Catalonia is a country with its own language, culture and personality located in the north-east corner of the Iberian Peninsula. Geographically it faces the Mediterranean sea and features several mountain ranges, such as the East Pyrenees, the Montseny
and the peaked mountains of Montserrat
The Catalan Countries
, which are made up of el Principat de Catalunya, el País Valencià, les Illes Balears (Mallorca, Menorca and Eivissa) and la Franja de Ponent, are the countries were the Catalan language is spoken. Their origin lies in the Middle Ages when the Christians took refuge in the Pyrenees and Occitània started recovering the lands conquered by the moors. A political entity lead by the Counts of Barcelona unified them (the Catalan-Aragonese Confederation).
In the Middle Ages, Catalonia had one of the first Parliaments in the world, long before England. The Truce of God or Treuga Dei became a convention between the seigneurs of Catalonia and extended peace by setting aside certain days of the year when violence was not allowed. It was first proclaimed in 1027 at the Council of Toulouges— a town of Roussillon — which was presided over by Oliba
, bishop of Vic, the first notable patron of the movement. A longstanding desire for democracy and peace is one of the landmarks of Catalonia.
if you want to check the history of Catalonia.
Catalonia's history is the history of a struggle for political and cultural survival. The last of the many attempts to destroy its distinctive language and culture was Franco's dictatorship. Now, Catalonia is partly ruled by an autonomous government (the Generalitat de Catalunya
), and the Catalan language, now official, is undergoing a process of recovery. Nevertheless, Catalonia's right to self-determination still hasn't been recognized by the Spanish State. The situation is no better in the northern Catalan territories under French rule, where the Catalan language is still unofficial.
Barcelona is Catalonia’s capital and main city. With a population of 1,621,537 inhabitants, it is the center of a wider metropolitan area that has 4,200,000 inhabitants, the sixth most populous urban area in Europe.
It is located on the western Mediterranean coast, lying on a plain between the mouths of the River Llobregat, to the south, and the River Besòs, to the north. The mountain range of Collserola closes the city on his west side and forms the city’s green belt.
The website of the City Hall
offers complete information on the city’s main facts in English.
The Emperor Augustus founded Barcelona as a colony for army veterans and named it Barcino. However, the Barcelona plain was already inhabited by an Iberian ethnic group: the Laietani. The Visigoths conquered the city in the early fifth century, and the Arabs repeated the feat in the early eight century. In 801, Charlemagne’s son, Louis the Pious, conquered the city for the Franks and created a buffer zone to protect his kingdom from the Moorish menace. During the times of Carolingian decline, the King could not protect his vassals from the Moorish raids, and count Guifré (Wildref) felt free to break the oath given to the Frankish king.
Barcelona became the capital of a growing county, incorporating counties on its borders and becoming the true capital of a kingdom when Ramon Berenguer IV married princess Petronila of Aragon in 1150. The city grew as the court of a flourishing empire on the western Mediterranean, including the Catalan countries, Sardinia, Corsica, Provence, some regions in Italy and even in Greece and Turkey.
Even with the marriage in 1469 of King Ferdinand of Aragon and Queen Isabella of Castile, both kingdoms keep their own laws and institutions. For more than two centuries, these two countries remained virtually independent.
However, after the war of Spanish Succession, Catalonia lost its Parliament and was assimilated into Castile. In this war, the Catalans backed the Habsburg dynasty, while Castile backed the Bourbon dynasty. On September 11th, 1714, Barcelona was defeated after a long siege and a heroic resistance.
Despite of the loss of political power, at the end of the 18th century Barcelona became an important industrial center. Throughout the 19th century, the strength of the city grew, relying on its economic activity. The end of the XIXth century, and the beginning of the 20th, witnessed the retrieval of the Catalan personality of the city, the emergence of an artistic movement, the “Renaixença” (in Catalan, rebirth) and its world famous architectural expressions known as “modernisme
”, with Gaudí and other great creators. Among other contemporary achievements we may mention hosting the 1888 Universal Exposition, merging six surrounding municipalities into Barcelona and creating a brand new district joining them to the old city center: l’Eixample, or Expansion District.
In 1931, the Generalitat, the old institution abolished in 1714, was reinstated as an autonomous government within the Spanish republic. However, the Spanish civil war (1936-1939) ended this short time of hope for the Catalan capital and the whole country, driving them into forty years of dictatorship, repression and prohibition of the Catalan culture. During these forty years, Barcelona‘s population expanded with the arrival of a massive wave of immigration, mainly from the South of Spain.
Franco’s death in 1975 brought a period of democracy, and Catalonia recovered the old Generalitat, which had survived in exile during the dictatorship. Nowadays, Barcelona is the administrative, economic and cultural capital of the autonomous region of Catalonia. At the Plaça Sant Jaume, the Palace of the Generalitat stands across from the City Hall. In the Ciutadella Park, the old Spanish arsenal has been refurbished into a democratic Parliament.
if you want to check the history of Barcelona.