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Medieval Sourcebook:
James I of Aragon:
The Barcelona Maritime Code of 1258


By the middle of the thirteenth century there was a well-established system of usages or maritime law at Barcelona and Tortosa in Spain, and at Marseilles in France, besides similar systems in northern Europe, the laws of Oleron and the laws of Wisby. As may be seen, these laws regulated lading and discharge of cargo, freight charges, contracts, arms, provisions, rescue, tolls, and relations between crew and merchants. The whole may be regarded as a codification of customs which had developed in the period of the Crusades. Sailing ships and vessels were used for the carrying trade and both ships and vessels had covered decks.

Be it known to all that we, James, by the grace of God, King of Aragon, of Majorca, and of Valencia, Count of Barcelona and Urgell, and Lord of Montpellier, hearing the ordinances written below, which you, James Gruny, our faithful servant, have made at our wish and command and with our consent, and which you have drawn up with the advice of the honest water-men of Barcelona and based upon the ordinance of the same, having heard, seen, and understood that the said ordinances were to be made in our honor, and for the use and welfare of the water-men and the citizens of Barcelona, having confirmed the document by the authentic application of our seal, we grant, approve, and confirm all and each of the undermentioned ordinances, made by you and the said honest men on our authority. Wishing that the said ordinances may endure and be observed as long as it shall please us and the said honest water-men of Barcelona, by commanding our mayors, and bailiffs, both present and future, that they observe each and all of the undermentioned regulations, firmly and strictly, if they hope confidently for our grace and affection, and that they see that they are observed inviolably, so that they do not allow them to be disturbed by any one.

1. In the first place: we ordain, wish, and command, that the captain of a ship or vessel of any kind and the sailors and mariners shall not leave or depart from the ship or vessel in which they arrived, until all the merchandise, which is on the ship or vessel, be discharged on land, and until that same ship or vessel be emptied of ballast and moored. But the captain of that ship or vessel will be able to go on land with his clerk when he begins to discharge the cargo, if the sea be calm; and if perhaps the weather be such that he cannot discharge the cargo the said captain, if he be on land, shall immediately repair to the said ship or vessel, and if he cannot so repair by reason of the weather, his crew shall have full power and permission to depart with the ship or vessel from the place at which it arrived, and to go to the harbor or put out to sea. Nevertheless, if the said captain be unwilling to go to his ship, his merchants shall be able to order and command him firmly, on behalf of the Lord King and the said James Gruny, to repair to the said ship or vessel and to place upon him such penalty as the said James Gruny is empowered to place upon him. Moreover, the said captain of the ship shall not dare to stay on land until all merchandise which came in the ship or vessel be discharged. And if the merchants wish to disembark from the ship or vessel and a storm should arise after their disembarkation, the captain of the ship or vessel, if he be there, or his crew, shall have permission to withdraw from the place in which he was with that ship or vessel and with the merchandise contained therein, and of going to sea or putting in to harbor. But if the mariners should not have done this let each one incur a penalty of ten solidi of the money of Barcelona, and the captain of a ship fifty solidi, and the captain of a vessel thirty solidi; and over and above the said penalty the captains of ships and vessels shall be condemned to repair all the damage which the said merchants suffered through their fault. But of the penalties, both foregoing and those written below, the King will receive half, and the other half will go to the Order of Water-men of Barcelona. Moreover, these penalties and all those written below shall be paid as long as it be the will of the honest water-men of Barcelona.

2. Also: we order that every ship and vessel shall have a sworn clerk on every voyage, which clerk shall not write anything in the contract book of that ship or vessel unless both parties are present, namely the captain and the merchants, or the captain and his mariners; and the said clerk shall be a good and lawful man, and shall make out the expenses truly and lawfully, and all the mariners shall be expected to swear to the captains of the ships and vessels that to the best of their ability they will save, protect, and defend the captain and all his goods, and his ship or vessel, and its rigging and equipment, and all the merchants going with it, and all their goods and merchandise, by sea and land, in good faith and without fraud. Moreover, the said clerk shall be at least of the age of twenty years, and if the captains of the said ships or vessels do not wish to have the said clerk they shall not leave Barcelona or any other place in which they may be, until they have another clerk, if they can find one.

3. Also: we command that on every ship which loads at sea, so that it is loaded with merchandise worth 2000 solidi (Barcelona money), half the mariners of the ship with one ofiicer shall be obliged to remain one night with their arms on the ship; and after any vessel has loaded at sea with merchandise worth 1000 solidi (Barcelona money), half the mariners of that vessel with one officer shall be obliged to stay on their vessel for one night with their arms. Also we command that the captain of a ship or vessel shall have food in his ship or vessel sufficient for fifteen days; namely, bread, wine, salt meat, vegetables, oil, water, and two packets of candles. And if the said captain of ship or vessel be unwilling to do this, let him incur a penalty of twenty solidi, and each of the mariners and crew incur a penalty of five solidi.

4. (Provision made for assistance to be given in storms to ships in distress).

5. Also: we command that no boat shall load for a voyage nor send away any living merchandise and if it loads with heavy goods, it shall not dare to load except as far as the middle of the deck, and the captain of the boat shall take his boat, manned and with its rigging, just as is understood between the captain and the merchants whose merchandise it is; and if the said merchants fear they will be held as hostages in any place, the captain of the boat shall not enter with his boat nor go into the place suspected of holding them without the consent of the merchants. Moreover every boat shall be expected to carry two ballistae with their equipment, and a hundred spears and two shields; and every sailor is expected to bear a lance and a sword or bill. And if the captains of the boats should not observe this rule they shall incur a penalty of ten solidi.

6. Also: we command that if any ship or vessel or boat be taken with its company to Barbary or other parts it shall not take a guard except it be understood between the captain of the vessel and the partners of the said company.

7. Also: we command that every ship's mariner who is expected to do the work of a ballistarius, shall carry two ballistae of two feet, and one scaling ladder, and three hundred spears, and a helmet, and a breast-plate or corselet, and a straight or curved sword. Likewise, the ballistarii of the other vessels shall be expected to carry the same weapons; but the other mariners on ships shall be expected to bear a breast-plate, and an iron helmet, or cofa maresa, and a shield, and two lances, and a straight or a curved sword. But mariners on vessels shall be expected to carry a breast-plate or corselet, shield, iron helmet, or cofa maresa, and two lances, and a straight or a curved sword. And if the said mariners do not have the said arms, the captains of the ships or vessels shall not take them; and if they do take them they shall pay as a penalty fifty solidi for each mariner.

8. Also: we command that mariners of vessels or boats shall be expected to help to draw their vessel or boat on shore, whenever the captain of the vessel or boat wishes to have it done, as long as those same mariners are present; and they shall be expected to do this by virtue of an oath taken by them.

9. Also: we command that captains of barges and those who discharge cargoes shall discharge well and in good order from ships, vessels, and boats, all merchandise with their barges and boats, and they shall not load their barges or boats excessively; and if they do load them excessively, let them be in the jurisdiction and command of two honest men whom James Gruny or his locum tenens with the advice of his counsellors shall have appointed; and if the said captains of barges transgress the command and jurisdiction of the two honest men, let them repair all damage which the merchandise has suffered, in the knowledge of the said two honest men.

10. Also: we command that every captain of a barge or boat shall not dare to take ashore any mariner of a ship or vessel or boat until the said vessel or ship be discharged and emptied of ballast, or until the said boat be discharged; and if they do contrary to this they shall be expected to pay five solidi as a penalty for every mariner they take from the ship or vessel.

11. Also: we command that every co-proprietor of a ship or vessel, and every merchant, and every pilot of a ship or vessel who accepts wages from that ship or vessel shall be expected to take an oath to the captain of the ship, just as the other mariners who are not partners, or pilots, or merchants, and this by an oath taken by them to us.

12. Also: we command that a vessel with a covered deck shall not take away any merchandise upon the covered deck, except only the sea-chests of the mariners and merchants, and the wine and water which are necessary to the mariners and merchants; and if the said vessel have store-rooms, it shall not take away any merchandise in those store-rooms, except only its arms and those of the mariners and merchants, and the rigging of the vessel, if they wish to place them there. Moreover every vessel with a covered deck shall take four shields and twelve lances, besides the arms of the mariners and merchants who sail in the vessel above mentioned; and if any merchandise be carried in the said store-room, it shall pay a fine for the merchandise, which fine shall be divided between the Lord King and the Society of Water-men.

13. Also: we command that a vessel with two covered decks shall not send or carry away any merchandise between the mainmast and the poop, except only its boat with its rigging and the company of the merchants; and if it wishes to have merchandise in the same place, it may do this with the consent of the merchants, and without their consent it shall not dare to place any merchandise in the said place. But in the cabin of the poop of the vessel it shall carry its company and that of the merchants. Moreover, on the higher deck of the said vessel it shall not dare to carry water or wine, or other merchandise, except only its sea-chests and those of the mariners and merchants, and in the store-rooms of that same vessel it shall not carry any merchandise, except only the arms going in that vessel, and the rigging if it can place any there, except it do so with the consent of the majority of the merchants, and if it carry any merchandise in the said places, it shall pay the fine incurred just as is contained in the preceding paragraph.

14. Also: we command that every captain of a ship or vessel, of whatever kind it be, shall free his ship or vessel and the rudders from all tolls in whatever dominion or lordship it be, whether of Christians or Arabs, without any expense or payment from the merchants. In the same way the merchants shall free all their merchandise, in whatever dominion or lordship it be, without any expense to the captains of the vessels or ships, and if the said lordship should chance to make other tolls, let them stand in the pledge of two honest men, whom they have elected in the said ship or vessel.

15. Also: we command that every merchant and mariner who takes of his own accord or in company with his friends anything in common to Barbary or to other parts, before he departs from Barcelona shall come to an agreement with three or four or more of his partners, according as he be able to gather several of the said company together, and when the expenses of the purchase have been made with the deliberation of that same company, the said merchant or company carrying the goods shall not accept any merchandise from the said partners except according as they agreed on that day on which it was pledged, and this under pain of an oath to be taken by them to us and the honest men before mentioned.

16. Also: we command that merchants or mariners or other persons carrying the company to any parts shall not take their wages or fare nor shall they be given to them until they return to Barcelona, and then when they have made an agreement with the partners of the company they shall have and take their wages and fare with the knowledge of their partners with whom they made the agreement about the company above mentioned. And if the said merchant be not a mariner or do not perform the office of mariner, he shall not take his wages or fare.

17. Also: we command that merchants or mariners or other persons carrying the company shall not dare to carry any goods or money in denarii for the company or from other persons except for the company it takes. But all things which they carry with them shall belong to the company and be in its possession, and whatever they sell or buy, or obtain in any way, they shall buy and sell, in whatever parts they are, for the good and use of the company mentioned above.

18. Also: we command that all men who have submitted to this ordinance, in whatever parts they be, shall love each other, and protect and help each other, both in their persons and in their goods against all other persons, just as if they were the special goods of each one; and they shall do this in good faith and without any fraud, by virtue of an oath taken to us and to the honest watermen of Barcelona.

19. Also: we command that if any ship or vessel should have stopped at the quays of Barcelona so that it could not straightway sail, that all captains of ships and vessels of that society with their mariners, although their ships or vessels are prepared to sail, shall help the said ship or vessel to sail or put to sea and they shall not leave that ship or vessel which is detained until it have sailed, and if they are unwilling to do this the captain of the ship or vessel shall incur a penalty of fifty solidi and the mariners of five solidi.

20. Also: we command that if any mariner should die in the service of any ship or vessel, from the time when that ship or vessel moved from the quay or river bank, or from any port, the said mariner shall have all his wages, just as was written in the contract book of that ship or vessel. And if any mariner be sick or be injured in his legs from the time when the ship or vessel put to sea, the captain of the ship or vessel shall give to the said mariner his needs in food for the whole voyage, if the mariner make the voyage, and the mariner shall have all his wages. But if the mariner be unwilling to go on the voyage, he shall not have any wages. But if the mariner has accepted such free victuals for doing work on the said ship or vessel, so that he cannot go on the said voyage to the knowledge of two honest men of the society, he shall have only half his wages; and if the captain of the said ship or vessel shall have paid all the wages to the mariner, he shall not be expected to put another mariner in the place of the one who remained ashore. And if the said captain shall have paid half the wages to the mariner who remained, the captain shall be expected to put another mariner in his place, and to give him the remaining half of the wages which he did not pay. And the merchants will be expected to give the other half of the wages to the mariner placed in the position of the other who did not go.

21. Also: we command that on every ship or vessel departing from the quay of Barcelona there shall be appointed and elected by the men in that ship or vessel two proctors distinguished by their knowledge and lawfulness whose commands they will obey, both the captain of the ship or vessel, and the mariners, and the merchants going in the ship, and all shall be expected to stand by and obey the orders of the two proctors. These two proctors shall elect other men of the ship with the advice of whom they will make and order all things which are to be done on that ship; and whatever is ordered by the seven men shall be strictly obeyed by all going in that ship. But in a vessel the two proctors shall elect another two by the advice of whom they shall ordain all things which are to be obeyed on that vessel. And the election of the two proctors shall be made within four days or eight before the departure of the said ship or vessel from the shores of Barcelona, and as many men of Barcelona as they find in other parts, Arab or Christian, shall be expected to stand by and obey the command and advice of the seven or four. And whatever the elected men do or ordain they shall do and ordain in the name of the Lord King and saving his jurisdiction, and in the name of the Council of the honest water-men of Barcelona. But if the two elected men should depart in ships from the place at which they arrived with the said ship, on their departure let them elect another two with the advice of the said five counsellors who shall stand in their places, and those two elected on vessels shall elect another two with the advice of the said two counsellors; and if the two elected by these two shall depart, let them elect another two, and thus in order; and whatever shall be done or ordered by those elected shall be strictly observed by all others, and this we command in the name of the Lord King and by virtue of an oath.

Given at Barcelona on the twenty-sixth of August, in the year 1258.

Seal of James, by the grace of God, King of Aragon, etc.


Source.

From: A. de Capmany, ed., Memorias Sobre la Marina, Comercio, y Artes de la Antigua Ciudad de Barcelona, (Madrid, 1779-92), Vol. II, pp. 23-39; reprinted in Roy C. Cave & Herbert H. Coulson, eds., A Source Book for Medieval Economic History, (Milwaukee: The Bruce Publishing Co., 1936; reprint ed., New York: Biblo & Tannen, 1965), pp. 160-168.

Scanned by Jerome S. Arkenberg, Cal. State Fullerton. The text has been modernized by Prof. Arkenberg.


This text is part of the Internet Medieval Source Book. The Sourcebook is a collection of public domain and copy-permitted texts related to medieval and Byzantine history.

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© Paul Halsall, October 1998
halsall@murray.fordham.edu