March 30, 1282 Sicilian Vespers

On Easter Monday, March 30, 1282, the Church of the Holy Spirit outside Palermo was just letting out after evening vespers (prayers), when a French soldier thought he’d “inspect” a Sicilian woman for weapons.

Since the early 12th century, the southern Italian peninsula and the island of Sicily were united as the Kingdom of Sicily.  Until the invasion of the French King Charles I of Anjou, who ousted Sicilian King Manfred in 1266.

The Anjou King’s rule in Sicily was vicious and repressive, the French King himself absent for long periods. Charles’ Sicilian subjects could not have hated him more.

download (42)On Easter Monday, March 30, 1282, the Church of the Holy Spirit outside Palermo was just letting out after evening vespers (prayers), when a French soldier thought he’d “inspect” a Sicilian woman for weapons.

Accounts vary as to what happened, but there’s a good chance he was just looking for a feel, and that’s what he got. The lady’s modesty thusly offended, someone in the crowd avenged her honor, with a knife to the French guard.

At first merely agitated, this first taste of blood drove the mob to a frenzy. Spreading across the Capital and into the countryside, Sicilians killed every Frenchman they could get their hands on.

Revolutionaries devised a linguistic test, to see who was authentically Sicilian. Native French speakers can’t pronounce the word “ciciri”, even to save themselves. And that’s the way it worked out.  God help you if you couldn’t say that word. Over four thousand Frenchmen would die over the next six weeks.

Meanwhile in Spain, Peter III, King of Aragon, Peter I, King of Valencia, and Peter II, Count of Barcelona (they’re all the same guy), had a claim to the Sicilian throne through his wife, Constance.

download (43)The Italian physician John of Procida had been a loyal subject of Manfred’s, fleeing to Aragon after the Anjou invasion. John proceeded directly to Sicily where he spent several weeks stirring up Sicilian resentment against the French King. Sicily then appealed to the Spanish King to intervene, while John sailed for Constantinople to procure the help of Michael VIII Palaeologus.

History records what followed as the War of Sicilian Vespers. The Angevins were supported by the Papacy and his Italian supporters (Guelphs), while the Aragonese received help from Sicily itself, the Byzantine Emperor, and the Ghibellines, Italian supporters of the Holy Roman Emperor.

Several players changed sides over the course of the next twenty years. In the end, the son of the Spanish King took the Sicilian crown in 1302, becoming King Frederick II, beginning near 400 years of Spanish rule over the island.

So it was that a French soldier molested an Italian woman, and lost the Kingdom of Sicily, to Spain.

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Author: Cape Cod Curmudgeon

I'm not a "Historian". I'm a father, a son and a grandfather. A widowed history geek and sometimes curmudgeon, who still likes to learn new things. I started "Today in History" back in 2013, thinking I’d learn a thing or two. I told myself I’d publish 365. The leap year changed that to 366. As I write this, I‘m well over a thousand. I do this because I want to. I make every effort to get my facts straight, but I'm as good at being wrong, as anyone else. I offer these "Today in History" stories in hopes that you'll enjoy reading them, as much as I’ve enjoyed writing them. Thank you for your interest in the history we all share. Rick Long, the “Cape Cod Curmudgeon”

3 thoughts on “March 30, 1282 Sicilian Vespers”

  1. I found another version in Italian that makes reference to a recent enactment requiring of local bigwigs the quartering of large bodies of armed troops among them. This was the sort of thing Thomas Jefferson recalled with disapproval as he was penning the Declaration of Independence. Viz. “Soprattutto, dopo un decreto di Carlo D’Angiò, che imponeva a tutti i baroni, di ospitare nei loro palazzi i soldati francesi. “

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    1. Dear Sir,On Wikipedia I read some time ago about the following two Spanish(nobles?) that in 1282 were sent to Palermo Sicily to swear their fealty to King Pere(Peter)I of Aragon.Their names are: Galceran de Cruilles and Pere(Peter)de Queralt. The stories/articles were written by two Sicilian historians whose names I will show hereunder,including the title of their books). However,I cannot find any details/gestures about them and their lives.Including their dob(date of birth) and dod (date of death). If they were of noble origin /descent. And,If so,what were their titles(if any). Were their families highly placed in the Spanish nobility (if any). And, when,where and how they died.Was it in battle/old age and finally if they died in Sicily or Spain. Here are the names of the Sicilian historians and their books.1)Francesco Aprile. “Della Cronologia Universale Della Sicilia”,pg 145.Edited in Palermo by Gaspare Bayona in 1725. 2)Vincenzo Mortillaro marchese di Villarena in “Giornale Di Scienze Lettere E Arti Per La Sicilia,vol 79”,pg 200 and 201 , year 20,(July August- September). Edited in Palermo by Stamperia Oretea in 1842.
      I am not a Historian,I am only an amateur of history.I am a retired bank administrator who dedicates his spare time doing research as a hobby. I find great satisfaction when able to find details with proven sources and facts that have to do with certain medieval subjects of my interest,such as the ones just mentioned. I live Toronto,Ontario,Canada and my email is: vcrudele@gmail.com
      I would very much appreciate if you could help me with my queries.
      I thank you for your help and awaiting your reply with interest.
      Vincent Crudele

      Liked by 1 person

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