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Skip to 0 minutes and 14 seconds To get a detailed insight into the most important features of the history of Catalonia until the present we have the opportunity to speak to Tomàs de Montagut professor of History of Law at the University of Santiago de Compostela and at Pompeu Fabra University. His main areas of research which account for most of his research and the theses he supervises are the history of the political and financial institutions in Catalonia and the Crown of Aragon. Therefore, we have before us a true expert in the historical development of Catalonia who will give us his viewpoint on this profound and enlightening subject.

Skip to 0 minutes and 57 seconds When is Catalonia born as a political entity? In Barcelona cathedral, at Portal de Sant Iu above, there is a relief where you can see two groups of figures. In both there are warriors one wearing armour and wielding a sword to fight against the dragon this appears to be St. George and the other with neither armour not a sword but he is dressed in pantaloons and you see his body covered in hair holding a stick, fighting a ferocious beast, a dragon.

Skip to 1 minute and 34 seconds It seems that by this, those who built this Portal de Sant Iu dedicated to the patron saint of jurists wanted to consolidate a myth, a legend about the political origins of Catalonia which are closely linked to the count of Barcelona, Wilfred the Hairy, or perhaps his father. Well, the political origins of Catalonia as a general community are linked with the process of independence with respect to the Carolingian Empire. This empire which, to fight the Muslims chose a defence area in the Iberian Peninsula, la Marca Hispànica or March of Barcelona, and divided it into administrative districts, which were the Catalan counties.

Skip to 2 minutes and 19 seconds Of the Catalan counties, the most important was that of Barcelona and it was directed by counts who were civil servants at the disposal of the emperor. But Wilfred the Hairy was the first to manage to leave the county and he was permitted to do so, to his children. With that begins, what has been called the Catalan National Dynasty of the Counts of Barcelona Still dependent on the French Empire, however, we would say already rooted in the land.

Skip to 2 minutes and 52 seconds The successor to this count, who had lived up to the end of the ninth century now a century later, was count Borrell of Barcelona who asked for help from his Emperor to go against the Muslims of Al-Mansur who were at the time laying waste to the entire peninsula. But he received no help and, given that political ties at that time were based on feudalism and personal loyalty personal loyalty reciprocated with protection as he did not receive the protection of the monarch he considered that, in fact, the bond of “subjection” was broken and we could talk, or scholars have talked about the de facto independence of Catalonia at the end of the 11th century with count Borrell who had defend himself.

Skip to 3 minutes and 42 seconds However, later on, we will see that in this European feudal society, which also reached Catalonia and in which there were many counts, a Catalan political community would be shaped through law a law that would emerge in Barcelona, and among the “curia” of the count of Barcelona resolving cases and causes and things related with something that interested everyone. The most common uses of the curia of the count of Barcelona were the Usatges (Usages) of Barcelona the first general law to be implemented throughout the region through a historic process that would continue to be built through bonds of loyalty and honouring feudal pacts between the count of Barcelona and other counts, viscounts and lords of Catalonia.

Skip to 4 minutes and 39 seconds Thus a feudal pyramid was constructed at the top of which was the count of Barcelona. For this reason, we will see that in these Usatges in the 12th century, when they began to appear in writing there would already be some ideas of the European doctrines of the time which emerged in Bologna, to signal that the count of Barcelona was the first of the Catalan counts. And this legal figure was introduced in the Usatges with the name of principality and of prince. For this reason, Catalonia would become a principality, not a kingdom.

Skip to 5 minutes and 22 seconds How was government power implanted at the medieval age? Barcelona, today, is a European city and there are many symbols that bear witness to its membership of the European Union such as the flag, for example. But this is not just how things are today but since the medieval period we have clear notice of Catalonia’s belonging to Europe and also to the world, more specifically, to European legal and political culture That had to do with how to overcome the feudal society of the late middle ages in Europe, which was characterized by the crisis of public power and systems of self-governance that meant that a polyarchy existed in which each feudal lord, each municipality, could to impose its will on its citizens or serfs.

Skip to 6 minutes and 28 seconds To overcome this, a revival of public power took place which was institutionalized through law and for this reason a new faculty of law emerged in Bologna which adopted as texts, let us say a reference as a political model of public power those of the Caesaropapist absolute monarchy of Justinian the Byzantine Emperor of the 6th century.

Skip to 6 minutes and 55 seconds His books were known in medieval times as the corpus iuris civilis the body of civil law of the cities since the cities were crucial from that moment for the birth of public power and the formation of a new leading social class in addition to the nobles and the churchmen that would be destined in the future to making the bourgeois revolution in the modern era the rise of the bourgeoisie in the cities and these cities needed a public law and a civil law. Well, the doctrine drawn up by the jurists in Bologna on public power was embodied in the legal figure of jurisdiction.

Skip to 7 minutes and 39 seconds Jurisdiction was the public authority which, although based on a unit of power allowed diversity and participation in legislative legal, governmental and gracious functions and also allowed many degrees so that we can speak of a universal jurisdiction of the Christian European community represented by the public power of the Church and of the Empire of a general jurisdiction or a public authority, represented by the national “monarchies” (in inverted commas) which were monist or dualist in nature depending on who represented this general community and then, of a public authority or special local jurisdiction for the municipalities and estates or personal for the other professional-type public law corporations such as the consulates of the sea, the guilds or even the universities.

Catalonia and the Middle Ages

The birth of Catalonia as a political community dates back to medieval times. In this video we will discover much more about how this process occurred.

This video is in Catalan language, so remember to activate the subtitles in English, Spanish or Catalan.

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This video is from the free online course:

Getting to Know Catalonia: An Introduction to the Catalan Language, Culture and Society

Pompeu Fabra University Barcelona