History of Baiona



Baiona roman and medieval times

The foundation of Abobriga (first name of Baiona) is attributed to Diomedes of Etolia, son of Prince Tideo, founder of Tui. It happened approximately in the year 140 before Christ. It was in that time when Romans were fighting Carthaginians to expel them from the Iberian Peninsula. However, some regions among which were Gallaecia and Lusitania, rose up in arms. To repress the riots, Roma sent Consul Flavius Servilianus, who laid siege to local rioters inside the fortified place of Erizana. One night Viriatus arrived by sea with his army, cornered Romans between the mountain and the bay and rescued the people. Just a few hours ago that people had answered to Flavius Servilianus's killing threads: "From our Families we did not inherit silver and gold to buy freedom, but swords to defend it".

60 B.C., Julius Caesar arrived to the village with his troops to conquer the Cíes Islands and get rid of the Herminius people hidden in the islands. The siege Caesar ordered forced their surrender.

Year 587: Visigothic king Recaredo conquered the town and he annexed it to his kingdom. The monarch decided to coin a coin to commemorate his victory.

Between 730 and 750, the town was under Arab ruling, which was eventually ended by king Alfonso I. Notwithstanding, a few centuries after that (in the year 997) the Arabs returned to the village with king Almanzor who, bearing in mind the strategic interest of the place and its fortress, managed to conquer the town.

Late middle ages and early modern age

One of the most important years in the history of Baiona is 1201, when king Alfonso IX of León issued in the Cíes Islands the Carta Puebla, a letter granting the town with His royal favour, as well as jurisdictions and privileges. Thanks to this letter the people of Baiona was not under the seigniory of the Monastery of Oia any more.

Baiona was a highly valuable strategic spot and, as a consequence, a much desired site to be attacked. In 1331, during the war between the Kingdom of Castile and the Kingdom of Portugal, the town was attacked by the Portuguese Admiral Penhaza's fleet, an offensive which caused tremendous damage in the village. Forty years later, in 1370, the new King of Castile, Fernando I of Portugal, established his residence in the fortress of Monte Boi, until his defeat by Castilian troops.

In 1388 an event which could have changed the history of Galicia took place. The British Duke of Lancaster arrived with his army in Corunna with an idea in His mind: conquering the Castilian throne for his wife, Her Majesty Constanza, legitimate sovereign according to the Courts in Seville. He first captured that town, followed by Compostela, Pontevedra and Vigo. Motuax, marshal of the troops, got to the door of the Baiona with 1.000 archers and, without bloodshed, he managed to surrender local authorities. Lancaster also talked to the King of Portugal to negotiate a joined attack to their common enemy. He ordered King Juan of Castile to give back the throne to Queen Constanza. King Juan refused the order and offered the marriage of His 10-year-old son Enrique III with the Duke of Lancaster and Constanza's daughter Catalina, who was 14, instead. They came to an agreement and the Duke appointed the title "Prince of Asturias", resembling the British Prince of Wales and which was firstly granted to Enrique and Catalina.

This time of wars and agreements ruined Baiona, which did not recovered until the 15th century. In 1425 King Juan II ordered that imports would only be unloaded in Corunna and Baiona ports. Later on Baiona was permitted to import and export any kind of goods.

In 1474 the town is fiercily attacked by Pedro Álvarez de Soutomaior, better known as Pedro Madruga, one of the cruelest figures in Galician Middle Ages. Really fond of castles and fortress, he built up in Monte Boi hill a tower-home which still stands today, being part of the state hotel Parador de Turismo.

A year later, the people of Baiona supported Alfonso V, King of Portugal, against the Catholic Monarchs. After a long siege inside Monte Boi Fortress, King and people eventually decided to surrender. Pedro Madruga made another attempt to besiege the town in 1478; however, he had to submit to royal troops.

The most remarkable date in the history of Baiona is March, 1st, 1493: that day the Caravel Pinta arrived in the port commanded by Martín Alonso Pinzón and navigated by Cristóbal García Sarmiento –a local sailor. Baiona became in that way the first European place to know about the discovery of America. In 1497, the Catholic Monarchs granted the people of Baiona with numerous privileges and, as a precaution against any foreign invasion, they also ordered the inhabitants of the village to live inside the walls of the fortress. From that moment on the fortress was called Monte Real, which means "royal hill." Among those privileges the population was granted there was the exemption to serve the Castilian Army and a licence to privateering war. Besides, Baiona was granted the titles of Noble and Loyal Village.

Modern Age

In the beginning of the 16th century Baiona flourished with splendour: Royal Rules were issued and sent from the town, which was the leading village of the region and had authority and seigniory over A Louriña and O Rosal valleys. Besides, as the people from Baiona did not like very much living inside the fortress, the village started to develop inland. However, all that glitter vanished before the first half of the century, when a 56-vessel French fleet attacked the port in 1533 and an epidemic got rid of many of the inhabitants (1540). Before that, the local sailor Diego Carmona Pérez arrived in Sanlúcar de Barrameda (Andalusia) together with Juan Sebastián Elcano's crew, after completing the first voyage around the Globe. Another local sailor called Vasco Gallego who belonged to Magallanes's crew in the same voyage died in the Molucas islands.

In 1585 the English pirate Francis Drake, commanding 1500 men, assaulted the fortress. However, the people of the Valley, leaded by the Count of Gondomar, Diego Sarmiento de Acuña, forced him to leave the bay. The Count himself bought from the King Philip II of Spain the feud of Miñor valley and, as consequence, his vassals were twenty thousand people. Later on the Monarch favoured the village with further privileges (royal army exemption and creation of a Chair on Grammar Studies.) He also assembled a 17,000-soldier army in the bay with the aim of dissuading pirates wandering along the Galician coastline from marauding.

17th and 18th centuries were times of permanent siege. Baiona was the main port in South Galicia and North Portugal, along with the most difficult position to capture. The Monarchs underestimated the importance of Baiona port and, were the notorious galleons to dock in Baiona bay, the sinking in Rande would have never taken place. In the meantime Baiona did help during Vigo's Reconquest against Napoleon. The neighbouring people along with Portuguese soldiers managed to escape from Marshal Soult's troops, which had appropriated the Fortress in Monterreal. They stopped the French advance party to Vigo and were the first people -and city- to get free from French control.

Contemporary Age

In 1823, Baiona lost its jurisdiction over the Miñor valley and its influence was limited to the council. Cannons in Monterreal were last fired twenty years later, when General Iriarte unsuccessfully attempted to capture the Fortress in his fight to sustain the Liberal Movement.

In 1859 a Royal Law ordered the end of the Monterreal Fortress as a military resort and in 1872 the Administration decided to publicly auction it. José Elduayen, Marquis of Pazo de la Merced, bought the Fortress in 1877. In 1880 Manuel Misa y Bertemati, Count of Baiona, donated to the Council a building to serve as local school. His brother, Ventura Misa, built the first cathedral-wine cellar in Jerez de la Frontera, where sherry wine was created. He is considered to be its inventor.

In 1943 the present town hall, placed in the remarkable Correa Manor, was inaugurated. The Manor had been bought a year before. In 1963 the Administration bought from the Bedriñana family the Monterreal castle and it started working as a state hotel in 1966. In 1974 the Spanish Ministry of Labour established March 1st, the Arrival commemorative day, local public holiday in the town.