Cover of the book 'Cathedral of the Sea' by Ildefonsa Falcones

Commerce in Spain

Barcelona, ca 1320-1384.

A woman lives walled into a space empty apart from a mattress. She has been seen with another man and her husband is entitled to inflict this punishment on her if he makes sure she gets bread and water every day.

Her small son is not allowed to see her, he can only hear her voice and feel her hand. His father does not want to have anything to do with the child and lets him live on the street.

This anecdote is taken from the wonderful book 'Cathedral of the Sea' by the Spanish Ildefonso Falcones –a story about father Bernat and son Arnau in times of pestilence, inquisition, Jew-baiting, war, famine and revolt.

Bernat has come to Barcelona because every slave or servant becomes a free man after a one-year-and-one-day residence in the city; Barcelona’s thriving economy requires manpower.

Bernat ran away after a landowner robbed him of his small piece of land, his possesions, and his wife - calling upon the landlord’s right to the first night. He manages to stay out of court and earn a modest living – mainly because he wants to give his son the chance to live a better life.

Son Arnau gains wealth and prestige through a chance meeting with a Jewish merchant and banker. Since he very liberally provides the king with loans as well, he becomes more and more influential. He uses his power to take revenge on noblemen and landowners in the name of his father.

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