Íñigo López, Lord of Biscay

Íñigo López (floruit 1040–1076; dead by 1079?) was the first Lord of Biscay.[1] Although the date is not known precisely, Íñigo's government of Biscay began between 1040 and 1043 at the latest.[2] He was appointed of the king, García Sánchez III of Navarre, and did not govern Biscay by hereditary right.[3] At some point during the 1040s he received or inherited the rank of count (comes in Latin). Around the end of his life he began using the style "by the grace of God" (gratia Dei), recorded for the first time written in legal documents after 1072. This style indicated a new claim to govern Biscay through the agency of God (i.e., by right) and not merely at the king's will.[4]

Íñigo's origins are obscure, but he may have been a son of Lope Velázquez de Ayala, a lord in Álava, Cantabria and nearby parts of Biscay. He married Toda Ortiz (Fortúnez), probably a daughter of Fortún Sánchez, the godfather of García Sánchez.[5] His father-in-law and García Sánchez both died in the Battle of Atapuerca in 1054 and Íñigo may have succeeded the former as tenente (lord "holding" the government on behalf of the king) in Nájera.[3] Documents place his rule in Nájera between 1063 and 1075, often through a vicar.[2] Besides Biscay and Nájera, Íñigo also ruled Durango.[6]

In 1051, when García Sánchez granted fueros to Biscay, he officially associated Íñigo with him in the decree, as the head of the local aristocracy (omnes milites), recognising the rights and privileges of the monasteries.[7] Íñigo is further associated with monastic renovation by his making or confirming the donations of the churches (monasteria) of San Juan de Gaztelugatxe, Santa María de Mundaca, and Bermeo to San Juan de la Peña, and of Axpe de Busturia and San Martín de Yurreta to San Millán de la Cogolla.[2] In 1076, after the assassination of Sancho Garcés IV and the division of Navarre by the armies of his cousins, Sancho I of Aragon and Alfonso VI of León and Castile, Íñigo accepted the overlordship of the Leonese-Castilian monarch. In the surviving text of the fuero given to Nájera that year Íñigo's eldest son, Lope, appears swearing fealty to Alfonso, but he is not recorded in documents as count in Biscay until 1079. These dates being the termini ad et post quem of his death.[8] He is last recorded in a donation he made to San Millán on behalf of his late wife. In the donation he names as their children, beside Lope: García, Galindo, Mencía, and Sancho, who died young.

Preceded by
Lord of Biscay
Succeeded by


  1. ^ José María Canal Sánchez-Pagín (1995), "La Casa de Haro en León y Castilla durante el siglo XII: nuevas conclusiones", Anuario de estudios medievales, 25:1, 4, refers to him as "primer señor de Vizcaya documentado" (first documented lord of Biscay), but notes that in the tenth century a certain Momo held the title "Count of Biscay" (comes Bizcahiensis) according to the Genealogías de Roda, though no contemporary documents have come to light.
  2. ^ a b c Ángel Martín Duque (1999), "Vasconia en la Alta Edad Media: una somera aproximación", Revista Internacional de Estudios Vascos, 44, 898.
  3. ^ a b Canal Sánchez-Pagín, 5.
  4. ^ By the end of his life he was titling himself senior Enneco Lopez, gratia Dei totius Vizcahie comes ("lord Íñigo López, by the grace of God of all Biscay count"), cf. Canal Sánchez-Pagín, 5.
  5. ^ The patronymics Ortiz and Fortúnez are probably synonymous, cf. Canal Sánchez-Pagín, 5 n5.
  6. ^ Today Durango, along with the Encartaciones, which Íñigo did not rule, and medieval Biscay form the province of Biscay, cf. Canal Sánchez-Pagín, 6, who speculates on the etymology of "Biscay".
  7. ^ The fuero reads: Placuit nobis et comiti Enneco Lupiz ... ut facerem ingenuos et francos totos illos monasterios ("it please us and the count Íñigo López ... therefore I made ingenui and free all those monasteries"), quoted in Canal Sánchez-Pagín, 5 n6.
  8. ^ Martín Duque, 899, who elsewhere, 895, places his death in 1079.

External linksEdit

  • There are two ([1], [2]) brief genealogical entries at Charles Cawley, Medieval Lands Project website (retrieved August 2012).