Consulate of the Sea

Last updated

The Llotja de la Seda, seat of the Consulate of the Sea in Valencia since 1498. Lonja de Valencia1.jpg
The Llotja de la Seda, seat of the Consulate of the Sea in Valencia since 1498.

The Consulate of the Sea (Catalan : Consolat de mar; pronounced  [kunsuˈlad də ˈmaɾ] ) was a quasi-judicial body set up in the Crown of Aragon, later to spread throughout the Mediterranean basin, to administer maritime and commercial law. The term may also refer to a celebrated collection of maritime customs and ordinances in Catalan language, also known in English as The Customs of the Sea, compiled over the 14th and 15th centuries and published at Valencia in or before 1494.


In the 21st century, the Catalan term Consolat de mar is today used for a commercial arbitration service operated by the Barcelona Chamber of Commerce, and also for a series of trade-promotion offices operated by the city of Barcelona.

Medieval institution

The greatest extent of the territories controlled by the Crown of Aragon, c. 1350 Imperio de Aragon.png
The greatest extent of the territories controlled by the Crown of Aragon, c. 1350

The Catalan institution can be traced to the grant of the Carta Consular to the city of Barcelona by Jaume I of Aragon in 1258. [1] This gave Barcelona merchants the right to settle their commercial disputes without interference from the royal courts: in return, the king received much needed financial support for his wars of expansion. Mercantile Law (ius mercadorium) was becoming established at the same time through much of Europe, and similar bodies had already been established in Messina (first third of the 13th century) and Genoa (1250). [2]

As the territories of the Crown of Aragon expanded, it was customary to establish new Consulates of the Sea in the major ports. One of the earliest was in Valencia (1283), where the charter of Peter III of Aragon makes it clear that disputes are to be settled "according to maritime customs, as these are accepted in Barcelona."

Book of the Consulate of the Sea

The title page of the 1914 edition of the Book of the Consulate of the Sea, edited by Ernest Moline y Brases. Llibre del Consolat de Mar 1814.jpg
The title page of the 1914 edition of the Book of the Consulate of the Sea, edited by Ernest Moliné y Brasés.

The full title in Catalan is Les costums marítimes de Barcelona universalment conegudes per Llibre del Consolat de mar, or "The maritime customs of Barcelona universally known as the Book of the Consulate of the Sea". The earliest extant printed edition of the work (Barcelona, 1494) is without a title-page or frontispiece, but it is described by the above-mentioned title in the epistle dedicatory prefixed to the table of contents. The only known copy of this edition (as of 1911) is preserved in the Bibliothèque nationale de France in Paris. [3] [4] The epistle dedicatory states that the work is an amended version of the Book of the Consulate of the Sea, compiled by Francis Celelles with the assistance of numerous shipmasters and merchants well versed in maritime affairs.

According to a statement made by Capmany in his Codigo de los costumbras maritimas de Barcelona, published at Madrid in 1791, there was extant to his knowledge an older edition, printed in semi-Gothic characters, which he believed to be of a date prior to 1484. [3]

There are, however, two Catalan manuscripts preserved in the Bibliothèque nationale de France, the earliest of which, being MS. Espagnol 124, contains the two first treatises which are printed in the Book of the Consulate of the Sea of 1494, and which are the most ancient portion of its contents, written in a hand of the 14th century, on paper of that century. The subsequent parts of this manuscript are on paper of the 15th century, but there is no document of a date more recent than 1436. The later of the two manuscripts, being MS. Espagnol 56, is written throughout on paper of the 15th century, and in a hand of that century, and it purports, from a certificate on the face of the last leaf, to have been executed under the superintendence of Peter Thomas, a notary public, and the scribe of the Consulate of the Sea at Barcelona. [3]

The edition of 1494 contains, in the first place, a code of procedure issued by the kings of Aragon for the guidance of the courts of the consuls of the sea, in the second place, a collection of ancient customs of the sea, and thirdly, a body of rules for the government of cruisers of war. A colophon at the end of these ordinances informs the reader that the book commonly called the Book of the Consulate of the Sea ends here; after which there follows a document known by the title of The Acceptations, which purports to record that the previous chapters and ordinances had been approved by the "Roman" people in 1075, and by various princes and peoples in the 12th and 13th centuries: this is generally regarded as of no historical value. [2] [3] The paging of the edition of 1494 ceases with this document, at the end of which is the printer's colophon, reciting that the work was completed on 14 July 1494, at Barcelona, by Pere Posa, priest and printer. [3]

The remainder of the volume consists of what may be regarded as an appendix to the original Book of the Consulate. This appendix contains various maritime ordinances of the kings of Aragon and of the councillors of the city of Barcelona, ranging over a period from 1271 to 1493. It is printed apparently in the same type with the preceding part of the volume. The original Book of the Consulate of the Sea, coupled with this appendix, circulated in Europe under the title, The Consulate of the Sea, and in the 16th century was translated into the Castilian, the Italian, and the French languages. The Italian translation, printed at Venice c. 1549 by Jean Baptista Pedrezano, was the version that obtained the largest circulation in the north of Europe, and led many jurists to suppose the work to have been of Italian origin. In the next century, the work was translated into Dutch by Westerven, and into German by Engelbrecht, and it is also said to have been translated into Latin. An excellent translation into French of The Customs of the Sea, which are the most valuable portion of the Book of the Consulate, was published by Pardessus in the second volume of his Collection des lois maritimes (Paris, 1834), under the title of La Compilation connue sous le nom do consulat de la mer. See introduction, by Sir Travers Twiss, to the Black Book of the Admiralty (London, 1874), which in the appendix to vol. iii, contains his translation of The Customs of the Sea, with the Catalan text. [3]

See also

Related Research Articles

James I of Aragon 13th-century King of Aragon

James I the Conqueror was King of Aragon, Count of Barcelona, and Lord of Montpellier from 1213 to 1276; King of Majorca from 1231 to 1276; and Valencia from 1238 to 1276. His long reign—the longest of any Iberian monarch—saw the expansion of the Crown of Aragon in three directions: Languedoc to the north, the Balearic Islands to the southeast, and Valencia to the south. By a treaty with Louis IX of France, he wrested the County of Barcelona from nominal French suzerainty and integrated it into his crown. He renounced northward expansion and taking back the once Catalan territories in Occitania and vassal counties loyal to the County of Barcelona, lands that were lost by his father Peter II of Aragon in the Battle of Muret during the Albigensian Crusade and annexed by the Kingdom of France, and then decided to turn south. His great part in the Reconquista was similar in Mediterranean Spain to that of his contemporary Ferdinand III of Castile in Andalusia. One of the main reasons for this formal renunciation of most of the once Catalan territories in Languedoc and Occitania and any expansion into them is the fact that he was raised by the Knights Templar crusaders, who had defeated his father fighting for the Pope alongside the French, so it was effectively forbidden for him to try to maintain the traditional influence of the Count of Barcelona that previously existed in Occitania and Languedoc.

Catalan literature

Catalan literature is the name conventionally used to refer to literature written in the Catalan language. The focus of this article is not just the literature of Catalonia, but literature written in Catalan from anywhere, so that it includes writers from the Valencian Community, Balearic Islands and other territories where Catalan or its variants are spoken.

Crown of Aragon Composite monarchy which existed between 1162–1716

The Crown of Aragon was a composite monarchy, also nowadays referred to as a confederation of individual polities or kingdoms ruled by one king, originated by the dynastic union of the Kingdom of Aragon and the County of Barcelona and ended as a consequence of the Spanish War of Succession. At the height of its power in the 14th and 15th centuries, the Crown of Aragon was a thalassocracy controlling a large portion of present-day eastern Spain, parts of what is now southern France, and a Mediterranean "empire" which included the Balearic Islands, Sicily, Corsica, Sardinia, Malta, Southern Italy and parts of Greece.

Principality of Catalonia Principality in the northeastern Iberian Peninsula between the 12th century and 1714

The Principality of Catalonia was a medieval and early modern state in the northeastern Iberian Peninsula. During most of its history it was in dynastic union with the Kingdom of Aragon, constituting together the Crown of Aragon. Between the 13th and the 18th centuries, it was bordered by the Kingdom of Aragon to the west, the Kingdom of Valencia to the south, the Kingdom of France and the feudal lordship of Andorra to the north and by the Mediterranean sea to the east. The term Principality of Catalonia remained in use until the Second Spanish Republic, when its use declined because of its historical relation to the monarchy. Today, the term Principat (Principality) is used primarily to refer to the autonomous community of Catalonia in Spain, as distinct from the other Catalan Countries, and usually including the historical region of Roussillon in southern France.

Francesc Eiximenis Spanish philosopher

Francesc Eiximenis, OFM was a Franciscan Catalan writer who lived in the 14th-century Crown of Aragon. He was possibly one of the more successful medieval Catalan writers, since his works were widely read, copied, published and translated. Therefore, it can be said that both in the literary and in the political sphere he had a lot of influence. Among his readers were numbered important people of his time, such as the kings of the Crown of Aragon Peter IV, John I and Martin I, the queen Maria de Luna, and the Pope of Avignon Benedict XIII.

Santa Maria del Mar, Barcelona Church in Barcelona, Spain

Santa Maria del Mar is a church in the Ribera district of Barcelona, Spain, built between 1329 and 1383 at the height of Principality of Catalonia's maritime and mercantile preeminence. It is an outstanding example of Catalan Gothic, with a purity and unity of style that is very unusual in large medieval buildings.

<i>Llibre dels fets</i>

The Llibre dels fets, originally spelled Libre dels feyts, is the autobiographical chronicle of the reign of James I of Aragon (1213–1276). It is written in Old Catalan in the first person and is the first chronologically of the four works classified as The Four Great Catalan Chronicles, all belonging to the early medieval Crown of Aragon, and its first royal dynasty, the House of Barcelona. James I inherited as a child the titles of King of Aragon, Count of Barcelona, and Lord of Montpellier, but also became by conquest King of Majorca and King of Valencia. James emphasises in his chronicles his conquest of Majorca (1229) and of Valencia (1238).

Military history of Catalonia

The military history of Catalonia began in the thirteenth century, with the first exploits of the armies under the orders of Catalan rulers and lasting until today, where Catalan soldiers are integrated into international forces.

Columbuss letter on the first voyage 1493 document by Christopher Columbus

Columbus's letter on the first voyage is the first known document announcing the results of the first voyage of Christopher Columbus that set out in 1492 and reached the Americas. The letter was ostensibly written by Columbus himself, on February 15, 1493, aboard the caravel Niña, while still at sea, on the return leg of his voyage. A post-script was added upon his arrival in Lisbon on March 4, 1493, and it was probably from there that Columbus dispatched two copies of his letter to the Spanish court.

The first complete Catalan Bible translation was produced by the Catholic Church, between 1287 and 1290. It was entrusted to Jaume de Montjuich by Alfonso II of Aragon. Remains of this version can be found in Paris.

The Ordinamenta et consuetudo maris was a convention governing maritime trade promulgated at Trani in 1063: "the oldest surviving maritime law code of the Latin West".

Robert de Nola, also known by pseudonym Mestre Robert, was a Catalan chef who authored the first printed cookbook in Catalan language, Llibre del Coch. He served as cook to King of Naples Ferdinand I.

<i>Memorias históricas</i> (Capmany)

Memorias históricas sobre la marina, comercio y artes de la antigua ciudad de Barcelona. As its title indicates, is a summary paper on the Navy, the trade and the arts of the city of Barcelona, written by the famous Antonio de Capmany y Montpalau.

<i>Book of the Consulate of the Sea</i>

The Book of the Consulate of the Sea or Book of the Consulate of Sea is a compendium of maritime law that governed trade in the Mediterranean for centuries. Of Catalan origin, it was translated into many languages and served as the basis for current international maritime law.

Llibre dels àngels

The Llibre dels àngels is a literary work that was written by Francesc Eiximenis in 1392 in Valencia in Catalan. It was dedicated to Pere d'Artés, who was a kind of Chancellor of the Exchequer of the Crown of Aragon, and who was a close friend of him. It has two hundred and one chapters, and it is divided into five treatises.

Llibre de les dones

The Llibre de les Dones is a book that was possibly written between 1387 and 1392 by Francesc Eiximenis in Catalan in Valencia and dedicated to Sanxa Ximenes d'Arenós, countess of Prades.

Vida de Jesucrist

The Vida de Jesucrist is a literary work by Francesc Eiximenis in Catalan written in Valencia possibly between 1399 and 1406, though the important scholar Albert Hauf dates it to 23 June 1403.. It was dedicated to Pere d'Artés, who was a kind of Chancellor of the Exchequer of the Crown of Aragon, whom Eiximenis had already dedicated the Llibre dels àngels.

Pere d'Artés was a Valencian nobleman. He was lord of Alfafara, He bought the Orís family this domain on 9 December 1392, and his son inherited it, until it was sold to the King of Aragon.

Scala Dei (Eiximenis)

The book that is known as Scala Dei, also called Tractat de contemplació is a literary work written by Francesc Eiximenis possibly in 1399 in Valencia in Catalan and dedicated to Maria de Luna, queen of the Crown of Aragon and wife of king Martin of Aragon.

Catalan navy

The Catalan navy - with Catalan ships, Catalan admirals and Catalan crew - under the direct or indirect orders of the counts of Barcelona, represented a reality recognized by the entire Mediterranean from its origins to Fernando the Catholic. In later times ships built and manned on the Catalan coasts, under the authority of non-Catalan kings, for example the kings of Naples, carried out some important events.


  1. Art. 21, Barcelona Maritime Code of 1258.
  2. 1 2 Moliné y Brasés (1914).
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Encyclopædia Britannica Eleventh Edition (1911)
  4. Jados (1975).

Commons-logo.svg Media related to Consolat de Mar at Wikimedia Commons