Catalan Courts

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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.jpg
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

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.

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. 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.



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[edit]

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

Court of 1283[edit]

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[edit]

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[edit]

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[edit]

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 was supressed, 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 the Courts.[9]


  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.
  9. ^ History of the Parliament of Catalonia.


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

See also[edit]