Family Barerra, 1651

Recently I came across some old documents that my great-grandmother Mariona Barrera, had written in 1560. They told of a time when our family fell into misfortune and were involved in around about way in the undertaking of a lawsuit for the recovery of profits that we were cheated out of. My great-grandfather struck a deal with a Greek merchant. He agreed to build him a boat if in return the merchant gave him a share of his profits from his first few voyages as payment. This arrangement was made because the merchant did not have all the capital needed to pay for the boat up front. My grandfather decided to trust him because he was a fellow Christian even though he is eastern orthodox and therefore is separated from the Catholic Church which of course we are members of. The Catholic Church had long tried to bring the Eastern Orthodox Church under its control and unify the churches, but their efforts were met with little success. Everyone told him not to trust the merchant because he was a heretic but my great-grandfather did not listen.[1]

All seemed well with the arrangement that was made at first. However, while at sea the merchant’s boat was attacked by the Knights of Malta. Even though the merchant was Eastern Orthodox and therefore a Christian and a Venetian subject, all the goods on board were seized because the Knights of Malta were angry that Venice willingly traded with the Ottomans. When the knights seized a ship with their enemies’ goods on board they were required to pay the ship’s captain for the goods they took according to the Consolato del Mare. If this would have happened all would have been well for my family. Unfortunately, the Knights of Malta cheated the captain and claimed that they seized much less than they really did. This incident left the captain unable to pay my great-grandfather what he owed on the boat.[2]

According to my great-grandmother the Greek merchant decided to go to the Venetian government for assistance in the matter since he was a Venetian subject. Venice sided with the merchant and imposed a sequestro in an effort to recover some of the profits and goods the merchant lost. The Knights of Malta protested this action but in the end they lost the fight. The merchant received most of the compensation he was due. This in turn allowed him to pay us the debt that he owed us.[3]

As a result of this incident my family no longer takes this type of financial risks. We always ensure we receive payment up front for our services even though other shipbuilders allow payments at a later date. I never understood why we take this approach even though we lose some business because of it but now I know it is due to this almost disastrous event.

-Monserrat, 1650

[1] Molly Greene, Catholic Pirates and Greek Merchants: A Maritime History of the Mediterranean (Princeton University Press: Princeton, 2010), 52-77.

[2] Ibid., 57-58,65.

[3] Ibid.


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