The People of Gibraltar
711-1492 - Medieval Gibraltar – Part 12 – The First Siege


For me - as can perhaps be appreciated from some of my previous comments - there have always been two huge vacuums in the history of the Rock – the lack of information that exists about the Rock for the 450 odd years between 711 and 1160 AD and the 150 between 1160 and 1309 AD. I have already mentioned the first but the second is of course the reason why Alcantara - in his previous page - is reduced to giving a potted account of what was happening in Iberia during that period rather than keeping to the title of his booklet 
George Hills – The Rock of Contention

It is indeed most curious that there should be no mention of any town in the peninsula (Gibraltar) either in Arabic or Spanish Documents between the record . . . of Abd al-Mu’min’s projected Madinat-al-Fath and the capture of Gibraltar in 1309 by Ferdinand IV of Castile’
Maurice Harvey - Gibraltar
After the decline of Madinat-al-fath in 1163, Gibraltar disappears almost completely from the documentary accounts for nearly 150 years
The very beginning of the 14th century makes up for all that. It starts off with Ferdinand IV King of Castile, León and Galicia sitting in his tent far away from home close to the Moorish town of Algeciras. The year was 1309, he was 23 years old and the rain was falling heavily.

Ferdinand IV (14th/15th century - Compendio de Crónicas de Reyes . . .)

Worse still he was thoroughly bored. He had begun besieging Algeciras on the 27th of July and he had now been there for about a month - and it felt like more. The town in front of him was well stocked with food, its defences were in good shape and as far as Ferdinand could make out there seemed little prospect of him ever taking the place.

Crónica del Rey Don Fernando IV (1554 - Frontispiece)
Al-Makkari - 1620s – A History of Mohammedan Dynasties
In the year 1309, the King of Castile, Herando (Fernando IV), laid siege to Algeciras. He remained before that city from the 21st day of Safar till the end of Shaban, when, despairing of reducing the place, he raised the siege, though not without making himself master of Gibraltar.
This rather laconic statement is all that Al Makkari had to say about the loss of Gibraltar to the Christians after nearly half a millennium under Moorish control. Of course, he already knew that they wouldn't be there for too long. Safar fell on the last few days of July 1309 and Shaban probably during the end of January. It meant Fernando besieged Algeciras for about 6 months – a hell of a long time getting nowhere.

In true Castilian fashion Ferdinand IV had purposely refused to allow any barriers or proper defences to be built between his forces and those of the enemy because he thought it would appear spineless to do so. In any case he would much prefer to have them come out of the town and do battle with him on open ground.
Crónica del Rey Don Fernando IV – Antonio Benavides - 1860
Mas el rey D. Fernando non tenía en la cerca de Algesira barrera ninguna, ca la non avía menester nin fué nunca costumbre de los castellanos faser barreras quando' cercaron algunas villas é ante lo ovieron por grand mengua. E en quanto estudo el rey D. Femando en esta cerca, nunca se atrevieron los moros á venir á aquella parte donde él estaba nin lo tenían por derecho.
Most historians from Alonso Hernández del Portillo to Lopez de Ayala right through to modern British writers have all used the two volume Crónica del Rey Don Fernando IV – 1340 - either as their main source or have quoted people using them as sources.

The Crónica is written in old Spanish and is often awkward to decipher and although several of the references I have used are given as they were written in the original version – of which I have a digital copy - much of the story itself is based on its interpretation by the Spanish 19th century politician and historian Antonio Benavides.

Antonio Benavides (1860s - Unknown)

To continue the tale . . . Looking across the Bay Ferdinand IV could make out the massive Rock of Gibraltar, its top covered in cloud looming ominously through the rain. It too was a Moorish town the property of the Nasrid Muhammad III, the Nasrid Sultan of Granada who also happened to be the master of Algeciras.
Crónica de Don Alfonso XI – Iuan Nuñea de Villafan - 1595
 . . et en el tiempo deste Rey Don Mahomad el tercero Rey de Granada fue el Rey Don Fernando de Castiella et de León cercar Algecira, que era deste Rey de Granada, et tovola cercada siete meses . . .
The debts owing to Genoese merchants that were financing part of the siege were piling up and Fernando had little to show for his efforts.
Crónica de Don Alfonso XI. . . yo rogué et vos mandé que entrasedes mañeros et debdores et pagadores por mi á Juan de Rivaldo consol de los genoeses de Sevilla por el et por los otros genoeses . . . nin á omme que en el mundo sea tomar ninguna cosa destos derechos sobredichos fasta que los dichos mercadores genueses sean pagados de todo lo que me prestaron. . .
Ferdinand also knew that a good part of the present population was made up of Moorish inhabitants that had fled Tarifa after his father Sancho IV had besieged and taken the place in the autumn of 1292. No doubt the people of Algeciras were receiving some support from Gibraltar. His fleet were attempting to blockade entry into the Bay from the gut but they seemed unable to stop small boats carrying in supplies during the night. It was making things even more difficult than they were already.
William Jackson - The Rock of the Gibraltarians
Unfortunately, Jackson gives no reference as to where he got this from, but it seem very likely that this was so.
Yet another sore point from Fernando's point of view was that his father had originally intended to take Algeciras as part of his plans to deprive the Marinids of a base in southern Spain. Unfortunately, he had changed his mind as he felt that Tarifa was not only closer to Africa than Algeciras but that it had much better port facilities.6 If he hadn't changed his mind, Ferdinand would have been elsewhere. Perhaps it would be a good idea to take Gibraltar if he could.
Crónica de Sancho IV Ms 829 Banco Nacinal d Madrid P. Sanchez-Prieto Borja - 2006
E desque las gentes fueron y llegadas y la flota que en castilla en Asturias y en galizia armaran en que yvan honze engeños que mandara el fazer llego a Tarifa. E comm o quier que llevava en talante de yr a çercar a algezira consejaronle que çercase a tarifa por razón que era la mar más estrecha allí & que aujan allí mejor salida para los caballos quando los moros pasasen aquende que en otro lugar njnguno. E el Rey (Sancho IV, Fernando’s father) acogiose a este consejo . . .
Ferdinand summoned his minions and ordered them to ask two of his stalwarts - Don Juan Nuñez II de Lara, and Alonso Pérez de Guzmán - to come and see him. He also sent instructions to the Archbishop Fernando Gutiérrez Tello and his council in Seville to bring their troops and meet him in his camp.
Crónica del Rey Don Fernando IV
é luego á pocos de dias desque el rey D. Fernando ovo cercado á Algesira enbió á D. Juan Nunez é á Don Alonso Pérez é al arzobispo de Sevilla con el concejo de Sevilla á cercar á Gibraltar;
Alonso Perez de Guzman (Unknown)On the whole Fernando must have felt that the risks were relatively small. His forces were made up of troops from all over Spain. People such as Garci Gutierrez and his son Gil Garcia had recently joined him from Segovia. They had arrived with their Bishop's blessing. Curiously, three hundred years later, their Gibraltar Siege Campaign standards could still to be found close to the main Baptismal font of the Cathedral of Segovia.
Diego de Colmenares - Historia de Segovia – 1640
Disponiendole el rey guerra contra Granada y Algecira . . . nombró por capitanes . . . Garci Gutierrez, y a Gil Garcia su hijo los cuales el diez de Julio . . . recibido en la Iglesia Catedral bendición del Obispo, que juntamente bendixo a los estandartes; otorgaron en la misma Iglesia junto a la pila del sacro Bautismo . . .
In a very short time plans were made and before the end of the month of August the Siege had begun.
Cronicum de Juan Manuel. . .obsedit Rex Dns fernandus Algeciram et cepit Gibraltarum in mense augusti.
It was actually more of an all-out assault against the town rather than a siege. Guzman's plan were to attack from all sides. He placed the Archbishop of Seville and Juan Nuñez to advance from the isthmus while he landed the remainder of his forces on to the Rock itself. In a short while he gained the heights behind the fortress, that lay above the town itself.

There he quickly found a strategic position on a cliff which would later be given the name of Salto del Lobo, and erected a strongly built, wide-walled tower on to which he placed two huge catapults which he used to bombard the Castle that may have perhaps been the one built by Abd al-Mu’min.
Crónica del Rey Don Fernando IV
. . . é pusieron dos engeños é combatiéronla muy fuerte á la redonda on ellos, en guisa que lo non pudieron sofrir los moros:
These engines proved powerful enough to reach the town itself causing immense physical and psychological damage. Predictably and for many years afterwards the tower was known la Torre de Don Alonso.
Ignacio López de Ayala - Historia de Gibraltar
Determinó acometerla por todas partes, i quedando en los arenales i puerta de tierra el arzobispo i Don Juan Núñez; pasó en barcas al monte con las tropas restantes, que colocadas sobre las alturas. que dominan al castillo principia ron á combatirlo. En aquella ocasión se edificó la torre de Don Alonso, que llamaron así por este D, Alonso Pérez de Guzmán, i no por D. Alonso rey onceno de Castilla.
Hecha la fábrica con tanta diligencia como fortaleza, revestida de anchos i terraplenados muros, colocaron dos trabucos en la torre que comenzaron á despedir gruesos peñascos contra la de la Calahorra.
Whether the tower was named after one or these polemics for the sake of polemics. Could it have been Alonso XI of Castile rather than Alonso Pérez de Guzmán who built the Torre de Don Alonso? I will leave that discussion for later.

La Torr. . .don Alo . . . The only plan I have ever seen which seems to identify La Torre de Don Alonso (Unknown – mid 16th century)

The Muslims tried to hold on, continuing to repair the destruction as best they could, but after a month they realising that the battle was lost. they offered to give up if Ferdinand would assure them a safe passage to Africa.
Crónica del Rey Don Fernando IV
é ovieron de pleytear con el rey que fué y, é dieronle la villa en tal que los mandase poner en salvo allende de la mar.
The King agreed. When he finally entered the town in triumph, he thanked God for the mercy he had shown him by raising his hands towards the sky in acknowledgement.
Crónica del Rey Don Fernando IV
É luego el rey entró en la villa é físo su oración aleando las manos al cielo, dando gracias á Dios del bien é merced que le fisiera.
He also kept his part of the deal and allowed the Moorish population to leave. One thousand one hundred and twenty-five of them left the Rock.
Crónica del Rey Don Fernando IV
 . . é el rey físolo asi é fallaron por cuenta que salieron mil é ciento é veinte é cinco moros . . .

To read the booklet without any interruptions from me - click on the link below:

711-1492 - Medieval Gibraltar - J.J. Alcantara

To read the rest of my commentary click on the appropriate link below:

711-1492 - Medieval Gibraltar – Part 1 - The Visigoths and Islam
711-1492 - Medieval Gibraltar – Part 2 - Tarik and Gibraltar
711-1492 - Medieval Gibraltar – Part 3 - Tarik’s Mountain
711-1492 - Medieval Gibraltar – Part 4 - Tarik Invades
711-1492 - Medieval Gibraltar – Part 5 - Covadonga
711-1492 - Medieval Gibraltar – Part 6 - Vikings and Almoravids
711-1492 - Medieval Gibraltar – Part 7 - Yusuf Ibn Tashfin
711-1492 - Medieval Gibraltar – Part 8 - Abd al-Mu’min
711-1492 - Medieval Gibraltar – Part 9 - Madinat-al-Fath
711-1492 - Medieval Gibraltar – Part 10 - Moorish Wall, Aqueduct and Town
711-1492 - Medieval Gibraltar – Part 11 - Abd al-Mu’min Revisited
711-1492 - Medieval Gibraltar – Part 12 - The First Siege
711-1492 - Medieval Gibraltar – Part 13 - Christian Gibraltar and the Second Siege
711-1492 - Medieval Gibraltar – Part 14 - La Giralda and the Third Siege
711-1492 - Medieval Gibraltar – Part 15 - Abu al-hasan
711-1492 - Medieval Gibraltar – Part 16 - The Tower of Homage
711-1492 - Medieval Gibraltar – Part 17 - The Line Wall and the Shrine
711-1492 - Medieval Gibraltar – Part 18 - The Mosque, St Mary the Crowned and Rio Salado
711-1492 - Medieval Gibraltar – Part 19 - Siege of Algeciras and Ibn Battuta
711-1492 - Medieval Gibraltar – Part 20 - Southern Defences and Moorish Baths
711-1492 - Medieval Gibraltar – Part 21 - The Nuns’ Well
711-1492 - Medieval Gibraltar – Part 22 - The Gatehouse
711-1492 - Medieval Gibraltar – Part 23 - The 6th and 7th Sieges
711-1492 - Medieval Gibraltar – Part 24 - The 8th Siege – Castilian Gibraltar