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A History of Spain by Charles E. Chapman

In origin the adelantados mayores


[19] Less famous than the Cid, but quite as representative of his time, was the figure of Bishop Diego Gelm?rez of Santiago de Compostela, who played an important part in the events of Urraca's reign. He was a vigorous, ambitious, restless, not overscrupulous man, breaking pledges and changing from one side to another with the usual facility of men of that age. He was not only ambitious for himself but was also an ardent votary of the extension of church authority. He was a fighting bishop, who engaged in military campaigns himself and encountered many vicissitudes both in the civil wars of the kingdom and in the local uprisings of his own subjects. On one occasion the citizens of Santiago besieged him in his church, and set fire to a tower in which he took refuge. Nevertheless, the bishop escaped in the guise of a beggar. In the end he was usually successful. He procured the erection of Santiago de Compostela into an archbishopric, and enjoyed the distinction, equally with the church of Rome, of having seven cardinals as canons. He also gained the influential post of chaplain to Alfonso VII.

[20] The word "_merino_" is an untranslatable term for an official in Spanish administration whose powers varied greatly from century to century. While the _merinos_ were at times "judges of sheep-walks," as the word is often translated, they usually had much broader power as officials of the king. The _merinos mayores_, or greater _merinos_, were appointed by the king, with functions largely judicial in character and with authority extending over the greater provinces, such as Castile, Le?n, or Galicia. _Merinos menores_, or lesser _merinos_, might be the appointees and subordinates of _merinos mayores_, or, similarly, of the _corregidores_, or rulers of districts.

[21] The term "_adelantado_" comes from the fact that the officials so-called were "advanced," or "put forward," in the place of the king, to act in his name. There is some authority to the effect that the title was in existence as early as the tenth century, but it was certainly employed by the latter part of the twelfth century. In origin the _adelantados mayores_, or greater _adelantados_, were judicial officials, hearing appeals that had formerly gone to the king. The _adelantado menor_, or lesser _adelantado_, came into existence early in the thirteenth century, at which time he was a judicial officer of higher rank than the _merinos_, but also possessed extensive administrative powers. Many of the _adelantados menores_ were stationed in frontier districts, and indeed they were often called _adelantados fronterizos_ (frontier _adelantados_). It was natural, therefore, that they should acquire military functions. It was the _adelantado fronterizo_ of Spain who figured so prominently in the conquest of the Americas. Most of the conquerors of the sixteenth century were _adelantados_. After that the title died out. Hill, Roscoe R., _The office of adelantado_, in _Political science quarterly_, v. XXVIII, no. 4; Dec., 1913.

[22] Taxes at that time were many and varied in kind, but may be reduced to three types: regular contributions, but depending on the happening of some event; indemnities to escape rendering certain due services; and fines. As examples of the first type may be mentioned the _goyosa_ (rejoicing) payable by a married man at the birth of a child; the _movicio_ (removal) payable whenever one changed his residence; the _yantar_, or food supplies, for the king and his retinue whenever he visited a town; the _servicios_ (services), or subsidies, granted by the _Cortes_; the _diezmos de mar_ (tithes of the sea), or customs duties collected at the ports. The most notable tax of the second class was the _fonsado_ (foss), payable by those who wished to escape the obligation of going on a military campaign. One of the third group was the _calo?a_ (fine), due from the inhabitants of a region where a crime had been committed and the guilty person had not been found. Gradually it became the practice to commute these taxes for a single payment, except for the _fonsado_ and the _yantar_, which were not dispensed with.


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