Catalan Courts

The Catalan Courts or General Court of Catalonia (Catalan: Corts Catalanes or Cort General de Catalunya)[1] was the policymaking and parliamentary body of the Principality of Catalonia from the 13th to the 18th century. The courts were made up of three arms or estates: the military estate which included representatives from the nobility, the ecclesiastical estate which saw representatives from the religious hierarchy and the royal estate which had representatives from the municipalities.[2] The courts were summoned by the king who opened with a royal proclamation while the arms were in charge of legislating, always with the support of the sovereign. If the laws that were approved came from the king they received the name of "Constitutions", if they came from the Estates, "Court Chapters". If the king passed a law unilaterally it was called "Acts of Courts" and required ratification by the courts.

It is comparable to similar institutions across Europe, such as the Parliament of England and the Diets (German: Landtage) of the German "lands".

The General Courts of the Crown of Aragon were the simultaneous meeting of the Courts of Aragon, Valencian Courts and the Courts of Catalonia. The Kingdom of Majorca did not convene Courts and thus sent their representatives to the Courts of the Principality. As the courts could not be held outside of Aragon nor the Principality, they were frequently held in Monzón or in Fraga, Aragonese towns which lay equidistant between Zaragoza and Barcelona.

Unlike the Courts of Castile of the time which functioned only as an advisory body to which the king granted privileges and exemptions, the Catalan Courts was a regulatory body, as their decisions had the force of law, in the sense that the king could not unilaterally revoke them.

General Court of Catalonia

Cort General de Catalunya  (Catalan)
1283 (first regulated)
Preceded byCort Comtal, Peace and Truce Assemblies
Succeeded byCourts of Castile
SeatsSíndics (Braç Reial), Nobles (Braç Militar), Clerics (Braç Eclesiàstic)
Meeting place
Casa generalitat web
Itinerant, different places of Catalonia. The Palau de la Generalitat was the place where the last Courts (1705-1706) were met
---- See also:
Parliament of Catalonia



Fernando II entre dos escudos del Señal Real de Aragón
Ferdinand II of Aragon on his throne flanked by two shields with the emblem of the royal signet. Frontis of a 1495 edition of the Catalan Constitutions.[3]

The origin of the Catalan Courts is located in the Cort Comtal (circa 1000) and in the meetings of the Peace and Truce that from 1021 met to discuss and agree on the termination of wars and violence. The first Catalan Courts date from 1192, the year in which the townspeople participated for the first time in the meeting of the Peace and Truce. Those of 1214 were convened by the papal legate, Cardinal Pietro di Benevento in the Castell de la Suda, in Lleida and responded to the need to fix the confusing situation in the country after the death of King Peter of Aragon at the Battle of Muret and the beginning of the reign of his son James I who was only six years old. The new king of Aragon took his oath before prelates and magnates of the royal curia, representatives of cities and villages. At the time of James I (1208-1276), they met summoned by the king as representative of the social classes of the time.

Regulated Courts

Under the reign of Peter the Great (1276-1285), the Catalan courts took institutional form.

Court of 1283

In the courts held in Barcelona in 1283, the king was forced to hold a General Court once a year, with representative participation of the time, to discuss the good of the state and land reform. The king himself stated: « nós i els successors nostres volem fer alguna constitució o estatut a Catalunya, els sotmetrem a l'aprovació i consentiment dels Prelats, dels Barons, dels Cavallers i dels Ciutadans...».[4] (Translation from Catalan: "if we and our successors want to make a constitution or statute in Catalonia, we will submit them to the approval and consent of the prelates, barons, knights and citizens ...").

Court of 1289

Escudo de la Generalitat de Catalunya
Signet of the Delegation of the Generality of the Principality of Catalonia in the late fifteenth century representing its patron bearing the shield of the Cross of St. George which were the arms of the Generalitat of Catalonia. On the caption: S(igillum): CORTIUM: ET: PARLAMENTORUM: GENERALIUM: PRINCIPATUS: CATHALONIE (Seal of the Courts and the Parliament of the Principality of Catalonia) [5]

In the courts held in Monzón in 1289, Delegation of the General Court was appointed as a permanent council to collect the "service" or tribute that the arms granted to the king at his request. Later, this would give rise to the Generalitat of Catalonia, in the fourteenth century. Its regulation was also used to create in the fifteenth century the Valencian Generalitat.

Court of 1358

In the Parliament of 1358-1359, held in Barcelona, Vilafranca del Penedès and Cervera under King Peter IV, Castile invaded Aragon and Valencia. This caused a series of armed conflicts that resulted in considerable expenses to the Crown of Aragon. This circumstance prompted the courts to appoint twelve deputies with executive powers in taxation and some "oïdors de comptes" who controlled the administration, under the authority of Berenguer de Cruïlles, bishop of Girona, who is regarded as the first President of the Generalitat.[6]

Early modern history

In 1519, the Courts met in Barcelona to recognize the first unified monarch of all the crowns of Castile and Aragon, -Charles I, and to discuss the granting of financial assistance to the Cort reial (Royal court). It was during the king's stay in Barcelona that he got the news that Charles had been elected emperor of the Holy Roman Empire under the name of Charles V.[7]

During the period of the Austrians, the Courts were summoned less and less because of a supposed brake from the absolute power of the king. Therefore, the Generalitat, as the body responsible for ensuring compliance with the constitutions of Catalonia, gained in strength and prominence.

The last General Courts were held in Barcelona in 1705-1706, which, according to historian Joaquim Albareda, represented an important advance in the guarantee of individual, civil and political rights (for example, establishing the secrecy of correspondence),[8] while at the same time they consolidated many of the constitutional reforms of the last previous Courts (1701-1702) such as the Court of Contraventions (Catalan: Tribunal de Contrafaccions), created in order to ensure the application of the constitutions and solve and prosecute any act (included the ones done by the king or his officers) contrary to the Catalan legislation.

This institution disappeared, like the other institutions and the majority of legislation of Catalonia, after the end of the War of Succession in 1714, by the Nueva Planta decrees created by the new Spanish king, Philip V.

The current Parliament of Catalonia, legislative body of Catalan autonomous government, is considered the historical successor of this Courts.


  1. ^ Désirée Kleiner-Liebau (2009). Migration and the Construction of National Identity in Spain. Iberoamericana Editorial. p. 68.
  2. ^ "Catalonian Parliament - The "Corts generals" or Parliament of Catalonia". eRepresentative. Retrieved 21 January 2013.
  3. ^ Guillermo Fatás y Guillermo Redondo (1995). "Blasón de Aragón: el escudo y la bandera". Zaragoza: Diputación General de Aragón. pp. 101–102. Archived from the original on 2012-01-31.
  4. ^ "Las Cortes Catalanas y la primera Generalidad medieval (s. XIII-XIV)". Archived from the original on 19 October 2010. Retrieved 21 January 2013.
  5. ^ Alberto Montaner Frutos (1995). El señal del rey de Aragón: Historia y significado (The symbol of the king of Aragon: History and meaning) (in Spanish). Zaragoza: Fernando el Católico Institución. p. 156 fig. 68. ISBN 84-7820-283-8.
  6. ^ Adam J. Kosto (3 May 2001). Making Agreements in Medieval Catalonia: Power, Order, and the Written Word, 1000-1200. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-79239-4. Retrieved 21 January 2013.
  7. ^ Fernández Álvarez, Manuel (2001). Carlos V, el César y el hombre. Barcelona: Círculo de Lectores. pp. 102–113.
  8. ^ Albareda Salvadó, Joaquim (2010). La Guerra de Sucesión de España (1700-1714). pp. 182–183.


  • Fernández Álvarez, Manuel (2001). Carlos V, el César y el hombre (in Spanish). Barcelona: Círculo de Lectores. ISBN 84-226-8919-7.

See also


Year 1283 (MCCLXXXIII) was a common year starting on Friday (link will display the full calendar) of the Julian calendar.


Year 1481 (MCDLXXXI) was a common year starting on Monday (link will display the full calendar) of the Julian calendar).

Army of Catalonia (1713–14)

The Army of the Principality of Catalonia (Catalan: Exèrcit del Principat de Catalunya) was the army raised by the General Estates of Catalonia (Catalan Courts without the king) on July 9, 1713 after the English treason with the Treaty of Utrecht and the withdrawal of Imperial troops by the L'Hospitalet Agreement. The army was made up of 10,000 men of infantry, 1600 cavalry and 1,000 of navy. It is not known very much how many men formed the artillery but did not exceed 700. In total 13,000 regular troops.

On July 9, 1713, the Principality of Catalonia declared the war to the Kingdom of France and the Duke of Anjou (Philip V of Spain), who since the Catalan constitutions of 1706 did not recognize him as the legitimate king of the Monarchy of Spain and the next day it published a ban to remove troops for the Army of Catalonia, being his first units the Regiment of the Deputation of the General of Catalonia and the Regiment of the City of Barcelona. For the position of general commander of the Army they appointed Lieutenant Marshal Antoni de Villarroel i Peláez on July 10. The artillery and the Cavalry Regiment of the Faith were financed by the merchant Amador Dalmau and Colom, as well as two ships for the Navy.

Catalan Republic (1641)

The Catalan Republic (Catalan: República Catalana, IPA: [rəˈpubːlikə kətəˈlanə]) was a short-lived independent state under French protection proclaimed in 1641 by the States-General of Catalonia led by Pau Claris, during the Reaper's War.The States-General of Catalonia, headed by the President of the Deputation of the General of Catalonia (or Generalitat) Pau Claris, proclaimed the Catalan Republic on January 17, 1641. On January 23, 1641, the Braços Generals led by Pau Claris proclaimed Louis XIII of France as Count of Barcelona, putting the Principality of Catalonia under French sovereignty. Louis XIII was succeeded upon his death in 1643 by Louis XIV (the 'Sun King'), who remained Count of Barcelona until 1652, when Catalonia was reincorporated into the Spanish Monarchy.

Catalan constitutions

The Catalan constitutions (Catalan: Constitucions catalanes, IPA: [kunstitusiˈons kətəˈlanəs]) were the laws of the Principality of Catalonia promulgated by the King of Aragon and Count of Barcelona and approved by the Catalan Courts. The Corts in Catalan have the same origin as courts in English (the sovereign's councillors or retinue) but instead meaning the legislature. The first constitutions were promulgated by the Corts of 1283. The last ones were promulgated by the Corts of 1705. They had pre-eminence over the other legal rules and could only be revoked by the Catalan Courts themselves. The compilations of the constitutions and other rights of Catalonia followed the Roman tradition of the Codex.

Composite monarchy

A composite monarchy (or composite state or unions of the crowns) is a historical category, introduced by H. G. Koenigsberger in 1975 and popularised by J. H. Elliott, that describes early modern states consisting of several countries under one ruler, sometimes designated as a personal union, who governs his territories as if they were separate kingdoms, in accordance with local traditions and legal structures. The composite state was the most common/ dominant type of states in the early modern era Europe. Koenigsberger divides composite states into two classes: those, like the Spanish Empire, that consisted of countries separated by either other states or by the sea, and those, like Poland–Lithuania, that were contiguous.A famous medieval example for composite monarchy was the Angevin Empire.Theorists of the 16th century believed that "conformity" (similarity in language and customs) was important to success of a composite state. Francesco Guicciardini praised the acquisition of the Kingdom of Navarre by the King of Aragon in 1512 on account of their conformità. Yet, differences could be persistent. Navarre retained its own law and customs separate from the rest of Spain down to 1841. In France, a far more unified state than Spain in the early modern period, the state was divided into different customary tax regimes, the pays d'élection and pays d'état. This was abolished during the 1789 Revolution.The 17th-century Spanish jurist Juan de Solórzano Pereira distinguished a state whose components were aeque principaliter (equally important) from an "accessory" union in which a newly acquired territory was subsumed under the laws of an already existing one, such as when New Spain was incorporated into the Crown of Castile, or when Wales was joined to England.

Generalitat de Catalunya

The Government of Catalonia or the Generalitat de Catalunya (Eastern Catalan: [ʒənəɾəliˈtad də kətəˈluɲə]; Spanish: Generalidad de Cataluña) is the institution under which the Spanish autonomous community of Catalonia is politically organised. It consists of the Parliament of Catalonia, the President of the Generalitat de Catalunya, and the Executive Council of Catalonia.

The Generalitat has a budget of €34 billion euros.The Parliament of Catalonia unilaterally declared independence from Spain on 27 October 2017 as the 'Catalan Republic'. In response then Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy decided to dissolve the Parliament of Catalonia and to call a snap regional election for 21 December 2017, after which a new Parliament and a new Catalan government was elected. The independence declaration was turned down by the central Spanish government, and members of the Catalan government, including Carles Puigdemont, fled to Belgium claiming to be the legitimate government of the Generalitat of Catalonia.

Gran Via de les Corts Catalanes

Gran Via de les Corts Catalanes ("Great Way of the Catalan Courts"), more simply known as Gran Via [ˈɡɾam ˈbi.ə], is one of Barcelona's major avenues. With a length of 13.1 km (8.1 mi), it is the longest street in Catalonia and the 2nd longest in Spain, after Gran Vía de la Manga, in La Manga del Mar Menor, but is the one with more street numbers in Spain.

Junta de Braços

The Junta de Braços or Braços Generals (States-General) was, during the early modern age, an institution of the Principality of Catalonia, convened by the Generalitat of Catalonia in cases of emergency or urgency. It was composed by the representatives of the Catalan Courts who at that time were in Barcelona.The decision to convene the Junta de Braços was to be taken by the three deputies and the three oïdors that formed the Generalitat. It was constituted following the same system of the Catalan Courts, that is, by bringing together the members of the three estates of the realm: the ecclesiastic formed by the clergy, the military formed by the nobility, and the popular formed by royal towns and cities of the country. Only those who lived in Barcelona (or who were at that time) were summoned, due to the urgent nature of the issues that had to be raised and the precarious communications of the time made it impossible for a general call for all of Catalonia. This favored the presence of a majority of Barcelona residents, and of a greater number of nobles who lived in the city; and the presence of the ciutadans honrats (honorable citizens) of Barcelona was accepted, even though on an individual basis.

List of Presidents of the Government of Catalonia

This List of Presidents of the Government of Catalonia was created in 2003 by Josep M. Solé i Sabaté, in his work Historia de la Generalitat de Catalunya i dels seus presidents. The procedure to set up this list is the following: for the period 1359–1714, previous to the creation of the modern Generalitat of Catalonia, Solé i Sabaté considered "president of the Generalitat" the most eminent ecclesiastic deputy of the Deputation of the General of Catalonia (Catalan: Diputació del General de Catalunya), also known as Generalitat during the early modern ages, a body of the Catalan Courts dissolved in 1716 and reinstated for two years in 1874. From April 1931 on, the list includes the elected Presidents of the Government of Catalonia as well as the proclaimed exiled presidents during the Francoist dictatorship. The functions of the President of the Government of Catalonia have varied considerably over history, in parallel with the attributions of the Generalitat itself.

Military history of Catalonia

The military history of Catalonia began in the thirteenth century, with the first exploits of the armies under the orders of Catalan rulers and lasting until today, where Catalan soldiers are integrated into international forces.

Parliament of Catalonia

The Parliament of Catalonia (Catalan: Parlament de Catalunya, IPA: [pəɾləˈmen də kətəˈluɲə]; Spanish: Parlamento de Cataluña; Occitan: Parlament de Catalonha) is the unicameral legislature of the autonomous community of Catalonia. It is formed by 135 members ("diputats"), who are elected every four years or after extraordinary dissolution, chosen by universal suffrage in lists with four constituencies, the Catalan provinces. The Parliament building is located in Ciutadella park, Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain.

The most recent parliamentary elections were held on 21 December 2017. Following the 2015 Catalan regional election and the disputed October 1st independence referendum results, the Parliament of Catalonia unilaterally declared independence from Spain on 27 October 2017 with a vote of 70–10, and purported to form the Catalan Republic. The remaining 55 members abstained or boycotted the vote, disagreeing with the independence movement. In response, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy dissolved the Parliament and called for a snap regional election.


A principality (or sometimes "princedom") can either be a monarchical feudatory or a sovereign state, ruled or reigned over by a monarch with the title of prince, princess or by a monarch with another title considered to fall under the generic meaning of the term prince.

Principality of Catalonia

The Principality of Catalonia (Catalan: Principat de Catalunya, Latin: Principatus Cathaloniæ, Occitan: Principautat de Catalonha, French: Principauté de Catalogne, Spanish: Principado de Cataluña) was a medieval and early modern political entity in the northeastern Iberian Peninsula. During most of its history it was in dynastic union with the Kingdom of Aragon, constituting together the Crown of Aragon. Between the 13th and the 18th centuries it was bordered by the Kingdom of Aragon to the west, the Kingdom of Valencia to the south, the Kingdom of France and the feudal lordship of Andorra to the north and by the Mediterranean sea to the east. The term "Principality of Catalonia" remained in use until the Second Spanish Republic, when its use declined because of its historical relation to the monarchy. Today, the term Principat (Principality) is used primarily to refer to the autonomous community of Catalonia in Spain, as distinct from the other Catalan Countries. and usually including the historical region of Roussillon in southern France.

The first reference to Catalonia and the Catalans appears in the Liber maiolichinus de gestis Pisanorum illustribus, a Pisan chronicle (written between 1117 and 1125) of the conquest of Menorca by a joint force of Italians, Catalans, and Occitans. At the time, Catalonia did not yet exist as a political entity, though the use of this term seems to acknowledge Catalonia as a cultural or geographical entity.

The counties that would eventually make up the Principality of Catalonia were gradually unified under the rule of the Count of Barcelona. In 1137, the County of Barcelona and the Kingdom of Aragon were unified under a single dynasty, creating what modern historians call the Crown of Aragon; however, Aragon and Catalonia retained their own political structure and legal traditions, developing separate political communities along the next centuries. Under Alfons I the Troubador (reigned 1164–1196), Catalonia was regarded as a legal entity for the first time. Still, the term Principality of Catalonia was not used legally until the 14th century, when it was applied to the territories ruled by the Courts of Catalonia.

Its institutional system evolved over the centuries, establishing political bodies (such as the Courts, the Generalitat or the Consell de Cent) and legislation (constitutions, derived from the Usages of Barcelona) which limited the royal power and secured the political model of pactism. Catalonia contributed to further develop the Crown trade and military, most significantly their navy. Catalan language flourished and expanded as more territories were added to the Crown, including Valencia, the Balearic Islands, Sardinia, Sicily, Naples and Athens, constituting a thalassocracy across the Mediterranean. The crisis of the 14th century, the end of the rule of House of Barcelona (1410) and a civil war (1462–1472) weakened the role of the Principality in Crown and international affairs.

The marriage of Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella I of Castile in 1469 laid the foundations of the Monarchy of Spain. In 1492 the Spanish colonization of the Americas began, and political power began to shift away towards Castile. Tensions between Catalan institutions and the Monarchy, alongside the peasants' revolts provoked the Reapers' War (1640–1659). By the Treaty of the Pyrenees the Roussillon was ceded to France. During the War of the Spanish Succession (1701-1714), the Crown of Aragon supported the Archduke Charles of Habsburg. After the surrender of Barcelona in 1714, the king Philip V of Bourbon, inspired by the model of France imposed the abolutism and a unifying administration across Spain, and enacted the Nueva Planta decrees for every realm of the Crown of Aragon, which suppressed the main Catalan, Aragonese, Valencian and Majorcan political institutions and rights and merged them into the Crown of Castile as provinces.

Reapers' War

The Reapers' War (Catalan: Guerra dels Segadors, Eastern Catalan: [ˈɡɛrə ðəls səɣəˈðos], Spanish: Guerra de los Segadores), also known as Catalan Revolt was a conflict that affected a large part of the Principality of Catalonia between the years of 1640 and 1659. It had an enduring effect in the Treaty of the Pyrenees (1659), which ceded the County of Roussillon and the northern half of the County of Cerdanya to France (see French Cerdagne), splitting these northern Catalan territories off from the Principality of Catalonia and the Crown of Aragon, and thereby receding the borders of Spain to the Pyrenees.

Siege of Barcelona (1713–14)

The Siege of Barcelona (Catalan: Setge de Barcelona, IPA: [ˈsedʒə ðə βəɾsəˈlonə]) was a battle at the end of the War of Spanish Succession, which pitted Archduke Charles of Austria (backed by Great Britain and the Netherlands, i.e. the Grand Alliance), against Philip V of Spain, backed by France in a contest for the Spanish crown.

Timeline of Catalan history

The following is a timeline of Catalan history, comprising important legal and territorial changes and political events in Catalonia and its predecessor states and entities. To read about the background to these events, see History of Catalonia.

Usages of Barcelona

The Usages of Barcelona (Catalan: Usatges de Barcelona, IPA: [uˈzadʒəz ðə βəɾsəˈlonə]; Latin: Usatici Barchinonae) were the customs that form the basis for the Catalan Constitutions. They are the fundamental laws and basic rights of Catalonia, dating back to their codification in the twelfth century.

The Usages combined fragments of Roman and Visigothic law with the resolutions of the comital court of Barcelona and the religious canons of ecclesiastic synods. The first Usages were compiled and codified by Ramon Berenguer I, Count of Barcelona (1035–1076), to repair the deficiencies of Gothic law. However, the evidence for Ramon's work dates from the codes of James the Conqueror of a later date (reigned 1213–1276). James, seeing that some judges ruled by Gothic law and some by Roman law, according to a tradition of usus terrae (local custom), approached the Catalan Courts in 1251 to establish the primacy of the Usages. Though the Usages applied legally only to the Barcelonan county, in practice they were applied to the entire Principality of Catalonia.

The Usages incorporated several other competing codes of the same era:

Usages of Girona

Customs of Lleida

Customs of Tortosa

Furs of Valencia

Franquesas of Majorca

Chapter of Athens and NeopatriaThe oldest manuscript containing the Usages dates from the end of the 12th century. Between the 15th and 18th centuries, they were copied frequently. The Nueva Planta decrees superseded them with the central legislation of the Bourbons, though continued to have some force.

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