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The Privilege of the Union (1423). 600 years of the unity of Pamplona


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Diario de Navarra

Julia Pavón

Professor of Medieval History and researcher at Institute for Culture and Society of the University of Navarra.

This coming September 8, 2023 will commemorate the 600th anniversary of the Privilege of the Union, granted by the monarch Charles III the Noble to the three urban entities that made up the group of Pamplona.

There are many pages written about the history of this city, a prehistoric nucleus of habitation in the Basque lands and a Roman city that was the backbone of the western Pyrenean territory, which underwent a great change with the rebirth of western Christianity in the 11th century, The beginning of this change coincided with the reign of Sancho el Mayor (1004-1035), and later with that of Sancho Ramírez (1063-1094), who promoted and organized this nucleus of habitation, based on the Jaca and Estella charters.

The Pamplona of the three burghs

The European flourishing shaped two new settlements on the southern slope of the old civitas of Pompaelo or Navarreria. The first, with a majority of Poitevin, Gascon and Provençal contingents, called the "burgh" of San Saturnino, on a hexagonal plan adjusted to the ideal Romanesque conception, received the regional law of Jaca by mandate of Alfonso I the Battler (1129). The second pole, the "population" of San Nicolás, prolonged in the parish of San Lorenzo, was less socially hermetic as it housed Franks and Navarrese; a neighborhood community arranged on a rectangular urban outline or bastide. Three groupings, in short, with a different municipal regime for their government. And as two appendices of the Navarrería, to the south, the hostelry or hospital of San Miguel under the hospital canon, and to the east, the Jewish quarter, in what today is identified as the place of Santa María la Real.

From the 12th century onwards, the coexistence of the three urban complexes was difficult. Rivalries arose, sponsored by different royal and episcopal decisions, which exploded at the beginning of the 13th century, for example, in 1222, after the reinforcement of the walls of the Navarrería and of the town before the burgh of San Cernin, ending with the assault of the neighborhood of San Nicolás and the burning of its Romanesque parish church.

The plot of affairs that were destroying the social coexistence, with the advent of the monarchs from Champagne since 1234 and the Capeta dynasty (1274), were more intense, despite a first attempt of municipal union of the Pamplona group (1266). appendix The well-known war of the Navarrería recounted in the poem Histoire de la guerre de la Navarre by the Toulouse poet Guillermo de Anelier, starting in canto XX, takes us into a bitter civil conflict that took place between May and September 1276, which ended with the French troops entering the old civitas or Navarrería, the Jewish quarter and entrance of San Miguel. The soldiers entered and attacked it violently, as well as its cathedral buildings. The Romanesque cloister and the refectory succumbed to the destruction, spread throughout a city in which it would take time to "cut grass and sow wheat".


Crisis and rehabilitation: the Privilege of Union

The Black Death of 1348 and the successive epidemics and famines that followed decimated the population of the kingdom by a quarter, also affecting Pamplona and reducing the number of households to little more than 1,400. The accession to the throne of Charles III the Noble (1387-1425) did not mitigate the instability of the citizens framed in conflicts of much greater scope. The Evreux ruled a kingdom whose political focus nominally demanded the protagonism of the city of Pamplona, whose cathedral was the seat for the coronation of its kings - "Every king of Navarre must rise in Santa María de Pamplona" (regional law General of Navarre, I.2.1.) - and also the place for his eternal rest since the 12th century.

The preparations for the presentation of Charles, grandson of the king, and prince of Viana, in the city (1422), led to a decision that ended up turning Pamplona into a "very noble ciudat", after the problematic lack of agreement between its different representatives about the role they should have in the protocol. The Privilege of the Union made possible the creation of a single town council, a single district and a single jurisdiction for the three historical communities, with a single mayor, a single justice and ten jurors: five for the burgh, three for the town and two for the Navarrería. From then on, the new governing team would meet in the house of Juraría or Consistorial, in no man's land and in the middle of the three entities of habitation. With this, and by assigning it the legal status of regional law General, the disputes were settled. Pamplona was endowed with a plurisecular space of coexistence in which, decades later, the transcendent challenges of the civil war and the entrance of the Castilian troops that would end up putting an end in 1512 to a history written in core topic of its own, would be welcomed.