Four Kidnappings in Thirteenth-Century Aragon: Christian Children as Victims of Christian-Muslim Domination
By Brian Catlos
Scripta Mediterranea, Vol.19-20 (1998-9)
Introduction: In 1281 Marinel de Grailla, an inhabitant of Sariflena in Aragon, sold a young boy whom he supposed to be Muslim to his fellow townsman Johannes Carcassers in the market of Pamplona. When the boy began to protest that he was actually a Christian, Marinel and Johannes hurried him off to a field and put a knife to his throat to silence him. Thereafter they took him to the house of the latter, where they circumcised him by force and then threatened him not to divulge what had passed. The two went on to sell their victim at the convent of Sijena a few miles to the south-east, but not before rumours of their crime had become common parlance in their town.
In 1292 a complaint came to the ears of the infante Pedro of Aragon that the Commander of the Order of Calatrava at Alcafiiz was holding a boy whom the Order claimed to be a Muslim, but whom Pedro de Podio de Nina, an inhabitant of the same town asserted to be his own son Dominicus, a Christian. Despite the fact that the identity of the boy had been established to the apparent satisfaction of the law, the Knights refused to restore the boy to his proper faith and family.
In 1296 the five-year-old son of Bonanatus Ballesterius and his wife Dulcia was carried off to the huerta of Murcia by Christian soldiers of fortune and eventually sold as a Muslim slave along with other captive sarraceni. Two months later, when the mother’s complaint reached the ears of the king, the boy had yet to be found. Jaime II ordered his officials to be on the alert for the lad, and ordered that they proceed against the mercenaries in question.
In 1298 Berenguer Jonerius, a vassal of Berenguer d’Entenca, by “diabolical inspiration” carried off a Christian boy in the city of Tortosa, took him back to the lands of his lord and sold him there as a Muslim slave. After the purchase, the new owner enlisted the help of the Muslim alaminus of Tivissa, a town in the hills of Tarragona, who circumcised the child and indoctrinated him into the “Saracen error of perversity,” which is to say, Islam. When the lord of Enternca, Berenguer, heard word of what had come to pass, he fined the alaminus one hundred and fifty solidi, but accepted the kidnapping and conversion as a fait accompli and did not care to restore the victim of the crime to either his faith or his family. King Jaime II was obliged to order the bailiff of Tortosa to collect the lad, and warned the lady Galbos, wife of lord Berenguer, that if she did not expedite the extradition, she, the lord himself, and their goods would be held to account.