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Bernat de Fonollar

Lord of the Castles of Sitges and Campdàsens.
? 1255? - Vilafranca del Penedès, 1326

Bernat de Fonollar was the right-hand man of King James II and general attorney of Catalonia. He held the lordship of the Sitges castle between 1306 and 1326.

He became the most important man in the history of medieval Sitges after having acquired, in 1306, the castles of Sitges and Campdàsens from Agnès (the last member of the Sitges family) and her husband, Berenguer de Fonollar.

His family is first documented in the 12th century in the area of the Baix Llobregat. They were small landowners, aloers, who paid service to their lords, the Castellvell, especially from Guillem Ramon III (+1178) onwards, in the “area of Barcelona”. They also participated in the conquest and occupation of territories in the South of the Principality (Camp de Tarragona and Terres de l’Ebre) and they became an influential family amongst minor nobility and the military class.

In 1302 he is named general attorney and majordomo of Prince James, and garnered the king's favor for his ideas.

Many were the privileges Bernat de Fonollar obtained from his dutiful endeavors. A clear example of this is the monarch’s grant of low and high jurisdiction (power to administer justice) in the castellanies of Sitges and Campdàsens after Fonollar acquired them from Agnès de Sitges.

Bernat de Fonollar lived in the castle of Sitges between 1306 and 1326. The castle must have been well furnished with furniture, rich clothes, kitchenware, jewels, livestock and, especially, horses, very valuable animals in the time. He founded the first hospital in the village in 1324 (now the site of Maricel de Mar) and ordered the construction of two chapels in the Santa Tecla church (now Sant Bartomeu and Santa Tecla), in honour of Saint Michael the archangel and Saint Peter Martyr. In 1324, Ferrer Bassa, one of the most outstanding artists of the Catalan Gothic, painted the chapels.

In the codicil to his will, Fonollar left instructions that he should be buried in the church of Sitges. His ossuary can be found in the Altar de les Ànimes, next to his wife’s, Blanca de Abella.

Bernat de Fonollar

Lord of the Castles of Sitges and Campdàsens.
? 1255? - Vilafranca del Penedès, 1326

Bernat de Fonollar was the right-hand man of King James II and general attorney of Catalonia. He held the lordship of the Sitges castle between 1306 and 1326.

He became the most important man in the history of medieval Sitges after having acquired, in 1306, the castles of Sitges and Campdàsens from Agnès (the last member of the Sitges family) and her husband, Berenguer de Fonollar. His family is first documented in the 12th century in the area of the Baix Llobregat.

They were small landowners, aloers, who paid service to their lords, the Castellvell, especially from Guillem Ramon III (+1178) onwards, in the "area of Barcelona"

Ossuary Bernat de Fonollar, Saurina de Vilafranca i Blanca d’Abella (photo by Josep Ramon Parés)

They also participated in the conquest and occupation of territories in the South of the Principality (Camp de Tarragona and Terres de l'Ebre). They became an influential family amongst minor nobility and the military class and added lands and rights to their fiefs, which passed on from fathers to sons.

Bernat's father, Guillem de Fonollar (+1269), was castellan of Tivissa and Selma, and his mother, Elisenda, also held land titles. After the death of his elder brother, Dalmau (1273), Bernat became heir. He married twice. The first time to Saurina de Vilafranca, who died between 1310 and 1316, daughter to Guillem de Vilafranca and Elisenda, and with whom he had a son, Guillemó. Guillemó, who passed away around 1324, before his father, married Agnès de Canyelles, daughter to Galceran de Canyelles and Guillelma. Their union, however, was annulled in 1317. Bernat de Fonollar's second wife was Blanca de Abella (+1341), whom he married in 1316. Daughter to Ferrer de Abella, her family, like the Fonollars, was very influential. This union bore no children. Bernat de Fonollar died childless and left the castles of Sitges and Campdàsens to the Pía Almoina, and the castle in Tivissa to Umbert de Fonollar.

Major Domo and General Attorney to Count-King Jaime II

The exact moment when Bernat de Fonollar begins his service at the royal court is unclear. Some documents place it in 1290 when he travels with other dignitaries to Rome. In the name of Alphonse II the Liberal, their objective was to inform Pope Nicolas IV of the conflict that confronted the Catalan King-Counts with the house of Anjou and the Kingdom of Naples. In 1299 he is already acting as attorney and in 1302 he is the right-hand man of King James II the Just (Valencia, 10th of August 1267- Barcelona, 2nd of November 1327) and is named general attorney and majordomo of prince James, eldest son of the king.

Fonollar's ideas, his continued endeavors in pursuit of the king's interests and his loyalty and service to the monarch, garnered him the king's favor. James II referred to him as Dilecto consiliario nostro Bernardo de Fonollar. Many were the actions Bernat de Fonollar undertook on behalf of the king. On one occasion, in 1308, he traveled to Rome on a diplomatic mission to get the Pope's permission to carry out a conjoint campaign with the Castilian king against Muhammad III, Sultan of Granada

As castellan of Selma, where the Templars had a commandry, he had to serve as middleman between the king and the disbanded Order, when its goods were assigned to a representative of the king (1304-1306). In 1324, when Fonollar no longer exercised a position in the royal court, the monarch, and legal assessor Berenguer de Cortell, asked him to help set the boundaries of Eramprunyà, after the royal treasurer, Pere March, acquired the castle (reg 181, fol. 213, Bofarull).

Many were the privileges Bernat de Fonollar obtained from his dutiful endeavors. A clear example of this is the monarch's grant of low and high jurisdiction (power to administer justice) in the castellanies of Sitges and Campdàsens after Fonollar acquired them from Agnès de Sitges.

Bernat de Fonollar lived in the castle of Sitges between 1306 and 1326. The castle must have been well furnished with furniture, rich clothes, kitchenware, jewels, livestock and, especially, horses, very valuable animals in the time. He founded the first hospital in the village in 1324 (now the site of Maricel de Mar) and ordered the construction of two chapels in the Santa Tecla church (now Sant Bartomeu and Santa Tecla), in honour of Saint Michael the archangel and Saint Peter Martyr. In 1324, Ferrer Bassa, one of the most outstanding artists of the Catalan Gothic, painted the chapels. In the codicil to his will, Fonollar left instructions that he should be buried in the church of Sitges.

His ossuary can be found in the Altar de les Ànimes, next to his wife's, Blanca de Abella.


Bibliography:
AD, (2007) Història de Sitges. II. Època medieval. Fragments d’història núm. 7. Sitges. Ajuntament de Sitges.
Parés Corretger, Àngels (1988). “Breu esbós sobre el cavaller Bernat de Fonollar i el castell de Sitges del segle XIV”. Sitges. Butlletí GES, núm. 45/46, agost/setembre.
Parés Corretger, Àngels (2001). “Els Fonollar, una família del Pla de Barcelona”. Sant Vicenç de Castellet. XLIV Assemblea Intercomarcal d'Estudiosos, 20 i 21 d'octubre.