pamplona, Sancho Garcés III (the Great) launched efforts to retake population centres on the Cinca, including Boltaña, Aínsa and Buil, unifying the territory and building fortress along the entire river basin.

At this time, he was the most powerful Christian king, ruling a vast realm that stretched from Barcelona to León.

It seems likely that the mountain valleys were under the administrative protection of the counts of Sobrarbe, since historical records no longer make any distinction, using the name Sobrarbe for the entire area from the Pyrenees to the chains of hills of Sevil, Arbe, Olsón, etc.

The Christianisation of the region

During this period, there was a new drive to Christianise the region through the founding of new monasteries and villages, each with a church of its own.

Even so, it is possible that centres of paganism and magic survived despite the advance of Christianity, in particular in spots hidden away up in the mountains.

King Sancho III introduced the Cluniac Reform into Spain, an important event in Spanish history that led to local traditions being set aside for cultural conventions and standards imported from France, thereby bringing about a significant modernisation.