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Ramon Muntaner: 750th anniversary of his birth

Ramon Muntaner

Catalan chronicler born in Peralada (1265) and died in Ibiza (1336). He spent his whole working life at the service of the kings of Aragon, Majorca and Sicily. For fifteen years he was part of the Catalan Company, travelling around both the Western and the Eastern Mediterranean as an envoy of Roger of Lauria, an administrator for Roger de Flor and as a Master Treasurer of the Company.

He is the author of the most extensive and well-known of the four great Catalan chronicles of the time. He wrote it between 1325 and 1328 and it centres on the reign of James II of Aragon (1291-1327), a period in which he held some very significant positions. The historical importance of his writings comes from the fact that Muntaner played an active role in some of the events he recounts, and from his direct and colloquial style. His work has been translated into several languages already since the 17th century.

Alongside his work as a chronicler, he was a soldier and merchant based mostly in the kingdoms of Valencia, Sicily and Majorca. He brought to Valencia the fruits of Roger of Lauria’s incursions along the coastline of North Africa at the beginning of his career. In his forties, he settled in Valencia and towards the end of his life, he was twice elected councillor of the city. He held other public offices too: governor of the islands of Djerba and Kerkennah (off the coast of Tunisia) and Chamberlain of the Bailiff in Ibiza, a title he held when he died.

The Claim against the Doge of Venice

During his long life of Mediterranean voyages, Muntaner sailed the sea in the service of various masters. The document presented here refers to an event that took place in 1307 during his stay in Negroponte (Euboea) as he accompanied Prince Ferdinand of Majorca. The latter had travelled eastwards to the take command of the Catalan Company, but its Captain, Bernat de Rocafort, refused to allow him to do so. Back to the west, with Muntaner, he left Tassos for Armiro, Spoli Island (Skopelos/Skyros) and Negroponte (Euboea). The prince trusted the Venetians but was taken prisoner on this last leg of the journey. Muntaner saw how the cargo of his galleons was stolen and he was then returned to the Company by the Venetians.

The claim for the stolen goods, which were valued at twenty-five thousand ounces of gold, began in 1308 and took thirty years, so Muntaner never saw its conclusion and it was his heirs who finally won compensation in 1357.

Muntaner’s documents at the ACA

The ACA holds around twenty documents relating to the commercial and sea-faring activities of Ramon Muntaner between 1298 and 1356, including safe-passages, licences to ship prohibited goods, annulments of debts and concessions of exemptions. Seven of them relate to the event recounted in the letter to the Doge of Venice in 1325.

Muntaner also has sections in the Archives of the Kingdom of Valencia, the Archives of the Kingdom of Majorca and the Venice State Archives.

ACA, Cancillería, Registros, 186, fol. 207v-208r.

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