History of Baeza

History of Baeza

Although archaeological samples do not suggest the presence of many human settlements in the area prior to the Copper Age (middle of the III Millennium BC), there is evidence dating back to the fifth Millennium BC documenting the life habits of the hunters and gatherers of epipalaeolithic groups. A thousand years later, communities from further south arrived, specifically from the caves and shelters of Sierra Mágina, bringing with them Neolithic forms based on agricultural activity and certain technical advances such as the polishing of stone and ceramics. This has been documented in sites such as Los Horneros, Los Morales and Toya.

In the Copper Age, villages appeared, some walled and facing the Guadalquivir. Here, the land was more fertile and consisted of a diversified economy of agriculture, forest exploitation, livestock, fishing and hunting. In the Bronze Age, new towns appeared. Successive Iberian settlements were located in the area from the fourth century BC.

Various written or epigraphic sources mention the settlement of Vivatia, whose relationship with that culture dates back to the time of the Empire, back in the first century BC. It was first attached to Hispania Citerior, paying taxes but with its own laws. In the first century of our era it was included in the Conventus Carthaginensis (Tarraconense Province) whose administration and economy were governed by Cartago Nova and the neighbouring capital city of Cástulo. Decades later, Vespasiano would grant it the category of Flavian Municipality, which gave it superior administrative rank over the “villae” of the region. This was a time when Vivatia played a fundamental role in the communication routes that facilitated the movement of silver from the Sierra Morena mines to the eastern coast of the peninsula.

In a later period, at the end of the Roman Empire Biatia, or Beatia, played witness to the capital status of the province that Cástulo held, when the mint and the Bishopric moved here. The territory was also affected by barbarian invasions in the fifth century, although a Hispano-Roman oligarchy maintained its strength in the region until the Visigothic presence, and authority appeared more strongly in the sixth century. The Gothic aristocracy merged with the Hispano-Roman and they took over all the levers of power; the peasantry was made up mostly of Hispano-Romans, the largest social class, with free landowners, settlers and slaves, and there was even an incipient Jewish group dedicated to business and trade. In Visigothic Hispania, the town was the episcopal seat of the church, a suffragan of the Archdiocese of Toledo, which included the ancient Roman province of Cartaginense in the diocese of Hispania.

The Muslims named the town Bayyasa in the eighth century. The territory was redistributed between Hispanogodos, the Arab tribes and the Umayyads; while the Church, although it continued to exist, lost economic power. The Muladíes (converted to Islam) and the Mozarabs (Christians who remain in al-Andalus) formed social structures not very different from those which previously existed.

After various periods of crisis that led to the fall of the Caliphate, the time of the Taifa Kingdoms arrived, during which Bayyasa was subjugated by one and then the other. In 1147, it was reconquered by Alfonso VII El Emperador with the supposed help of San Isidro de Sevilla who appeared to him in a dream while besieging it. Ten years later the Almohads conquered the town, however, on July 16, 1212, the Christian troops commanded by Castilian Alfonso VIII almost completely destroyed the Almohad Empire in the Battle of Las Navas de Tolosa. In a third Taifa, Bayyasa became the capital of an ephemeral Taifa de Baeza that included a large area of Jaén and Córdoba. Emir Abd Al·lah al-Bayyasi declared himself a vassal of Fernando III, supporting him in campaigns against other Muslim Emirs. Al-Bayyasi was treacherously murdered in Almodóvar del Río. On November 30, 1227, Fernando III El Santo took definitive possession of Baeza on behalf of his son, Abd al-Mon, although he finally integrated the city into the Kingdom of Castile. The expelled Muslims travelled south and settled in the Albaicín of Granada.

Until the re-conquest of Jaén in 1246, Baeza was the capital of the ephemeral Kingdom of Baeza, later integrated into the new Kingdom of Jaén. Likewise, ownership of the diocese was also transferred to the new capital of the Kingdom. Fernando III endowed Baeza with a compilation of medieval laws regulating coexistence, with the aim of attracting a population from the Christian territories of the north. Enrique II made large donations to his followers in the region and thus the oligarchy consolidated its power there. From this time on, two powerful families, the Benavides and the Carvajales, confronted each other in what can be called the “Baezian Civil War”, whose end was determined by the decisive action of Isabel la Católica, who, in order to prevent further conflicts, ordered the demolition of the imposing Alcázar of the city.

In the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, the economy of Baeza grew thanks to extensive production of cereals, flour, wood, saffron, silk, vines, olive trees and livestock. In the mid-sixteenth century, the population of Baeza doubled that of the previous century and its agricultural, livestock, industrial and commercial wealth strengthened small nobility that wanted to project its social status.

During the seventeenth century, there was an economic recession parallel to that of the rest of Spain, all motivated by the policy of the successors of Felipe II (Felipe III, Felipe IV, Carlos II), especially in relation to the outside, by the continuous sterile wars, so burdensome for the economy and the population. Cereal surpluses had to be switched for grain imports, which further sank the economy.

At the start of 1700, the new century also brought a new dynasty, the Bourbons, who gave another air to the Spanish State. For Baeza, perhaps it was already too late and the turning point marked by the seventeenth century ultimately constituted an almost insurmountable wall. A very high percentage of land ownership was maintained by the traditional wealthy landowners and the Church, while there was hardly any land belonging to small owners or tenants. The Lisbon earthquake of 1755 was very serious for the city, destroying most of the buildings and houses. In 1779, the segregation of Begíjar de Baeza took place and, in 1795, that of Lupión (which then also contained Torreblascopedro).

The infinite political vicissitudes of nineteenth-century Spain, among them the disastrous consequences of the French occupation, made Baeza even more decimated demographically and economically; only in the second half of the century was it possible to experience a recovery, but the subsequent development in other mining towns adjacent to Sierra Morena were aspects that once again had a negative impact on Baeza. In 1824, under the reign of Fernando VII, the definitive suppression of the University of Baeza was ordered, although the building continued to be used for educational purposes.

The political and social tension was accentuated at the beginning of the twentieth century and the labor movement gave rise to the birth of anarcho-syndicalist and socialist groups. Later, the dictatorship of Primo de Rivera was not beneficial for the city that saw how the Baeza-Utiel railway was frustrated (finally cancelled in 1964), and the Agrarian Reform promulgated in 1932 by the Second Republic was not in accordance with expectations.

In the first stage of Francoism, there was no noticeable improvement. The 1940s were very hard in all senses; a restrictive post-war policy and bad harvests accentuated the precariousness of what have been called “years of hunger”. The “Plan Jaén” that was implemented during the 1950s was a failure, in part due to the lack of interest of the regime, and in the 1960s the so-called developmentalism was not especially noticeable in Baeza. As in other agricultural towns in Jaén, a rural exodus took place in the middle of the century to the industrial cities of Madrid, Catalonia and Valencia, but also to Europe, especially to France and Germany. In 1981, the Mayor José Luís Puche promoted the installation of the Academia de Guardias y Suboficiales (Academy of Guards and NCOs) in Baeza to the detriment of the institution located in Úbeda.

On July 3, 2003, UNESCO declared the Renaissance monumental complexes of Úbeda and Baeza a World Heritage Site.


Living in Andalucia