Catalonia (Catalan: Catalunya, Occitan: Catalonha, Spanish: Cataluña) is an autonomous community of the Kingdom of Spain, located on the northeastern extremity of the Iberian Peninsula. It is politically designated as a nationality by its Statute of Autonomy. Catalonia consists of four provinces: Barcelona, Girona, Lleida, and Tarragona. The capital and largest city is Barcelona, the second-largest city in Spain and the seventh-most populous urban area in the European Union.
Catalonia comprises most of the territory of the former Principality of Catalonia, with the remainder now part of France's Pyrénées-Orientales. It is bordered by France and Andorra to the north, the Mediterranean Sea to the east, and the Spanish autonomous communities of Aragon to the west and Valencia to the south. The official languages are Catalan, Spanish, and the Aranese dialect of Occitan.
In the late 8th century, the counties of the March of Gothia and the Hispanic March were established by Francia as feudatory vassals across and near the eastern Pyrenees as a defensive barrier against Muslim invasions. The eastern counties of these marches were united under the rule of the Frankish vassal the Count of Barcelona, and were later called Catalonia. In 1137, Catalonia and the Kingdom of Aragon were united by marriage under the Crown of Aragon, and the Principality of Catalonia became the base for the Crown of Aragon's naval power and expansionism in the Mediterranean. In the later Middle Ages Catalan literature flourished. Between 1469 and 1516, the King of Aragon and the Queen of Castile married and ruled their kingdoms together, retaining all their distinct institutions, Courts (parliament), and constitutions. During the Franco-Spanish War (1635–59), Catalonia revolted (1640–52) against a large and burdensome presence of the Spanish army in its territory, becoming a republic under French protection. Within a brief period France took full control of Catalonia until it was largely reconquered by the Spanish army. Under the terms of the Treaty of the Pyrenees in 1659, which ended the wider Franco-Spanish War, the Spanish Crown ceded the northern parts of Catalonia, mostly incorporated in the county of Roussillon, to France. During the War of the Spanish Succession (1701–14), the Crown of Aragon sided against the Bourbon Philip V of Spain, whose subsequent victory led to the abolition of non-Castilian institutions in all of Spain and the replacement of Latin and other languages (such as Catalan) with Spanish in legal documents.
In the nineteenth century, Catalonia was severely affected by the Napoleonic and Carlist Wars. In the second half of the century Catalonia experienced industrialisation. As wealth from the industrial expansion grew, Catalonia saw a cultural renaissance coupled with incipient nationalism while several workers movements appeared. In 1914, the four Catalan provinces formed a Commonwealth, and with the return of democracy during the Second Spanish Republic (1931–39), the Generalitat of Catalonia was restored as an autonomous government. After the Spanish Civil War, the Francoist dictatorship enacted repressive measures, abolishing Catalan institutions and banning the official use of the Catalan language again. From the late 1950s through to the early 1970s, Catalonia saw rapid economic growth, drawing many workers from across Spain, making Barcelona one of Europe's largest industrial metropolitan areas and turning Catalonia into a major tourist destination. Since the Spanish transition to democracy (1975–82), Catalonia has gained some political and cultural autonomy and is now one of the most economically dynamic communities of Spain.
Etymology and pronunciation
The name Catalunya (Catalonia)—spelled Cathalonia, or Cathalaunia, in Mediaeval Latin—began to be used for the homeland of the Catalans (Cathalanenses) in the late 11th century and was probably used before as a territorial reference to the group of counties that comprised part of the March of Gothia and March of Hispania under the control of the Count of Barcelona and his relatives. The origin of the name Catalunya is subject to diverse interpretations because of a lack of evidence.
One theory suggests that Catalunya derives from the name Gothia (or Gauthia) Launia ("Land of the Goths"), since the origins of the Catalan counts, lords and people were found in the March of Gothia, known as Gothia, whence Gothland > Gothlandia > Gothalania > Cathalaunia > Catalonia theoretically derived. During the Middle Ages, Byzantine chroniclers claimed that Catalania derives from the local medley of Goths with Alans, initially constituting a Goth-Alania.
Other less plausible theories suggest:
- Catalunya derives from the term "land of castles", having evolved from the term castlà or castlan, the medieval term for the ruler of a castle. This theory therefore suggests that the names Catalunya and Castile have a common root.
- The source is of Celtic origin, meaning "chiefs of battle". Although the area is not known to have been occupied by Celts, a Celtic culture was present within the interior of Iberia in pre-Roman times.
- The Lacetani, an Iberian tribe that lived in the area and whose name, due to the Roman influence, could have evolved by metathesis to Katelans and then Catalans.
In English, Catalonia is pronounced /kætəˈloʊniə/. The native name, Catalunya, is pronounced [kətəˈluɲə] in Central Catalan, the most widely spoken variety whose pronunciation is considered standard. The Spanish name is Cataluña ([kataˈluɲa]), and the Aranese name is Catalonha ([kataˈluɲɔ]).
Pre-Roman and Roman period
In pre-Roman times, the area that is now called Catalonia in the north-east of Iberian Peninsula, like the rest of the Mediterranean side of the peninsula, was populated by the Iberians. Coastal trading colonies were established by the ancient Greeks, who settled around the Roses area. Both Greeks and Carthaginians briefly ruled the territory in the course of the Second Punic War and traded with the surrounding Iberian population.
After the Carthaginian defeat by the Roman Republic, the north-east of Iberia became the first to come under Roman rule and became part of Hispania, the westernmost part of the Roman Empire. Tarraco (modern Tarragona) was one of the most important Roman cities in Hispania and the capital of the province of Tarraconensis.
After the fall of the Western Roman Empire, the area was conquered by the Visigoths and was ruled as part of the Visigothic Kingdom for almost two and a half centuries. In 718, it came under Muslim control and became part of Al-Andalus, a province of the Umayyad Caliphate. From the conquest of Roussillon in 760, to the conquest of Barcelona in 801, the Frankish empire took control of the area between Septimania and the Llobregat river from the Muslims and created heavily militarised, self-governing counties. These counties formed part of the Gothic and Hispanic marches, a buffer zone in the south of the Frankish empire in the former province of Septimania and in the northeast of the Iberian Peninsula, to act as a defensive barrier for the Frankish empire against further Muslim invasions from Al-Andalus.
These counties came under the rule of the counts of Barcelona, who were Frankish vassals nominated by the emperor of the Franks, to whom they were feudatories (801–987). The earliest known use of the name "Catalonia" for these counties dates to 1117. During the 9th century, the Count Wifred the Hairy made its title hereditary and founded the dynasty of the House of Barcelona, which ruled Catalonia until 1410.
In 987 Borrell II, Count of Barcelona, did not recognise Hugh Capet as his king, making his successors (from Ramon Borrell I to Ramon Berenguer IV) de facto independent of the Carolingian crown. At the start of eleventh century the Catalan Counties suffer an important process of feudalisation, partially controlled by the Peace and Truce Assemblies and by the power and negotiation skills of the Counts of Barcelona like Ramon Berenguer I. In 1137, Ramon Berenguer IV, Count of Barcelona decided to accept King Ramiro II of Aragon's proposal to marry Queen Petronila, establishing the dynastic union of the County of Barcelona with the Kingdom of Aragon, joining the Crown of Aragon and making the Catalan counties that were united under the county of Barcelona into a principality of the Aragonese Crown.
In 1258, by means of the Treaty of Corbeil, the Count of Barcelona and King of Aragon, of Mallorca and of Valencia, James I of Aragon renounced his family rights and dominions in Occitania and recognised the king of France as heir of the Carolingian Dynasty. The king of France formally relinquished his nominal feudal lordship over all the Catalan counties, except the County of Foix, despite the opposition of the King of Aragon and Count of Barcelona. This treaty transformed the principality's de facto union with Aragon into a de jure one and was the origin of the definitive separation between both geographical areas Catalonia and Languedoc.
As a coastal territory, Catalonia became the base of the Aragonese Crown's maritime forces, which spread the power of the Aragonese Crown in the Mediterranean, and made Barcelona into a powerful and wealthy city. In the period of 1164–1410, new territories, the Kingdom of Valencia, the Kingdom of Majorca, Sardinia, the Kingdom of Sicily, Corsica, and (briefly) the Duchies of Athens and Neopatras, were incorporated into the dynastic domains of the House of Aragon.
At the same time, the Principality of Catalonia developed a complex institutional and political system based in the concept of a pact between the estates of the realm and the king. Laws had to be approved in the General Court of Catalonia, one of the first parliamentary bodies of Europe that banned the royal power to create legislation unilaterally (since 1283). The Courts were composed of the three Estates, were presided over by the king of Aragon, and approved the constitutions, which created a compilation of rights for the citizenship of the Principality. In order to collect general taxes, the Courts of 1359 established a permanent representative of deputies position, called the Deputation of the General (and later usually known as Generalitat), which gained political power over the next centuries.
The domains of the Aragonese Crown were severely affected by the Black Death pandemic and by later outbreaks of the plague. Between 1347 and 1497 Catalonia lost 37 percent of its population.
In 1410, King Martin I died without surviving descendants. Under the Compromise of Caspe, Ferdinand from the Castilian House of Trastámara received the Crown of Aragon as Ferdinand I of Aragon.
The grandson of Ferdinand I, Ferdinand II of Aragon and Queen Isabella I of Castile were married in 1469, later taking the title the Catholic Monarchs; subsequently, this event was seen by historiographers as the dawn of a unified Spain. At that point, though united by marriage, the Crowns of Castile and Aragon maintained distinct territories, each kept its own traditional institutions, parliaments and laws. Castile commissioned expeditions to the Americas and benefited from the riches acquired in the Spanish colonisation of the Americas, but in time, also carried the main burden of military expenses of the united Spanish kingdoms. After Isabella's death, Ferdinand II personally ruled both kingdoms.
By virtue of descent from his maternal grandparents, Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella I of Castile, in 1516 Charles I of Spain became the first king to rule Castile and Aragon simultaneously by his own right. Following the death of his paternal (House of Habsburg) grandfather, Maximilian I, Holy Roman Emperor, he was also elected Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, in 1519.
The Catalan Revolt (1640–52) saw Catalonia rebel (briefly as a republic) with French help against the Spanish Crown for overstepping Catalonia's traditional rights during the Thirty Years' War. Most of Catalonia was reconquered by the Spanish monarchy but Catalan rights were recognised. Roussillon was lost to France by the Peace of the Pyrenees (1659).
The most significant conflict concerning the governing monarchy was the War of the Spanish Succession, which began when the childless Charles II of Spain, the last Spanish Habsburg, died without an heir in 1700. Charles II had chosen Philip V of Spain from the French House of Bourbon. Catalonia, like other territories that formed the Crown of Aragon, rose up in support of the Austrian Habsburg pretender Charles VI, Holy Roman Emperor in his claim for the Spanish throne as Charles III of Spain. The fight between the houses of Bourbon and Habsburg for the Spanish Crown split Spain and Europe.
The fall of Barcelona on 11 September 1714 to the Bourbon king Philip V militarily ended the Habsburg claim to the Spanish Crown, which became legal fact in the Treaty of Utrecht. Philip felt that he had been betrayed by the Catalan Courts, as it had initially sworn its loyal to him when he had presided over it in 1701. In retaliation for the betrayal, the first Bourbon king introduced the Nueva Planta decrees that incorporated the territories of the Crown of Aragon, including Catalonia, as provinces under the Crown of Castile in 1716, terminating their separate institutions, laws and rights, within a united kingdom of Spain. During the second half of 18th century Catalonia started a successful process of proto-industrialization.
Industrialisation and beyond
At the beginning of the nineteenth century Catalonia was severely affected by the Napoleonic and Carlist Wars. In the latter half of the 19th century, it became an industrial center. To this day it remains one of the most industrialised parts of Spain. During those years, Barcelona was the focus of important revolutionary uprisings, while the Catalan language saw a cultural renaissance (the Renaixença).
In the first third of the 20th century, Catalonia gained and lost varying degrees of autonomy several times. In 1914, the four Catalan provinces were authorized to create a Commonwealth (Mancomunitat), without any legislative power or specific autonomy, that was disbanded in 1925 by the dictatorship of Primo de Rivera. After the fall of the dictator and a brief proclamation of the Catalan Republic, it received its first Statute of Autonomy during the Second Spanish Republic (1931), establishing an autonomous body, the Generalitat of Catalonia, that included a parliament, a government and a court of appeal, and the left-wing independentist leader Francesc Macià was elected its first President. This period was marked by political unrest and the preeminence of Revolutionary Catalonia during the Spanish Civil War (1936–39). The Anarchists had been active throughout the early 20th century, achieving the first eight-hour workday in Europe in 1919.
The defeat of the Second Spanish Republic in the Spanish Civil War brought fascist Francisco Franco to power as dictator. His regime imposed linguistic, political and cultural restrictions across Spain. In Catalonia, any kind of public activities associated with Catalan nationalism, republicanism, anarchism, socialism, liberalism, democracy or communism, including the publication of books on those subjects or simply discussion of them in open meetings, was banned. Franco's regime banned the use of Catalan in government-run institutions and during public events, and also the Catalan institutions of self-government were abolished. The pro-Republic of Spain President of Catalonia, Lluís Companys, was taken to Spain from his exile in the German-occupied France, and was tortured and executed in the Montjuïc Castle of Barcelona for the crime of 'military rebellion'.
During later stages of Francoist Spain, certain folkloric and religious celebrations in Catalan resumed and were tolerated. Use of Catalan in the mass media had been forbidden, but was permitted from the early 1950s in the theatre. Publishing in Catalan continued throughout the dictatorship.
The years after the war were extremely hard. Catalonia, like many other parts of Spain, had been devastated by the war. Recovery from the war damage was slow and made more difficult by the international trade embargo against Franco's dictatorial regime. By the late 1950s the country had recovered its pre-war economic levels and in the 1960s was the second fastest growing economy in the world in what became known as the Spanish miracle. During this period there was a spectacular growth of industry and tourism in Catalonia that drew large numbers of workers to the region from across Spain and made the area around Barcelona into one of Europe's largest industrial metropolitan areas.
After Franco's death in 1975, Catalonia voted for the adoption of a democratic Spanish Constitution in 1978, in which Catalonia recovered political and cultural autonomy, restoring the Generalitat from the exile in 1977 and adopting a new Statute of Autonomy in 1979. Today, Catalonia is one of the most economically dynamic communities of Spain. The Catalan capital and largest city, Barcelona, is a major international cultural centre and a major tourist destination. In 1992, Barcelona hosted the Summer Olympic Games.
On 9 November 2015, Catalan lawmakers approved a plan for secession from Spain by 2017 with a vote 72 to 63. The plan was suspended by the Spanish Constitutional Court.
Catalonia has a marked geographical diversity, if we consider the relatively small size of its territory. The geography is conditioned by the Mediterranean coast, with 580 kilometres (360 miles) of coastline, and large relief units of the Pyrenees to the north. The Catalan territory is divided into three main geomorphological units:
- The Pyrenees: mountainous formation that connects the Iberian Peninsula with the European continental territory, and located in the north of Catalonia;
- The Catalan Coastal mountain ranges or the Catalan Mediterranean System: an alternating delevacions and planes parallel to the Mediterranean coast;
- The Catalan Central Depression: structural unit which forms the eastern sector of the Valley of the Ebre.
The Catalan Pyrenees represent almost half in length of the Pyrenees, as it extends more than 200 km. Traditionally differentiated the Axial Pyrenees (the main part) and the Pre-Pyrenees (southern from the Axial) which are mountainous formations parallel to the main mountain ranges but with lower altitudes, less steep and a different geological formation. The highest mountain of Catalonia, located north of the comarca of Pallars Sobirà is the Pica d'Estats (3,143 m), followed by the Puigpedrós (2,914 m). On the Pre-Pyrenees is located the Serra del Cadí, that separates the valley of Cerdanya from the Central Depression.
Central Catalan Depression is a plain located between the Pyrenees and Pre-Coastal Mountains. The Depression lands are located between 200 and 600 meters. The plains and the water that descend from the Pyrenees have made it fertile territory for agriculture and there are built numerous irrigation canals. Other important plain is the Empordà, located on the northeast.
The Catalan Mediterranean system is based on two (more or less) parallel ranges to the coast, in a Northwest direction towards the Southwest. These two mountain ranges are the Coastal and the Pre-Coastal. The Coastal Range is minor extent and it has lower altitudes, while the Pre-Coastal is larger in both length and height. The most relevant mountains of this area are Montserrat and the Montseny. Within the ranges are a series of plains, the entities over which form the Coastal and the Pre-Coastal Depressions. The Coastal Depression is located on the East of the Coastal Range towards the coast. The Pre-Coastal, on the other hand, is located in the interior, between the two mountain ranges, and constitutes the basis of the plains of Vallès and Penedès.
Flora and fauna
Catalonia is a showcase of European landscapes on a small scale. Just over 30,000 square kilometers hosting a variety of substrates, soils, climates, directions, altitudes and distances to the sea. The area is of great ecological diversity and a remarkable wealth of landscapes, habitats and species.
The fauna of Catalonia consists broadly of a combination of a minority of animals endemic from thid land and the majority of animals which are also present in other places. Much of Catalonia enjoys a Mediterranean climate (except mountain areas), which makes many of the animals that live there adapted to Mediterranean ecosystems. Of mammals, there are plentiful wild boar, red foxes, as well as roe deer and in the Pyrenees, the Pyrenean chamois. Other large species such as the bear have been recently reintroduced.
Most of Catalonia belongs to the Mediterranean Basin. The Catalan hydrographic network consists of two important basins, the one of the Ebro and the one that comprises the internal basins of Catalonia (respectively covering 46.84% and 51.43% of the territory), all of them flow to the Mediterranean. Furthermore, there is the Garona river basin that flows to the Atlantic Ocean, but it only covers 1.73% of the Catalan territory.
The hydrographic network can be divided in two sectors, an occidental slope or Ebre river slope and one oriental slope constituted by minor rivers that flow to the Mediterranean along the Catalan coast. The first slope provides an average of 18,700 cubic hectometres (4.5 cubic miles) per year, while the second only provides an average of 2,020 hm3 (0.48 cu mi)/year. The difference is due to the big contribution of the Ebre river, from which the Segre is an important tributary. Moreover, in Catalonia there is a relative wealth of groundwaters, although there is inequality between comarques, given the complex geological structure of the territory. In the Pyrenees there are many small lakes, remnants of the ice age. The biggest is the one of Banyoles.
The Catalan coast is almost rectilinear, with a length of 580 kilometres (360 mi) and few landforms—the most relevant are the Cap de Creus and the Gulf of Roses to the north and the Ebro Delta to the south. The Catalan Coastal Range hugs the coastline, and it is split into two segments, one between L'Estartit and the town of Blanes (the Costa Brava), and the other at the south, at the Costes del Garraf.
The principal rivers in Catalonia are the Ter, Llobregat, and the Ebre, all of which run into the Mediterranean.
Art and architecture
Catalonia has given the world many important figures in the area of the art. Catalan painters internationally known are Salvador Dalí, Joan Miró and Antoni Tàpies. Closely linked with the Catalan pictorial atmosphere, Pablo Picasso lived in Barcelona during his youth, training them as an artist and creating the movement of cubism. Other important artists are Ramon Casas, Josep Maria Subirachs and Marià Fortuny. The most important painting museums of Catalonia are the Teatre-Museu Dalí, Picasso Museum, Fundació Antoni Tàpies, Joan Miró Foundation, the National Art Museum of Catalonia (MNAC), the Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Art (MACBA), the Centre of Contemporary Culture of Barcelona (CCCB) and the CaixaForum.
In the area of architecture were developed and adapted to Catalonia different artistic styles prevalent in Europe, leaving footprints in many churches, monasteries and cathedrals, of Romanesque (the best examples of which are located in the northern half of the territory) and Gothic styles. There are some examples of Renaissance architecture, Baroque and Neoclassical. Modernism (Art Nouveau) in the late nineteenth century appears as the national art. The world-renowned Catalan architects of this style are Antoni Gaudí, Lluís Domènech i Montaner and Josep Puig i Cadafalch. In the field of architectural rationalism, highlighting Josep Lluís Sert and Torres Clavé.Monuments and World Heritage Sites
There are several UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Catalonia:
- Archaeological Ensemble of Tarraco, Tarragona
- Catalan Romanesque Churches of the Vall de Boí, Lleida province
- Poblet Monastery, Poblet, Tarragona province
- Works of Lluís Domènech i Montaner:
- Palau de la Música Catalana, Barcelona
- Hospital de Sant Pau, Barcelona
- Works of Antoni Gaudí:
- Sagrada Família, Barcelona
- Parc Güell, Barcelona
- Palau Güell, Barcelona
- Casa Milà (La Pedrera), Barcelona
- Casa Vicens, Barcelona
- Casa Batlló, Barcelona
- The Church of Colònia Güell, Santa Coloma de Cervelló
Music and dance
The sardana is considered the most characteristic Catalan popular dance, other groups also practice Ball de bastons, moixiganga, galops or jota in the southern part. The Havaneres are characteristic in some marine localities of the Costa Brava, especially during the summer months when these songs are sung outdoors accompanied by a cremat of burned rum. Other music styles born during the 20th century are Catalan rumba, Catalan rock and Nova Cançó.
Seny is a form of ancestral Catalan wisdom or sensibleness. It involves well-pondered perception of situations, level-headedness, awareness, integrity, and right action. Many Catalans consider seny something unique to their culture, is based on a set of ancestral local customs stemming from the scale of values and social norms of their society.
Festivals and public holidays
Castells are one of the main manifestations of Catalan popular culture. The activity consists in constructing human towers by competing colles castelleres (teams). This practice originated in the southern part of Catalonia, mainly on the regions of Penedès and the Camp de Tarragona, during the 18th century, and later it was extended along the next two centuries to the rest of the territory. The tradition of els Castells i els Castellers was declared Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO in 2010.
In the greater celebrations other elements of the Catalan popular culture are usually present: the parades of gegants (giants) and correfocs of devils and firecrackers. Another traditional celebration in Catalonia is La Patum de Berga, declared Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO on 25 November 2005.
In addition to traditional local Catalan culture, traditions from other parts of Spain can be found as a result of migration from other regions, for instance the celebration of the Andalusian Feria de Abril in Catalonia.
On 28 July 2010, Catalonia became the second Spanish territory, after the Canary Islands, to forbid bullfighting. The ban, which went into effect on 1 January 2012, had originated in a popular petition supported by over 180,000 signatures.
Catalan gastronomy has a long culinary tradition. Its culinary processes are described in documents since the fifteenth century. As all the cuisines of the Mediterranean, makes abundant use of fish, seafood, olive oil, bread and vegetables. The specialties are numerous and include the pa amb tomàquet (bread with tomato), which consists of bread, sometimes toasted, with tomato rubbed over and seasoned with olive oil and salt and usually served accompanied with any sorts of sausages (cured botifarres, fuet, iberic ham, etc.), ham or cheeses. Others are the calçotada, escudella i carn d'olla, suquet de peix (fish stew) and, as dessert, the Catalan cream.
Wine land, the Catalan vineyard has several Denominacions d'Origen such as Priorat, Montsant, Penedès and Empordà, and also found there a sparkling, the cava.
Catalonia is also internationally recognized for its high cuisine, including restaurants like El Bulli or Can Roca, who regularly dominate international rankings.
Satellite view of Catalonia
Val de Ruda, Val d'Aran
Cruïlles, Monells i Sant Sadurní de l'Heura
Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya, Barcelona
Park Güell, Barcelona
Cathedral of Saint Eulàlia, Barcelona
Borago officinalis near Font de Tita, El Perelló
Twinning and covenants
- Nuevo León, Mexico
- California, United States
- Quebec, Canada
- Open Street Maps