Development The aristocracy

The aristocracy

Tormenteria02The aristocracy played a very important role within the mediaeval context. Initially considered the heirs of the old late Roman and Visigoth aristocracy, the origins of the León aristocracy are closely associated with a series of names and with the concepts of resettlement, organization and defence of the Kingdom’s borders, above all from the mid-10th century onwards. On royal initiative the aristocracy was required to organize and defend a territory, a responsibility which normally passed from father to son and gave rise over time to that territory being closely linked to the family in question.

The system of inheritance, which does not understand matters of sex or age, favoured the division of patrimony among the different sons and daughters. This situation led to the formation of a closed group which implemented a very selective and endogamic system of marriage in order to avoid the disintegration of family patrimony and to consolidate the nobility and their interests, transmitting a name, wealth and power.

Indumentaria-medieval.-Carniceras.-Len-In the 11th century, the old León lineages had consolidated into families such as the Froílaz, Flaínez or the counts of Cea. At this point, the nobility increased their patrimony and dominions considerably, and consequently, their power. They acquired and assembled properties through exchange, purchase and donations, securing at the same time rights over common land which led to the dissolution of village councils and steered the social and economic structure of society towards a process of feudalization.

As this trend continued, by the 12th century, nobility had begun to be associated with blood lines and only those who could prove their birth to a noble family were accepted as belonging to this social class. Families which had obtained dominions sought genealogies to demonstrate the antiquity of their lineage in order to gain admittance to higher levels of society. Those which were successful in this endeavour formed alliances with the old families comprising the ancient lineages of noble blood. Among the most eminent families of the 12th century were the Ordoñez, the Vermúdez and the Osorio families, together with families from beyond León such as the Catalonian families associated with Alfonso VII and Fernando II, the Ponce de Minerva and the Ponce de Cabrera families, and the Castilian families admitted to the court of Alfonso IX, the Haro, Lara and Castro families.

Castillo-de-CeaThe power of the Church should also be mentioned here, through its control of the cathedral chapters of León and Astorga, the monasteries following the Cluniac Order such as Sahagún, Montes and San Claudio de León, and the military orders of Calatrava, Santiago and Alcántara, and the Knights Templar and the Knights of Malta. In addition, knights, nobles and gentlemen proliferated as the secondary branches of the noble lineages multiplied.

The concept of aristocracy became synonymous with belonging to a particular lineage, to proximity to the monarchy, to the possession of extensive lands and to the exercise of rights over those lands and their inhabitants. The nobility was separate from the rest of society, with a rigorous system of education where conscience was valued above all else and loyalty, together with physical and moral standards, were accorded great importance. The nobility were closely associated with the land they held, living off the income it provided and receiving the privileges, exemptions and tax immunity that land ownership conferred, in addition to the right to administer justice within their domains.


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Monasterio de San Facundo y san Primitivo. Sahagún León Monasterio de Santa Maria de Sandoval Palacio del Conde Luna. León Panorámica de Alba de Tormes Catedral de León Castillo de la Mota. Torre de Caracol. Benavente-1 Iglesia de Santa Mª del Naranco. Oviedo Monasterio de Sta. Maria de Moreruela Catedral. León Corro de Lucha Leonesa. León