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Plaque commemorating the 500th anniversary of the remences' acceptance of King Ferdinand II's mediation between the remences and the feudal lords. (Located in Amer monastery, where the arbitration occurred.)

Remensa (Catalan: Remença) was a Catalan mode of serfdom. Those who were serfs under this mode are properly pagesos de remença (pagesos meaning "peasants"); they are often (though not quite correctly) referred to simply as remences (singular remença).

The Rebellion of the Remences or War of the Remences was a popular revolt in late medieval Europe against seignorial pressures that began in Catalonia in 1462 and ended a decade later without definitive result. Ferdinand II of Aragon ("Ferdinand the Catholic") finally resolved the conflict with the Sentencia Arbitral de Guadalupe in 1486.

The Catalan term remença derives from the Latin redementia and emphasizes the possibility of redemption from servitude.[1]

In the early 14th century, the rise of Catalan cities and the expansion of Catalan culture and the Aragonese Empire led to a decline in the rural population, which declined still further due to the Black Death. The nobility began to strictly enforce the rules tying peasants to the land; they also began a much stricter enforcement of seignorial rights in general than had been the practice in recent centuries.

The strongest support for open rebellion came from the poorest peasants. Those with more goods — who were in the majority on the Plain of Vic, l'Empordà, and el Vallès — tried to appeal to the king for reforms and the end of seignorial abuses. The monarchy had some reasons to wish to have the peasants as an independent force, since the Aragonese crown was continually in a power struggle with the nobility.

In the mid-15th century, Alfonso V of Aragon, "the Magnanimous", allowed the peasants to form a sindicat remença, a peasants' guild or primitive trade union, granted them their liberty and intervened in several other ways against the abuses. However, the Bishop of Girona sided with the nobility; along with the Generalitat, controlled by the nobles, their opposition led Alfonso to reverse himself.

Alfonso's successor, John II, sought the peasants' help against the nobility. By May 1461, the peasantry had declared themselves in favor of the king against the nobles.

In 1462, the pagesos de remença rebelled; this coincided with the War Against John II by the nobles. The peasants, under the leadership of Francesc de Verntallat, fought mainly in the mountainous interior, while the king and the more traditional armed forces loyal to him fought nearer the Mediterranean coast. After ten years, John won the war, but failed to abolish serfdom or even to bring about significant reforms.

In 1485, a second rebellion broke out, under the leadership of Pere Joan Sala (ca). In the face of this rebellion, Ferdinand II, "the Catholic" issued the Sentència de Guadalupe (ca) (1486), outlawing the more severe abuses and allowing remences to be redeemed by a payment of 60 sous per household, leaving a rural society that was still feudal in character, but significantly reformed.

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  1. ^ [1] Archived August 10, 2004, at the Wayback Machine.

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