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The War of Barbastro (also known as the Siege of Barbastro) was an international expedition, sanctioned by Pope Alexander II, to take the Spanish city of Barbastro from the Moors. A large army composed of elements from all over Western Europe took part in the successful siege of the city (1063). The war was part of the Reconquista, but in its international and papal character it presaged the Crusades of the next two centuries.



Alexander II first preached the Reconquista in 1063 as a "Christian emergency."[1] It was also preached in Burgundy, probably with the permission of participation of Hugh of Cluny, where the abbot's brother, Thomas de Chalon, led the army.[2] Certainly zeal for the crusade spread elsewhere in France, for Amatus of Montecassino notes that "grant chevalerie de Francoiz et de Borguegnons et d'autre gent" were present at the siege.[3] Thus, a large army, primarily of Frenchmen and Burgundians, along with a papal contingent, mostly of Italo-Normans, and local Spanish armies, Catalan and Aragonese, was present at the siege when it began in 1063. The leader of the papal contingent was a Norman by the name of William of Montreuil. The leader of the Spaniards was Sancho Ramírez, King of Aragon, whose realm was greatly threatened by the Moors to the south. The largest component, the Aquitainian, was led by the Duke Guy Geoffrey.[4] Though the makeup of this grand army has been subject to much dispute, that it was largely a force of knights of Frankish extraction is generally agreed.

The duke of Aquitaine led the army through the Pyrenees at Somport. He joined the Catalan army at Gerona early in 1064. The entire army then marched past Graus, which had resisted assault twice before, and moved against Barbastro, then part of the taifa of Lleida ruled by al-Muzaffar.[5] The city, which received no reinforcements from Lleida and had its water supply cut off, was besieged and quickly fell. The crusaders plundered and sacked it without mercy. It has been said that 50,000 Moslems were killed.[6]


The crusaders made off with a lot of booty. Records indicate the capture of a good many Saracen girls and Saracen treasures. Armengol III of Urgel was given the lordship of the city. In 1065, in a counterattack, the Moors easily retook the city and undid all the crusaders' work, massacring the small garrison.[7]

Thibaut, the Burgundian leader, died, possible of wounds received on campaign, while returning to France after the loss of the city in 1065.[1]

The War of Barbastro has been seen as a proto-Crusade, giving impetus to the Crusading movement in France.


Historian Reinhart Dozy first began a study of the War in the mid-nineteenth century based on a the scarce primary sources, mainly Amatus and Ibn Hayyan. Dozy first suggested the participation of a papal element based on Ibn Hayyan's reference to the "chivalry of Rome." Subsequent hisoriography has stressed the Cluniac element in the War, primarily the result of Ferdinand I of León's recent attempts to introduce the Cluniac reform to Spain and inspired by the death of Ramiro I of Aragon following the failed Siege of Graus.

This interpretation has been attacked in more recent decades, especially the papal connection and Italian involvement. It has been alleged that Alexander was preoccupied with the Antipope Cadalus at the time and did not preach a plenary indulgence for warriors of the Reconquista until the 1073 campaign of Ebles II of Roucy. It has thus been alleged that it was not William of Montreuil, but Guy Geoffrey, who was the "Roman" leader implied by Ibn Hayyan.


  1. ^ a b Bishko, p 62.
  2. ^ Ibid.
  3. ^ Ibid, meaning "grand chivalry of the French and Burgundians and other peoples."
  4. ^ Ibid. He calls him the "Christian generalissimo," implying headship over the whole enterprise.
  5. ^ Ibid.
  6. ^ Chaytor, p 137.
  7. ^ Ibid. Bishko.




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