Europe and the Mediterranean

 

Bejaia

RAMON LLULL IN BEJAIA

In the mid 1307 Ramon Llull, seventy-five years old then, sets sail in Mallorca to the Algerian city of Bejaia. In its squares and streets preaches, screaming at the top of his voice (probably in Arabic, language that he knows well) the “necessary reasons” that, according to him, proves the truth of the Christian faith. But what he gets is an angry mob assaulting him and trying to kill him. He is arrested and taken before the mufti (local religious authority), establishing a dialogue between them, reviewed by Llull himself in the autobiographical “Vita Coetanea”. Finally he was jailed in harsh conditions.

Catalan and Genoese influences before the King of Bejaia Abul-Baqa Halid get a better deal for the prisoner, for whom death was expected. Finally the king expelled him from the city, after six months in jail, and he sets sail to Pisa. Meanwhile Llull, indefatigable, had managed to start the Arabic text Disputatio Raymundi Christiani et Homeri Saraceni, reflecting his dialectical arguments with Algerian scholars.

BEJAIA, THEN AND NOW

Béjaïa or Bougie (Biyāya in Arabic), located on the Mediterranean coast of Algeria, 180 km east of Algiers, is the most important city of the great Berber region of Kabylia. It was founded in 26 or 27 AD by the Roman emperor Augustus with the name of Saldae. It was conquered in the 8th century by the Arabs, who had snatched it from the Vandals, and in 1152, was taken by the Almohads. During the late Middle Ages was one of the busiest ports in the Mediterranean, trading especially with Pisa, Barcelona and Palma. It became famous for the export of beeswax (the Spanish word “bujia” for candle, comes from the name of the city). It was one of the most important cultural centers of the western world of the late Middle Ages, with scholars such as Ibn Battuta and, in the late 14th century, Ibn Khaldun. Bejaia was the scientific centre from which the Arabic numerals broke into European culture through Italian sailors in the early 13th century.

Bejaia currently remains a busy port, now with the export of oil. The city has retained cultural heritages such as the Moussa fortification, the Casbah or the Saracen door. 

 

Ramon Llull quotations

 
«With the irate man is better to be quiet than to speak»
 

Messages about Ramon Llull

 
Ramon Llull was born in Mallorca three years after the Christian Conquest of the Island by the Catalan king Jaime I in 1229.
 

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