Consulate of the Sea

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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.

Catalan language Romance language

Catalan is a Western Romance language derived from Vulgar Latin and named after the medieval Principality of Catalonia, in northeastern modern Spain. It is the only official language of Andorra, and a co-official language of the Spanish autonomous communities of Catalonia, the Balearic Islands and Valencia. It also has semi-official status in the Italian commune of Alghero. It is also spoken in the eastern strip of Aragon, in some villages of Region of Murcia called Carche and in the Pyrénées-Orientales department of France. These territories are often called Països Catalans or "Catalan Countries".

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, with a personal and dynastic union of the Kingdom of Aragon and the County of Barcelona. 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. The component realms of the Crown were not united politically except at the level of the king, who ruled over each autonomous polity according to its own laws, raising funds under each tax structure, dealing separately with each Corts or Cortes. Put in contemporary terms, it has sometimes been considered that the different lands of the Crown of Aragon functioned more as a confederation than as a single kingdom. In this sense, the larger Crown of Aragon must not be confused with one of its constituent parts, the Kingdom of Aragon, from which it takes its name.

Mediterranean Sea Sea connected to the Atlantic Ocean between Europe, Africa and Asia

The Mediterranean Sea is a sea connected to the Atlantic Ocean, surrounded by the Mediterranean Basin and almost completely enclosed by land: on the north by Southern Europe and Anatolia, on the south by North Africa and on the east by the Levant. Although the sea is sometimes considered a part of the Atlantic Ocean, it is usually identified as a separate body of water. Geological evidence indicates that around 5.9 million years ago, the Mediterranean was cut off from the Atlantic and was partly or completely desiccated over a period of some 600,000 years, the Messinian salinity crisis, before being refilled by the Zanclean flood about 5.3 million years ago.


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.

Arbitration technique for the resolution of disputes

Arbitration, a form of alternative dispute resolution (ADR), is a way to resolve disputes outside the courts. The dispute will be decided by one or more persons, which renders the "arbitration award". An arbitration award is legally binding on both sides and enforceable in the courts.

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 James 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]

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 House of Aragon and House of Barcelona 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.

Messina Comune in Sicily, Italy

Messina is the capital of the Italian Metropolitan City of Messina. It is the third largest city on the island of Sicily, and the 13th largest city in Italy, with a population of more than 238,000 inhabitants in the city proper and about 650,000 in the Metropolitan City. It is located near the northeast corner of Sicily, at the Strait of Messina, opposite Villa San Giovanni on the mainland, and has close ties with Reggio Calabria. According to Eurostat the FUA of the metropolitan area of Messina has, in 2014, 277,584 inhabitants.

Genoa Comune in Liguria, Italy

Genoa is the capital of the Italian region of Liguria and the sixth-largest city in Italy. In 2015, 594,733 people lived within the city's administrative limits. As of the 2011 Italian census, the Province of Genoa, which in 2015 became the Metropolitan City of Genoa, counted 855,834 resident persons. Over 1.5 million people live in the wider metropolitan area stretching along the Italian Riviera.

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."

Peter III of Aragon King of Aragon, Sicily and Valencia, count of Barcelona

Peter III of Aragon, known as Peter the Great, was King of Aragon, King of Valencia, and Count of Barcelona from 1276 to his death,. At the invitation of some rebels, he conquered the Kingdom of Sicily and became King of Sicily in 1282, pressing the claim of his wife, Constance II of Sicily, uniting the kingdom to the crown. He was one of the greatest of medieval Aragonese monarchs.

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.

Bibliothèque nationale de France National Library of France

The Bibliothèque nationale de France is the national library of France, located in Paris. It is the national repository of all that is published in France and also holds extensive historical collections.

Paris Capital of France

Paris is the capital and most populous city of France, with an area of 105 square kilometres and an official estimated population of 2,140,526 residents as of 1 January 2019. Since the 17th century, Paris has been one of Europe's major centres of finance, commerce, fashion, science, and the arts.

Merchant businessperson who trades in commodities that were produced by others

A merchant is a person who trades in commodities produced by other people. Historically, a merchant is anyone who is involved in business or trade. Merchants have been known for as long as industry, commerce, and trade have existed. During the 16th-century, in Europe, two different terms for merchants emerged: One term, meerseniers, described local traders such as bakers, grocers, etc.; while a new term, koopman, described merchants who operated on a global stage, importing and exporting goods over vast distances, and offering added value services such as credit and finance.

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]

Antonio de Capmany y Montpalau Spanish historian

Antonio de Capmany y Montpalau, Spanish polygraph.

Madrid Capital of Spain

Madrid is the capital of Spain and the largest municipality in both the Community of Madrid and Spain as a whole. The city has almost 3.3 million inhabitants and a metropolitan area population of approximately 6.5 million. It is the third-largest city in the European Union (EU), smaller than only London and Berlin, and its monocentric metropolitan area is the third-largest in the EU, smaller only than those of London and Paris. The municipality covers 604.3 km2 (233.3 sq mi).

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

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  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).

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