The People of Gibraltar
711-1492 - Medieval Gibraltar – Part 13 – Christian Gibraltar and the Second Siege


Among those who were forced to leave Gibraltar after Ferdinand IV had taken it over for the Christians, was one rather annoyed old man who insisted on addressing the King personally.
Crónica del Rey Don Fernando IV - (My translation)
My Lord, what is it that you have against me? Why are throwing me out? Your great-grandfather King Ferdinand threw me out of Seville when he took it so I went to Jerez. Your grandfather King Alonso then turned me out of Jerez . . . and I went to Tarifa thinking that I would out of danger there; but then your father King Sancho came and turned me out of there as well so I came to live in Gibraltar thinking that there would be nowhere in Moorish territory this side of the sea where I would be safer; and since I see that I will not be allowed to settle anywhere on this side, I will go beyond and find a place where I can settle down safely till the end of my days.

Sancho IV - Ferdinand IV’s father

The above of course, sounds suspiciously like a contrived bit of propaganda thought up by the chronicler himself. Or he may have been quoting from some an old, long-lost ballad. Whatever the case it is too good to leave out.

King Ferdinand smiled as he heard the old man out and found it hard to punish him for his impertinence. Instead he turned his attention to the town he had just made his own. Its defences had probably not been improved upon since the days of Abd al-Mu'min. There was much to be done.

He ordered the walls of the town which had been badly damaged by his two siege-engines to be rebuilt together with a new keep which was to be situated above the slope of the town. He also wanted a dockyard or atarazana to be built near the town and close to the sea. He then returned to the thankless task of besieging Algeciras. By January 1310 he gave it up as a lost cause.
Crónica del Rey Don Fernando IV
É mandó labrar los muros de la villa que derrivaron los engeños.
É otrosi mandó labrar una torre encima del recuesto de la villa.
É otrosi mandó labrar una atarazana desde la villa fasta la mar, porque esloviesen las galeas en salvo é tornóse el rey D. Fernando para su hueste de Algesira que tenía cercada.

The long, domed building in the middle of la Barcina is the Atarazana (1627 - Luis Bravo de Acuña)

It is hard to say how much of this was ever put into practice. Presumably some of the walls would have been repaired but the building of the new tower sets up a series of interesting questions such as that the origins of the Tower of Homage.
George Hills
The origins of the castle in Gibraltar now known as the Moorish Castle are to be found no further back than in Ferdinand's order that a 'keep should be built on the slope above the town.
Like most of us, I suspect that by “Moorish Castle” Hills is only referring to The Tower of Homage rather than the whole enchilada, as it has always been this part of the Castle that has caused the greatest controversy as regards dating.

But to return to Ferdinand IV, he did not forget Gibraltar. On the 31st of January while he was Jerez the on his way back home, he found time to write a letter patent setting out exactly what he wanted done. It may have been a long-winded document but its aim was clear. He wanted Gibraltar to prosper and he didn't care too much about how that might be achieved.

Its boundaries would remain the same as when it was Moorish territory, in other words it included much of what is today known as the Campo de Gibraltar. The inhabitants would all be exempt from paying taxes and the council was entitled to charge duty on any ships entering its harbour. Anybody, whether he was a Moor, a Jew or a Christian bringing in food, would be allowed to come and sell it free of duty.
Crónica del Rey Don Fernando IV
Mandamos que todos aquellos cristianos, ó moros, ó judíos que truxeren vianda a Gibraltar que sean francos, é quitos, é que no paguen derecho ninguno de qualquier que venda é vendan como pudieren.
The population would be made up of 300 families not counting agricultural workers and stone masons. He obviously thought that most of the male heads of the family would form part of the fortress militia as he specified generous salaries for everybody as well as well as generous payments to the children of orphaned soldiers.
Crónica del Rey Don Fernando IV
é por que la villa de Gibraltar se pueda mejor guardar, mandamos que hayan y trecientos vecinos á menos de los almaganares é de los otros alvarranes que ayan por su soldada todos los que y moraren, el vallestero de monte quarenta é cinco maravedís, é el vallestero de estribera quarenta maravedís, é el peón treinta y cinco maravedís é si fuere almocaden cínquenta maravedís ; é si qualquier destos soldados murieren é ovieren fijos que sean de dos años arriba, que aya y esta mesma quitación que su padre havia, é si oviese fija que herede los bienes del padre ; é sí alguno destos sobre dichos velare encima del muro de Gibraltar que aya demás de su soldada diez maravedís de su vela

The medieval Maravedi (Alfonso VIII)

As regards how all this was going to be paid for, he ordered that one third of the profits of the salt pans found in the neighbourhood should be paid by the council.
Crónica del Rey Don Fernando IV
Que aya el concejo de Gibraltar el tercio de las mis salinas que son en su término . . .
Also, and perhaps knowing that Gibraltar was not the most enticing of places to live in, he ordered that swindlers, thieves, murderers, women who had run away from their husbands and all manner of outlaws and misfits should be enticed to live in Gibraltar. They would not be prosecuted if they did so. The only people who would not be welcome were traitors and anybody eloping with the wife of his feudal lord.
Crónica del Rey Don Fernando IV
Mandamos é defendemos firmemente que todos aquellos que se fueren para Gibraltar é que sean y vecinos y moradores quier que sean golfines, ó ladrones, ó que haya muerto homes ó otros homes qualesquier malhechores que sean ó muger casada que se fuya á su marido ó en otra manera qualquier que sean y defendidos y amparados de muerte ó que los que y estubieren é moraren en la villa ó en su termino que ninguno non sea osado de les faser mal ninguno
Fernando appointed Lope Ordoñes, as the military governor of Gibraltar. He had strict instructions not to interfere in the affairs of the civilian population and should concentrate on making sure it was in a state of readiness to defend itself against any attack. He also assigned his servant, Miguel Martin as sheriff and Gonzalo Pérez and Juan Pérez de Jahen as judges.

It would be the council that would decide who should be the person responsible for looking after the keys of the town. As overall 'propetario' or Governor, he appointed Alonso Hernandez de Mendoza.
Ignacio López de Ayala - Historia de Gibraltar - Appendix
Mando que sea en esta Gibraltar nuestro alcayde mayor Lope Ordoñes, é nuestro alguacil mayor Miguel Martin nuestro criado é que ayan y dos jurados que sean Gonzalo Pérez é Juan Pérez de Jahen y que aya cada uno su oficio é use del bien é complidamente para en todos sus dias, é después de sus dias que ponga el concejo todos los oficiales que ovieren menester é qualesquisieren, é que den las llaves de la villa a quien el concejo tuviere por bien . . . 
. . . é que estas soldadas que gelas paguen á eslos sobredichos bien é complidamente á cada uno segund que lo oviere de haber por los tercios del año Alfonso Fernandez de Mendoza ó aquel ó aquellos que después vinieren del, ó por mi tuvieren á la dicha Gibraltar . .
Many historians insist that Alfonso Fernandez de Mendoza was the first Christian Governor but the above rather ambiguous statement is the only source I can find that might confirm it. for example;
Alonso Hernández del Portillo
Por falta de más escritores no sabemos a quién dejo por Alcayde en esta Ciudad el Rey esta vez.
George Hills
The overlordship of Gibraltar was given to Alonso Perez de Guzman's son . . .
And according to Las Glorias Nacionales which were published in 1853:
Manuel Ortiz de la Vega - Las Glorias Nacionales - 1853
Don Alonso Perez de Guzman . . . Sucediole en sus estados su hijo, Juan Alonso de Guzman.
Ferdinand probably intended giving Alfonso Perez de Guzman overall command but unfortunately the man most responsible for Ferdinand's success in Gibraltar - an almost mythical hero in the whole of Spain for his defence of Tarifa against the Moors - had other plans. On the 19th of September 1310, he went on a rampage near Gaucin, damaged a few properties while rustling cattle and ended up dead on the end of a Moorish spear.
Joachín Ezquerra - Retratos de los Reyes de España - 1788
Hizo otra entrada por las sierras de Gaucin, hizo algunos destrozos, tomo algunos ganados, pero le alcanzó una saeta que le hirió de muerte acabando su vida a pocos dias en 19 de septiembre del año 1309, pero no su fama, que siempre será eterna en los anales españoles.

Melodramatic representation of Alonso Perez de Guzman throwing his dagger at the Muslims below who had Tarifa under Siege in 1296 - They had captured his son and threatened to kill him if he didn't surrender - Henceforth known as “el Bueno” – Guzman threw them his knife and told them to use it. They did (19th century – Martinez Cubells)

These appointments seem to have proved quite durable in that they were still in place when Gibraltar was confronted yet again by the Moors except that by them, and perhaps unfortunately for the new population, Alonso Hernandez de Mendoza had been replaced by a crook, Vasco de Meyra, who ended up pocketing most of the money meant for the defence of the town.
Alonso Hernández del Portillo
Estaba como diré aquí por este tiempo Alcaide Basco Pérez de Neyra, y habían en aquella sazón en Gibraltar grande falta de mantenimientos, que además de que aquel año debió de ser estéril y falto de ellos el Alcaide, con su codicia había vendido el trigo que tenía para su provisión y de su gente a los Moros; los cuales como le conocieron el humor, y le querían engaña y ganar la Ciudad, procurándolo

Ferdinand IV (1782 Reyes de España)

In 1312, Ferdinand condemned two brothers - to death. To the last they proclaimed their innocence and just before they were executed, they swore that they would summon the King to face his judgement with God in thirty days. On Thursday the 6th of September 1312, Fernando took a siesta just after midday and died unattended in his bed.
Crónicas de Alfonso XI
En ese día jueves siete días de setiembre víspera de santa María echose el Rey a dormir un poco después de mediodía, y fallarnole muerto en la cama, en guisa que ninguno non lo vió morir.
He was succeeded by his son, Alfonso XI who was born in 1311 and was therefore only one-year old at the time. Sadly, rather than be remembered for being the first Christian King to capture Gibraltar, Ferdinand has gone down in history as Fernando IV, El Emplazado - the King who was 'summoned' by God to answer for his actions.

Finally, an interesting footnote. When Abd l-hasan heard about the loss of Gibraltar to the Christians he was appalled – particularly after he had spent so much money improving its defences. This throw-away comment about anything at all going on in Gibraltar since the 1160s founding of Madinat-al-Fath is rarely if ever mentioned elsewhere in the literature
Al Makkarí – History of the Mohammedan Dynasties V2 P 364
. . . the Castilians, profiting by the absence of a portion of the African garrison, which had been summoned to Africa, invested Gibraltar and made themselves masters of it without much difficulty. When the news of this disaster reached Africa, Abu-l-hasan . . . Sultan of Fez, who knew the importance of that fortress, and had spent his treasures in repairing and increasing the fortifications, resolved upon wresting the valuable prize from the enemy.
This throw-away comment is rarely if ever mentioned elsewhere in the literature. At any rate I can’t find it. Abu-l-hassan – known also as Albuhacen – is well-known as the man who regained Gibraltar after its 3rd Siege – and then proceeded to spend incredibly large amounts of money improving its defences – of which mor of anon. However, it is odd to read that he had already invested heavily on the Rock even before he had regained it.

Alcantara’s mention of Peter the cruel of Castile’s involvement in the second siege I interpret as a slip of the pen. Peter the Cruel was the son of a now grown-up Alonso XI and was born in 1334. Confusingly it was King Ferdinand IV’s brother Peter of Castile who came to the rescue. This Peter shared the regency of the very young Alonso XI with his mother and his other uncle, John el de Tarifa.


As mentioned on the previous chapter, Alonso was still a baby when his dad Ferdinand IV died. Castile was run by several regents - his mother and his uncles, John el de Tarifa and Pedro of Castile – but I suspect that it was this last one who did most of the heavy lifting.

In 1314, Abu’l-Walid Ismael – usually referred to more simply as Ismail I – got rid of his uncle Abu al-Juyush Nasr who was also more snappily known as Nasr - and became the fifth Nasrid ruler of Granada.

The following year Pedro of Castile together with 5000 horsemen were busy laying waste to vineyards, orchards and wheat fields along countryside surrounding Granada. Ismail apparently did nothing to stop him and instead began preparations to besiege Gibraltar. He was wasting his time and money. This event known in history as the Second Siege of Gibraltar proved an absolute no-no. In fact, it never took place and quite frankly I am not quite sure why it ever took its chronological name among the other 14 sieges.

Pedro eventually got to hear of this and decided to intervene. He left his troops in Cordoba and travelled to Seville where he obtained the necessary funds to buy himself an armed fleet - which he sent to the Bay of Gibraltar - and an army which he paid double the going rate and led overland towards the Rock. Neither the army nor the fleet would be put to the test as Ismail withdrew his troops as soon as he realised Pedro’s intentions.
Cronicas de Alonso Onceno - Possibly 14th century
Y hizo en esta entrada muy gran daño en las tierras de los Moros – y les atalo los panes y las vinas y las huertas hasta Granada y tornose con su hueste hasta Córdoba. Y estando allí alojado con cinco mil cavalleros de sus vasallos, llegole nueva como los moros todos se juntaron para yr a cercar a Gibraltar: 
y luego que esta embajada vuo passado, dexo toda la gente en Cordoba y fuese para Sevilla y sacó allí muy grande quantidad de dinero y hizo allí armar flota y mandó les que fuessen ellos con ella por la mar, y el vinose para Córdoba y dio grandes quitaciones a todos los soldados y caballeros sus vassallos que con el estaba para yr por tierra a descercar a Gibraltar:  
delque los moros supieron que el infante don Pedro (iba) venir no hallaron q era su provecho ir y por recelo q vieron del infante dexaron la cerca y fueronse: Y desque el infante don Pedro supo cómo eran ydos por no perder lo que avia dado a los caballeros salió luego de allí y vinose para Iaen (Jaen) . . . y fue a Cambil . . . y llegó a tres leguas de Granada . . .
Meanwhile, Pedro – known as Don Betro in Arabic - decided that his army owed him for their double pay and led them back to Granada where he managed to get himself killed during the disastrous 1319 Battle of Elvira. This was the kind of event where Muslim historians add a zero to every passing mention of enemy casualties. It has nothing to do with Gibraltar other than indirectly.
Al Makarrí Vol 2 P352
Among the prisoners were the wife and children of the king, and although she offered for her ransom the city of Tarifa and the fortress of Jebalu-l-fatah (Gibraltar) and eighteen more castles of that district, the Moslems would not accept of it.
The second Siege of Gibraltar was well and truly over . . . Siege? What siege?

Cover of the book from which I took most of what I have written. 
The title is a mouthful, the Castilian Spanish hard to decipher – but it is a useful resource which I will use again - as it has been over the years by many far better historians than I am.

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

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