Sardinia was Spanish for more than three centuries: history of Iberian rule on the island

For over three centuries, from the 14th to the beginning of the 18th century, Sardinia was administered first by kingdom of Aragon and then, after the union of this with the kingdom of Castile, from the new one Crown of Spain. The Spaniards profoundly changed the politics and economy of the island, but also the traditions.

When and why Sardinia became Aragonese

The army of the kingdom of Aragon entered Sardinia in 1323 and officially began ruling the island in 1326. To understand why, we need to take a step back.

In the Middle Ages Sardinia was divided into very particular states: i Judge yourself. The Judges acted like kings, but their power was limited and controlled by the corona de loguan institution that had prerogatives similar to those of a parliament and a court of justice, and from log cardsof decrees that have been assimilated to primitive constitutions.

Starting from the 11th century, the two maritime republics of Sardinia had already entered Sardinian politics Pisa And Genoa. The entry into the scene of the two rich cities had destabilized the solidity of the Giudicati, which one after the other began to fall. The only one of the Giudicati who had survived at the beginning of the fourteenth century was the Judge of Arboreawith Oristano as its capital, the richest and largest.

It is in this moment of Sardinian history that the Aragonese they entered the island. To resolve a dispute between the Aragonese and Angevins over the possession of Sicily, in 1297 Pope Boniface VIII (1235-1303) decided to grant the Catalans possession of Sardinia, as a sort of compensation for the loss of Sicily. The pope created the kingdom of Sardiniato be assigned to the Aragonese, provided that they went to conquer it themselves.


In the 1323 the Catalan army landed in southern Sardinia, commanded by the prince Alfonso of Aragon (1299-1336), with the aim of conquering Cagliari, controlled by Pisa. The Tuscan city was forced to sign the surrender in 1326, ceding its enormous territories in the southern and eastern parts of the island to the crown of Aragon. The kingdom of Sardinia, administered by the Catalans, had been established.


The Sardinian-Catalan war and the end of Spanish rule

The arrival of the Aragonese in Sardinia inaugurated almost a century of perpetual war on the island. In fact, although Arborea had looked favorably on the Catalan invasion as an anti-Pisan function, the Sardinians soon realized that the kingdom of Aragon was a more dangerous agent for the control of the island than Pisa and Genoa had been. Within a few years, in the middle of the century, the Giudicato of Arborea descended into war against the Aragonese, this time allying with Genoa.

The war was long and in alternating phases, with numerous coups and reversals, but the Aragonese emerged victorious and in the 1420 the last judge, the Frenchman William II of Narbonne (1370-1424), sold the last independent Sardinian territories to the Aragonese. From that moment on, the Aragonese kingdom of Sardinia dominated the entire island.

The long war between the Catalans and the Giudicato of Arborea had contributed to the economic stagnation of the island, together with hunger and plague. For the entire period of Iberian domination, Sardinia was exploited for its natural and human resources. Despite this, the Spanish government was not very different from that applied in the other territories of the empire.

To settle the question of succession to the Spanish throne, the conflict broke out in 1701 War of the Spanish Successionwhich ended in 1714 with a general readjustment of European politics. Spain had to cede the crown of Sardinia to Austria, but the Austrian government lasted for just four years, because in 1718 the island was definitively ceded to the Piedmontese dynasty of dukes of Savoywhich from then on would bear the title of king of Sardinia.

The influence of Iberian culture: Spanish traditions in Sardinia

Sardinian culture was greatly influenced by Catalan culture first and then by Spanish culture. Two of the most important cities on the island, Cagliari And Algherowere completely repopulated by Catalan-speaking people, and Alghero is still spoken todayalguerésa Catalan dialect.

When the Aragonese took control of the island they imposed their language in government and administration. Many have arrived within the Sardinian language catalanisms: ullerasfrom ulleres“eyeglasses”; calasciufrom calaix“drawer”; busacafrom butxaca“pocket”, sindria, “watermelon”, just to name a few commonly used words. Among the toponyms we have Elmas (El mascountry house), Monserrato (MontserratMarian sanctuary near Barcelona), Portoscuso (Port Escus“hidden port”), Sarroch (Roc, rock). In Sardinia there are still surnames of Spanish origin, typically in -es or -ez such as Alvarez, Lopez, Perez and Rodriguez.

Catalan art, especially that gothicgreatly influenced Sardinian architecture and painting at the end of the Middle Ages.


In the 1492the king of Aragon Ferdinand (1452-15016) and the queen Isabella of Castile (1451-1504) united their two kingdoms, effectively marking the beginning of the history of United Spain. The kingdom of Sardinia, as part of the crown of Aragon, therefore became part of the Spanish dominions, which during the 16th century were the largest in the world, also thanks to the colonial conquests in the Americas. Among the most tangible traces of Spanish domination on the island are the coastal towerswhich still dot the Sardinian coasts today and which were built to face the incursions of North African pirates.


Between the 1500s and 1600s the Castilian Spanish language took over from Catalan in Sardinia. Also in this case, many words in common use in the Sardinian language derive from Spanish: bentanafrom ventana“window”; mesa“table”; I tightenedfrom close“close”, muttonfrom montón“a lot, a lot” are just a few examples.

The Iberian influence was not limited only to the language. Many religious cults and traditions arrived in Sardinia from Spain. Some examples are the rites of Holy Weeksimilar to those of Sicily, including those involving the religious brotherhoods of the hooded.