History of Morella

Feel the passage of Kings, artisans, warriors, noble knights and brave women.

The geographical enclave of Morella has been key in the course of centuries and historical events. City of passage, crossroads, between the Ebro Valley and the Mediterranean, linking Catalonia, Aragon and Valencia, Morella has witnessed important episodes for all the civilisations that have inhabited here. From Prehistory, Neolithic times, Bronze Age, Iberian, Romans, Muslims, Jews, Christians … everyone saw in this place an impregnable fortress. The whimsical shape of the city, its castle and walls have been the scene of the passage of figures such as Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar, El Cid Campeador, who fought two battles in this region at the service of the Muslim king of Zaragoza in the 11th century.

The Christian conquest and medieval times make Morella a city of privileges. Morella was conquered by the Christians in October 1231, although it was on January 7, 1232 when King Jaime I entered the city triumphantly after hard negotiations with the Aragonese nobleman Blasco de Alagón, who had the king’s promise to keep everything conquered it. But the king wanted the walled city and told his Knight that “Morella is not a place for any man in the world, but for a king, because it was worth as much as a county with its possessions.” The medieval splendour of this municipality is marked by being the axis of the Crown of Aragon, and because Morella would always be the King’s. In 1270 it became part of the Kingdom of Valencia and in the Valencian Courts it always occupies the formal place of being the First Villa of the Kingdom, only behind Valencia and Xátiva.

Medieval times were rich, with a society of multiple guilds, goldsmiths, silversmiths, sculptors, weavers, blacksmiths, and merchants who were already travelling to places like Greece, Italy, or North Africa. At this time, the person from Morella, Francesc de Vinatea, stood out, who in the 14th century confronted King Alfonso el Benigno to oppose the wishes of the king’s wife, Leonor de Castilla, to cede in fief to his son Fernando the main towns of the crown, jeopardising the union of the kingdom.

The Schism of the West. Another historical moment that the city experienced as a setting was the Caspe Commitment and the Western schism. In 1410 Martín el Humano died without descendants, deciding that his successor would be chosen by nine delegates, one of them was Domingo Ram who in 1412, when they decided that Fernando de Antequera was the successor, was bishop of Huesca. In 1414 Pope Luna (Benedict XIII), King Ferdinand I and Fray Vicente Ferrer met in Morella with the aim of ending the Western Schism, time in which there were three different Popes. The negotiations lasted fifty days without solution , The king and Vicente Ferrer abandoned the obedience of Pope Luna, who remained isolated in Peñíscola until his death.

The War of Succession

The War of Succession also had its chronicle in Morella. During this conflict, the local authorities remained on the Bourbon side, except for two Austrian occupations that resulted in the destruction of the San Miguel neighbourhood. After the bombs, Morella was left with only 1,800 inhabitants but, to everyone’s amazement, that weakened population rebuilt the city. The Nueva Planta decree repealed the existence of the Kingdom of Valencia and Morella came to comply with the laws of Castilla.

The Carlist wars and the Tiger of the Maestrazgo. The first Carlist war is one of the most decisive episodes in the history of Morella. The governor of the city and the Baron of Herbers proclaimed Carlos V de Borbón king in 1833. The pronouncement did not last long and for two years the area resisted as a small independent state led by General Ramón Cabrera. The wars fought here and in Catalonia predicted more warlike conflicts in the new liberal state. They reordered the military organisation of the area creating the General Command of the Maestrazgo (1849-1871) arriving in Catalonia, Aragon and Valencia and with capital in Morella, just as it was done later by maintaining this capital over the province of Castellón and the south of Tarragona (1871-1879). But once the third Carlist war was over, the military province again adjusted to its civil limits. Ramón Cabrera, El Tigre del Maestrazgo, came to deserve the title of Count of Morella. After the conflicts, and after marrying an English noblewoman, he went into exile to London, even regretting such a bloody battle. In the British capital there is a street dedicated to Morella, the same one where General Cabrera lived.