Catalonia and Portugal

The Iberian Peninsula from the periphery

by Flocel Sabaté (Volume editor) Luís Adão Da Fonseca (Volume editor)
©2015 Edited Collection 534 Pages


Between 2010 and 2013 the European Science Foundation project «Cuius Regio» undertook a study of the reasons for cohesion of some European regions, including the analysis of the ways for cohesion of two peripherical Iberian entities: Portugal and Catalonia. A scientific meeting held in Lleida in 2012 facilitated the collection of contributions from outstanding researchers in order to analyse how specific identities in the periphery of the Iberian Peninsula were created in the Middle Ages and how they evolved until the 19th century. History, Literature and Language are being discussed in this book in order to understand the reasons for creating specific territorial identities and also to compare their different evolutions, that have resulted in different political realities in our current times.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • The Spain that never was: The Iberian Peninsula from its Peripheries
  • La conquista musulmana del noreste hispano. Supuestos y consecuencias
  • Écriture diplomatique et mémoire documentaire aux origines de l’histoire catalane
  • The process of scripturising Catalan
  • Cries of Abuse and Injustice in Early Catalan: Notes on the Language of the Rancures, Clams and Querimònies (11th and 12th Centuries)
  • Political Origins of Portugal. From County to Kingdom (1096-1143/1157)
  • Architecture and Identity
  • Cuius Generalis: The erudite notion of Justice in the Crown of Aragon and Catalonia (12th-18th Centuries)
  • The myth of the origins and royal power in the late medieval Crown of Aragon
  • Historiography and Portuguese identity: How in Medieval Portugal the kingdom is seen through the eyes of the Iberian Peninsula
  • The perception of the Iberian Peninsula from the periphery: Portugal in the fifteenth century
  • Nuns on the Periphery? Irish Dominican Nuns and assimilation in Lisbon
  • The word Espanya (“Spain”) in 15th and 16th Century Catalan literature
  • The concept of Spain in Catalan and Hispanic political thought from the era of reason of state
  • How “new” is the “New Monarchy”? Clashes between princes and nobility in Europe’s Iron Century
  • Portugal unido, y separado. Propaganda and the discourse of identity between the Habsburgs and the Braganza
  • National history, own language and otherness: Catalonia in the 16th-18th Centuries
  • Uses of the Medieval Past in the Political Culture of 19th Century Catalonia
  • Historical Reference in the 19th Century Portuguese Discourse
  • Re-imagining the State: Pan-Iberianism and Political Interventionism in the Context of Catalan Nationalism
  • Iberian identities – some final remarks
  • Series index

← 8 | 9 → The Spain that never was1: The Iberian Peninsula from its Peripheries2


Universitat de Lleida and Universidade do Porto

The crisis of the Early Medieval Germanic monarchies was resolved differently inline with to each one’s specific circumstances. The two old competitors in the West had very different fates in the 8th century. The Franks recovered their power after mutating from the outdated Merovingian dynasty through the Pippinids who immediately consolidated the Carolingian sovereigns3. On the other hand, the Visigoths were given their deathblow and their kingdom erased from history, by the Islamic invasion4. In the first case, the move was towards a new political entity that took over from ancient Gaul. In the second, the geographic unity of the Peninsula housed various political realities, in a context of moveable frontiers in which, throughout the Middle Ages, cultural and political references reconciled the common geographic perception of the Peninsula and the growth not only of various kingdoms, but also societies united internally as nations.

The importance of the reality forged in the Middle Ages is confirmed by its legacy, converted into a constant and contradictory invocation as an argument with proposals to consolidate the political cohesion for the Iberian Peninsula throughout the centuries. Therefore, a revision of the historical analysis is required to elucidate the correct dimensions of a path ← 9 | 10 → that begins in the Middle Ages and leads down to the present while still conditioning the capacity to articulate a common society in the geographic area of the Iberian Peninsula.

1. Spain as a peninsular geographic reality

Within the Roman Empire, Spain was a clear geographic region on the edge of Europe, as defined by Orosius: Europae in Hispania occidentalis oceanus termino est, maxime ubi apud Gades insulas Herculis columnae visuntur5 (“the other limit of Europe is the Atlantic Ocean, in Hispania, especially in Cadiz islands, where the Pillars of Hercules are viewed”). Thus, after the conquest and pacification, this had been naturally adopted in the political and administrative structure of the Hispanic provinces6. The later fracture of the Roman Empire, with Visigoth dominance of the area7 and the immediate merging of Visigoths, Suebis and the Hispano-Roman aristocratic nobles, facilitated the Isidorian ideological idea of linking this ethnic sense with the perception of Hispania, reinforced by such authors as Saint Julian, despite the irregular nature of Visigoth control over the Peninsula8. Added to this, there was the marked diversity and confrontation among the nobility, which generated challenges to the legitimacy of the throne of the regnum visigothorum by nobles based in socially singularised areas, like the Narbonense and the Tarraconense. It was precisely this territory, that saw the 7th-century revolts by Sisenand against Suinthila9 ← 10 | 11 → and by Paulus against Wamba10, and also backed Achila in the final moments of the kingdom11. This behaviour seemed to challenge not only the noble pre-eminence but even the unity and perception of the kingdom itself especially in the Narbonne end: the Insultatio describes the exercitus Spanorum of Wamba against the rebels who seem to distinguish themselves from both the Franks and the Hispanics12.

Also, at the other end of the Peninsula, in an even more institutionalised way, the territories of the north-west have a specific singularisation13. Although Roman military incursions into the area are documented from the 1st and 2nd centuries BC, it was only during the Cantabrian Wars (29-19 BC) in the times of the Emperor Octavian Augustus that the area of Galicia was occupied and added to the Roman Empire. Then, towards the end of the 3rd century, under the Emperor Diocletian, Gallaecia acquired its own personality, with its capital in Bracara Augusta, and adding to the three Galician legal convents, to the East, the Asturian and Cantabrian lands and, to the South, the future Portuguese territory as far as the Douro14. When the Iberian Peninsula was invaded by the Germans in the 5th century, Gallaecia maintained its differentiation being the center ← 11 | 12 → of the Kingdom of the Suebi15. This kingdom lost its independence in 585 and was annexed to the Visigoth monarchy under King Liuvigild, a situation that lasted until the Muslim invasion in the early 8th century16. It is probable that in the old Gallaecia, and throughout the north of the Peninsula in that century, the effects of the Muslim invasion were not particularly relevant. They probably accentuated some decline and insecurity derived from the previous epoch, and the differences in population between the lands north and south of the river Miño (the former more densely inhabited and more Romanised, and the latter more scattered)17.

Thus, in line with recent historiography, the Visigoth kingdom reached its end singularising the perception of its two extremes, the eastern and the western18, which does not prevent identifying it with Hispania. Very clearly, in the 7th century, Pope Leo II addressed King Ervik as rex Hispaniae19. So, on Visigoth rule being replaced by Muslim dominion at the start of the 8th century, the latter also absorbed the Hispanic denomination20. Thus, Hispania became identified with the territory under Muslim rule21. And ← 12 | 13 → so, as reflected in the second half of the 11th century, the duality could be expressed by referring to tam de Christianitate quam de Hispania22. Consequently, the sovereign in Cordoba was seen as rex Cordubae and rex sarracenorum, but also as rex Hispaniae23. So, the resettling of the eastern frontier strip in the 10th and 11th centuries opened onto Hispania. In 1024, this was expressed as marcha extremitatis Ausone, in partibus Spanie24, allowing explicit toponyms like Portaespana25. It makes sense that the feudal conquests of the 11th and 12th centuries were naturally contra Ispaniam26, given the proximity of Marchiarum et Yspaniarum, at the same time as the rulers perceived ipsas parias […] de partibus Ispani, or more clearly ipsas parias de Hispania; so the receptors could consider that they were enjoying de ipso honore quem hodie habetis de Ispania. The frontiers, in any case, faced Spain, so that, apart from the relations with those who proceeded a partibus Yspanie, it could be envisaged that in ipsa marcha extrema […] teneatis pacem ad Ispaniam; that the counts negotiated with omnibus potestatibus Yspaniarum or that acreximentos quod qualicumque modo fecerint aut poterint facere de cunctis partibus Ispaniarum were obtained on its coast, through expeditione preter in Yspaniam, so it was even prudent to make a will before going to Ispaiam in ostem27.

At the same time, the unitary vision of the Iberian Peninsula under the Hispanic coronym was maintained by the Roman Church. It referred ← 13 | 14 → to the various partibus Ispanie, addressed its governors as regibus, comitibus ceterisque principibus Hyspaniae and tended to designate the same legates for the whole Hispania28. At the beginning of the second third of the 12th century, Innocence II addressed Alfonso VII of Castile and the rest of Christian sovereigns with naturalness through an explicit Hispanic denomination; filio Adefonso regi et dilectis fillis principibus per Yspaniam constitutis29. In 1088, the archdiocese of Toledo had been restored as Hispaniarum primati30, as it was recognised throughout the Late Middle Ages from the Aragonese royal chancellery, for example31.

At the same time, from the Christian domains, the term Spain continued to mean the Islamic area until after the mid 12th century: in Yspaniam was equivalent to the Islamic area where the objectives per totam Ispaniam were located, so the Catalan counts went cum exercitu meo in Hispania ad servicium Dei and the vassals lengthened the feudal chain, as Pere Hug de Sedó did in 1146 in the County of Urgell when convening Pere Bernat de Fonolleres to be si forte ego ierit in oste vel cum episcopo Urgelli vel comite Urgelli in Espanie, rie mecum vel comodare mihi unum rocí vel mul, and in 1149 in the domains of the count of Barcelona, ego Petrus Arnalli vado in quadam galea in Yspaniam et facio meum testamentum32.

However, at the same time, the profile of the frontier was changing dramatically, more clearly at the two sides of the Peninsula. Tallying with the crisis of the Almoravid Empire and in the ideological context of the second crusade, in 1146, the Muslims lost Lisbon at the western end of the frontier and, between 1148 and 1149, Tortosa and Lleida at the eastern end, actions achieved, explicitly, ad detrimentum Yspanie33. This meant a ← 14 | 15 → new frontier profile and a new correlation of forces between the northern feudal entities and the southern Islamic territories. In this context, the coronym of Spain ceased to mean the Islamic lands and became identified for everyone with the Peninsula as a whole34. While the documentation from the north-east of the Peninsula continued to use Hispania to refer to the Islamic parts, the power that Alfonso VII of León intended to take was reflected in his assumption of the ecclesiastical view of Spain. Consequently, he presented himself as Aedefonsus pius, felix, inclitus, triumphator at semper invictus totius Hispaniae divina clementia famissimus imperator35. In the same line, his father Ferdinand II was defined in 1162 as Fernandus, Dei gratia rex Hispanorum36.

This was the generalised view in the second half of the 12th century. The sovereigns could imagine themselves integrated into Spain, as the Gesta comitum Barchinone et Regum Aragonie reflects on describing that Alfonso the Chaste, cum suis nobilibus ac etiam vicinis regibus Hispaniae plurimas habuit sediciones, contra quos omnes sempre extitit triumphator, and that proposuit in suo animo beati Iacobi limina visitare, et reges Ispanie invicem convocare, ut dileccionis fedu miteret inter eos, ut facilius valerent contra agarenos preceptum apostolicum ducere ad effectum37.

When the defeat at Alarcos before the emerging Almohads in 119538 led to fears for the fate of the Christian kingdoms in the Peninsula, from Marseilles, the merchant and poet Folquet warned that ·l Sepulcre perdet ← 15 | 16 → premeiramen / et ar sufre qu’Espanha·s vai perden39 (“the Holy Sepulchre [Jerusalem] was firstly lost, and now it is afraid that Spain is going to lose”).

With the same naturality, the 13th century Catalan chronicles spoke of los cinc regnes d’Espanya (“the five kingdoms of Spain”), whose success against the Muslims made honrada tota Espanya (“honored the whole Spain”), as James I stated, happy because pus Déus nos ha feita tanta de gràcies que ens ha donat regne dins en mar, ço que anc rei d’Espanya no poc acabar (“God has given us so many graces that he gave us a kingdom over the sea, that any other Spanish king could not reach”)40. Thus, they explained that in Germany, the count of Barcelona would present himself saying: jo son un cavaller d’Espanya (“I am a knight of Spain”)41. In the mid 14th century, this geographic perspective allowed Francesc Eiximenis, after listing the leading Mediterranean port cities of Syria (to mention Acre), Greece (where he places Constantinople), Italy (where he mentions Naples), Sicily (highlighting Messina), Africa (centered on Tunis) and Egypt (around Alexandria), to describe e·n Spanya, Mallorques, Sibília e València42.

Outstandingly, in the case of Portugal, during the Middle Ages (at least until the 14th century), its historiography manifested a strong Hispanic framework43, although later this dimension continued to underly the “excessive” importance given to the subject of the origins of the kingdom44. In ← 16 | 17 → reality, there is a historiographic discourse whose sense is clearer if we relate it with the two other predominant discourses: literary45 and political46.

This way, the peninsular geographic reference identified with Spain included the diversity of institutional and social realities that arose with the political and cultural evolution after the Muslim invasion of the Peninsula and the later southward expansion of the northern Christian territories.

2. The political and social consolidation of the peninsular peripheries (until the 12th century)

The evolution of the northern Christian societies gradually took on specific political realities. The progression of this evolution in the 12th century led to different institutional realities at the two sides of the Peninsula, from distinct and diverse precedents. The coronyms Portugal and Catalonia were consolidated in the 12th century, reflecting the strengthening of the respective societies, although following different paths.

In the north east of the Iberian Peninsula, the Carolingian crisis, especially from 877, gave effective autonomy to the counties. After consolidating their baronial and ecclesiastic elites in the 9th century, different counties advanced over the frontier and in the 11th century took advantage of the feudal dynamic to conquer the northern Andalusian territory47. Sharing the geo-strategic context and scenario between Al-Andalus and the Occitanian-Provençal area, the counties underwent a progressive political, economic, diplomatic, cultural and linguistic approximation. This dynamic culminated in the early 12th century. This is illustrated by the external perception: when the campaign by various cities of the ← 17 | 18 → Mediterranean arch against Majorca, under the leadership of the Count of Barcelona, was described in Pisa, he was defined as catalanicus heros or catalanensis dux48.

This reflected an area that was sufficiently united to receive a specific coronym, Catalonia, despite lacking political and institutional unity. The 12th century dynamic contributed powerfully to accelerating cohesion, with apparently contradictory stimuli like the articulation of castral and parochial districts beside the regional projection of the emerging urban nuclei; or the reinforcing of the seignoirial domains beside the emergence of the local oligarchies. All this in a country that was defining itself regarding its northern and western neighbours and especially through the incorporation of the last Muslim capitals in the south western areas. The dynamic benefited the holder of the county of Barcelona, who managed to absorb other counties (Cerdanya, Besalú, Roselló, Pallars Jussà) and notably acquired a higher personal rank by rising to the royal crown of Aragon through dynastic union. It was precisely these social dynamics ensured that, despite having a shared sovereign since 1137, in the 12th century, Aragon and Catalonia developed separately as socio-economic regions and political-administrative entities49. The sovereign benefitted from the increase in control over the jurisdictional and tax area (especially through the figures of the vicars and bailiffs); the development of a centralised administration where the sovereign was supported by his nobles and barons and, clearly before the end of the century, by members of the new urban elite; and the definition of a remodelled pre-eminent position, as guarantor of the peace and truce in a new legal framework defined by the Usatges de Barcelona and characterised by the reception of Roman Law50.

Simultaneously, at the western side of the Peninsula, the territory that centuries later would correspond to the kingdom of Portugal, soon suffered the Muslim incursions (711-716)51, at the same time as all the ← 18 | 19 → north east of the Peninsula in practice experienced an accentuated absence of central power, although some military campaigns were registered and stated its nominal integration into Muslim territory52. Then (from the middle of the first half of the 9th century), with the “discovery” of the tomb of the Apostle Santiago53, the manifestations of a growing social, political and military dynamic multiplied: the restoration of the city of Tuy in 860 (whose episcopal see was restored in 915)54, the organisation of different campaigns of occupation and territorial organisation between 866 and 910 by the Asturian monarchic power (Oporto in 868 and Coimbra in 87855, the creation of the diocese of Mondoñedo in 86756, and the restoration, at the end of the 9th century, of the dioceses of Oporto57 and Orense)58.

In the perspective of the future Portuguese history, the above- mentioned taking of Oporto by Count Vímara Peres was of great relevance. As Inés Calderón Medina, Manuel Recuero Astray and José Augusto de Sottomayor-Pizarro write,

Já hoje se presume que ninguém cairá na tentação de olhar para esta nova unidade política, erigida sob os auspícios da corte ovetense, como o declarado embrião de ← 19 | 20 → um reino que irá surgir pelos inícios do séc. XII. Mas também sería pouco razoável não ver nessa mesma criação um elemento que, de forma gradual, foi contribuindo para reanimar em vários níveis uma fronteira subtil que havia muitos séculos configurara os territórios situados de um e do outro lado do rio Minho o ‘conventus juridicus lucensi’ e o ‘conventus juridicus bracarensis’59.

Nowadays, it is supposed that nobody falls into the temptation of viewing this new political unit, built under the auspices of the court in Oviedo, as the embryo of a kingdom that would appear in the 12th century. However, it would be unreasonable not to see in this same creation an element that, little by little, has on various levels helped to revive a subtle frontier that many centuries ago configured areas situated on one side or the other of the river Miño – the conventus juridicus lucensi and the conventus juridicus bracarensis.

Meanwhile, from the mid 10th century, the Asturian monarchy, that had moved to León given the progressive importance of the line of the river Douro60, underwent a period of accentuated weakness, coinciding with the Norman incursions61 and the rising military power of the caliphate of Cordoba62, aspects linked to the strengthening of the seigniorial autonomy ← 20 | 21 → of the nobility of the kingdom of León63. A somewhat similar situation arose in Castile. The most important event in the western Peninsula in this period was Almanzor’s expedition to Santiago de Compostela in 997, with the destruction of the city and the consequent loss of the territory that had been re-conquered South of the Douro64.

The Christian recovery took place in the 11th century, especially with Ferdinand I’s victorious expeditions in the South of the Douro (recovery of Lamego and Viseu in 1057-1058, and Coimbra in 1064)65. With his death, the division of his domains by his sons, and the handing over of Galicia to the youngest (Garcia II)66, the Southern limits of this region, now reached the river Mondego, acquired a sporadic autonomy (1065-1071)67. However, a few years later, the territories Ferdinand I had ruled were again reunited, first under Sancho II of Castile, in 1071-107268, and later under Alfonso VI, after 107269. The highlight of the future Portuguese territory in this ← 21 | 22 → period was the restoration of the diocese of Braga in 1070-107170. Alfonso VI united the three kingdoms of the western Peninsula (León, Galicia and Castile) under the same crown and moved the frontier south, with the important conquest of Toledo, the emblematic capital of the Visigoth kingdom, in 1085. All this meant that Galicia became increasingly distant from the frontier, and, with time, the leading role would be taken up by the portucalense aristocracy. This was the situation in 1087-1091 when Urraca, Alfonso VI’s heiress, married Raymond of Burgundy, to whom was given the government of Galicia in 1095-1096, with authority that stretched to the river Mondego, and shortly after, as far as the Tagus71.

Later, in 1095-1096, the territories south of the river Miño were awarded to Henry of Burgundy who meanwhile married Teresa, one of the bastard daughters of Alfonso VI, in 1095 or 109672. This donation was of relevance: for the first time, the ancient Gallaecia was divided by the above-mentioned river. The lands South of the Douro as far as Coimbra were united to Galicia bracarense, this area designated as Portucalense, which accentuated the isolation of the Galicia lucense73. As José Mattoso writes, this date representa bem mais do que o simples facto político da ← 22 | 23 → criação do condado portucalense74 (“represented, more than the simple political fact, the creation of the Portucalense county”).

With the arrival of the 12th century, this rupture acquired a religious expression that accentuated it even further. In 1100-1101, Diego Gelmírez was elected archbishop of Santiago de Compostela75 and, in 1103, the Cathedral of Braga recovered the metropolitan dignity76. In the short term, this circumstance had a decisive role in strengthening Portucalense autonomy.

The evolution is known: a narrow sequence of events in the first half of the 12th century continually accentuated the divergence between the aristocracies on either side of the river Miño. Thus, the decisive moment was marked by the outcome of the battle of São Mamede (1128) near Guimarães, when Afonso Henriques (Doña Teresa’s son) and the Portucalense nobility defeated his mother’s forces and their Galician allies77. From then on, the process seemed unstoppable: Teresa died in 113078, her son moved the centre of the county from Guimarães to Coimbra in 113179 and accentuated his victorious power by resisting the enemy threats from both the Muslims and the Galicians. This dynamic culminated in October 1143, with the so-called “treaty of Zamora”, when, in the presence of the papal legate, Alfonso VII (crowned emperor in León in 113580) recognised the autonomy of Portugal81. From then on, the reign of Afonso I (1143-1185) was characterised by a prominent military activity against the Muslims82.

← 23 | 24 → At the same time, in the East side of the Peninsule, Alfonso the Chaste became King of Aragon and count of Barcelona in 1162 and continued the dynastic union established by his parents in 1137, but could not reproduce the protagonism of his western homologue on the eastern side of the Peninsula. The efforts to consolidate the sovereign’s position had to deal with Catalan and Aragonese societies united by the feudal and urban dynamic that had grown stronger in that same century. Thus, when Alfonso the Chaste tried to project his power over all Catalonia through his proclamation as the guarantor of the peace and truce in 1173, he was, in a way, contested by the count of Urgell in 1187. The latter did not hesitate to make an identical proclamation in his territories, claiming the jurisdiction over his domains for himself83. Similarly, the same king’s wish to impose a general bovage tax on all the country was aborted by the pressure of the nobles in 118884. Both facts show the fragility inherent in the sovereign’s position in Catalonia, where the king’s pretensions of pre-eminence received the support of the Romanist discourses, but could not avoid the weakness inherent in the lack of jurisdiction and tax income. The origin of the country and its feudal evolution had generated a jurisdictional and tax mosaic that became more complex over the centuries. Indeed, the social and economic development of the country benefited the estates more than the king, who entered the 13th century anxious to consolidate his power, but who was in reality surrounded by rising nobles and the emerging ­bourgeoisie, who were consolidating their own economic and ­jurisdictional power85.

← 24 | 25 → 3. The cohesion of national identity in the peripheries of the Peninsula (13th-14th centuries)

The medieval person, more than anything else, was a social being: he or she was defined by belonging to a group through characteristics and links assumed as his or her own86. Thus, concentric circles of belonging can be defined in which the individual was part of a group of solidarity, linked by lineage, band, seigniorial or jurisdictional links, the urban group, etc. In this sense, the reinforcing of populations identified with a certain territory can be seen in Europe at the start of the 13th century as circles of solidarity, grouping people together who shared being born in territories perceived unitarily87. That is why they could be known by the classic term of natio, which refers to the generation shared by birth88 and that, in the classical and late-medieval period, designated specific people, like Germanorum natione89 or natione iudaeorum90. In the 13th century, this term allowed the shared sentiment of belonging to be expressed, if we accept Genicot’s words91, although it may be more accurate to talk of perception. Indeed, the descriptions by Francesc Eiximenis in the 14th century stated the perception of nations from the behaviour of their members in the most mundane aspects, like eating and drinking: the Catalan nation is laudable at table because it differs from altres nacions (that) quan serveixen a menjar mostren la carn, així com castellans o portugaleses, o mostren les anques ← 25 | 26 → nues car les llurs faldes són fort curtes així com se fan los franceses92 (“other nations [that] when they serve the food show the flesh, like the Castilians or Portuguese, or show their bare legs as their skirts are very short like the French do”). Thus, the term nation was identified with the corresponding ethnic name and specific practices. In 1369, King Peter the Ceremonious was indignant because the judge Mariano IV of Arborea headed the Sardinian revolt despite having been educated in Catalonia per maestres qui el nodissen a les nostres maneres e lo mostressin servir lo senyor rei nostre pare e nós e amar la nostra nació93 (“by masters that feed him according our manners and showed that they served the king our father and me, and to love our nation”). Thus, the nation defined a set of values and elements that made up “our manners”, and these included respect for a common sovereign and expressing a feeling of voluntary identification, to the extent that the king did not hesitate to refer to amar (“loving”) the nation.

Among the set of shared axiological and cultural values that singularise the nation, the most decisive is the language, so that nació e llengua (“nation and language”) are easily assimilated94. In 1468, Joan Margarit mixed gents e nations (“people and nations”) and lengues e pobles (“languages and people”) indifferently, thus reflecting the conceptual proximity of these words95. The term Catalan was spread, during the 13th century, throughout the conquest of Majorca and Valencia that expanded Catalan repopulation and language96, and during the 14th century by the preeminence of Catalonia in the projection into the Mediterranean97. All this ← 26 | 27 → facilitated a generalisation of the term Catalan, applied to those who spoke the language or even those from the same Crown, as also happened with the permanent trade legations abroad, identified with the Catalan nation although they assisted all citizens of the Crown98. This wide view matches another narrower one centred on the geographic setting of Catalonia, thanks to the institutional development in the latter decades of the 13th century and the growing social cohesion99. It should be no surprise then that in 1291 the courts demanded that all the officials in this territory sint Cathalani100.

Thus, the Catalan nation referred to a shared cultural perception: all members of the nation should, for example, feel happy because the first Catalan cardenal was chosen, as King Peter the Ceremonious stated in 1357101. Identified with all the population, the nation admitted a bodily and vital simile: Bishop Margarit could proclain in 1454 that jau la dita nació catalana quasi vídua e plora la sua desolació102 (“Catalan nation is postrated such as a widow and cries its desesperation”) for the absence of the monarch, installed in Italy since 1432. And in 1471 he himself tried to explain the Catalan civil war as aggression by foreign nations contrary to Catalan expansion that had sometimes harmed them: moltes d’elles dittes nacions nos fossen infestissimes e exosses e en la nostra preclara natió han volgut exercir les venjances de les injúries e dans que la dita nostra preclara natió per lo passat havien rebuda103 (“many of said nations were annoying against our excellent nation and they has wished to take revenge for the injuries and damages they received from us in the past”).

With this meaning, the concept of nation encompassed the whole country, in a cultural content used by all the participants in the power game. Thus, when the estates claimed a representativity over the whole ← 27 | 28 → country that would allow them to face the monarch, they did not invoke the nation but rather other agglutinating concepts, like la terra (“the land”) or lo general (“the general”)104. Precisely, the weakness of the monarch, always short of resources, left him dependent on the estates, who accepted his financial requests through a series of extraordinary grants in exchange for important concessions105. The Parliament (Corts), summoned in function of monarch’s need to request subsidies, express the duality between the monarch and the estates106. These took on representativity, presenting themselves before the king not in the name of the respective groups or braços (“arms”) but invoking the representativity of the terra107, as was stated explicitly at the start of the second half of the 14th century108. This fiscal weakness of the monarch led to the institutional evolution, especially after 1363109, in the Crown of Aragon, of permanent diputations of the Parliament that were consolidated by their claim to represent the land110, well defined and outlined within the Crown of Aragon111. Thus, in Catalonia the economic and political cohesion of the society, its common cultural traits and institutions justified in the representativity before the monarch, consolidated this common identity.

The path was different in the kingdom of Portugal, where the condition of “independent” monarchy explains, to a great extent, the following ← 28 | 29 → evolution: the efforts at territorial expansion ended in 1249 with the incorporation of the far south of the Algarve112, while the evolution that led to the main institution of the Portuguese monarchy can be placed in 1325113. In general, for a great part of this period, the kingdom esperienced a climate of crisis: fighting against the Muslims, conflicts, internal and with the neighbouring kingdom, problems of succession114. Stability, associated with the strengthening of the authority of the monarchy, came with Afonso III (1248-1279) and especially Dinis (1279-1325). In this sense, the latter’s policy of affirmation is relevant115, as is the pacification of relations with Castile, in particular thanks to the definition of the border, with the signing of the treaties of Badajoz, in 1267116, and Alcañices, in 1297117. The line of the frontier between the two kingdoms was finally established as a result of the latter treaty.

Thus, by the mid 14th century, the kingdom of Portugal was much more structured than two centuries earlier, when it became autonomous from the Leonese monarchy118. Despite internal differences, the population (not very different from those in the rest of the Iberian Peninsula) gathered around three vectors of identification: a territory with defined frontiers diplomatically pacified since the end of the 13th century; power and an administration (a state, one could say) relatively stabilised; and a language and cultural identity in a growing process of affirmation.

Presenting these three aspects, Armindo de Sousa wrote that, in the 14th and 15th centuries, Portugal was

Um território definitivo e uma população ontogonicamente definitiva também. As alterações e aportamentos posteriores, numa e noutra dessas vertentes, não passarão de circunstanciais. As grandes matrizes geográficas e étnicas ficaram resolvidas. E houve também uma ‘ordem’ que civilizou o meio e as gentes. Será nesta vertente, a da ordem, que a história vai fazer efeito. Porque, realmente, nâo é no sangue nem na ← 29 | 30 → terra que nós, portugueses de hoje, nos distanciamos dos nossos pais medievos; é na cultura e na mentalidade119.

A definitive territory and also a ontologically definitive population. The later alterations and contributions to one or other of these aspects would be circumstantial. The great geographic and ethnic matrices were resolved. And there was also an ‘order’ that brought a specific civilisation to the land and the people. It will be in this aspect (that of the order) that the history will have consequences, because, in reality, the Portuguese of today do not differ from their medieval predecesors either in blood or in land, but rather in culture and the mentality.

Indeed, it is a process that dates from the early 14th century. As this same author adds:

(O) território está definido e a população, apesar de separada por vedações estatutárias e fossos étnicos, compõe uma nação. A língua, o rei e toda uma teia de costumes e normas estabelecem os laços da identidade. Mas não há ainda consciéncia generalizada dela, da identidade. É coisa que está a cimentar-se. Na solidariedade, na emulação e no perigo120.

The territory is defined and the population, although separated by legal limitations and ethnic breaches, composes a nation. The language, the king and a whole set of customs and norms define the links of identity. There is still no generalised awareness of it, of the identity. But it is ready to strengthen. In solidarity, emulation and danger.

However, the choice of these dates is, as always, subject to other options. In fact, it depends on the criteria and the framework taken into account. Not long ago, 1325 was taken as the determining moment in the structuring of the main institutions of the Portuguese monarchy. Nevertheless, if the aim is to highlight a transversal date that represents the end of a common cycle throughout the Iberian West, and from the perspective of greater duration, the cycle can be extended to 1367-1369121.

It corresponds to a complex process in the perspective of Portuguese history, throughout moments of high tension (for example, 1383-1385122 ← 30 | 31 → or 1580123) and others when relations with Castile took the shape of diplomatic games that are not always easy to interpret (like the reign of Alfonso V, between 1448 and 1481)124. During these centuries, there does not appear to have been a single identity, this greatly depending on the social dimension it rested on, from the bourgeoise to the noble or ecclesiastical identity, to exemplify some stereotypical outlines. There is also an evolution in Portugal where this “sense of belonging” is reinforced throughout the ages. There are various manifestations since the 15th century. In this regard, the chronicler Fernão Lopes, refering to Cicero, wrote that nom somos nados a nos mesmos porque huña parte de nos tem a terra, e a outra os paremtes125 (“we are not born from ourselves because a part of us belongs to the land and the other to the relatives”). This feeling, which expresses a real belief, is, in its origins, a problem of the domain of the imaginary; that is to say, of the way we see. And this perceptive ambiguity thus explains the variation of many semantic concepts, as it is the case of the motherland. In this context, the monarchy was the great reference for Portuguese society, on which the kingdom’s main coordinates of identity were projected126. It sometimes happened that these coordinates oscilated between interests and spatial horizons that did not coincide: this was when Portuguese society was divided between divergent options.

In any case, the social awareness of Portuguese identity evolved from the Late Middle Ages and throughout the Modern epoch. Portugal was a territory and a name (whose designation evolved from a local one to that of a land, and from that to a kingdom), with well-defined heraldic symbols (although in one or the other case, its meaning is debateable), in which, once again, royal power had a determinant role. It is interesting to note that, beyond the antiquity and continuity of the kingdom, the problem of dynastic legitimacy arose repeatedly. However, like any other European ← 31 | 32 → monarchy, through its history, its myths and symbols multiplied, the role of the language was strengthened and its own legal tradition was organised127.

Thus, the historical path led to assumptions of identity at the two sides of the Peninsula during the 13th and 14th centuries, with different biases. While territorial cohesion and the monarchy’s power to unite were the leading factors in Portugal, in Catalonia it was the cohesion of the society itself which stands out, precisely through estates that invoked a common representativity before the monarch, marking not only a duality but even a specific opposition among those who claimed to speak in the name of “the land” and the sovereign.

In any case, the strengthening of the respective societies is displayed through the assumption of national descriptives, which in turn fitted within the Hispanic perspective. This was the manifestation of the contemporary evolution experienced in Europe, where, in various territories, the term nation began to acquire an ethical and emotional content that complemented the sense of moral and legal requirements128. Moreover, the different national expressions in Iberian Peninsula matched with the Hispanic framework. In 1363, for example, Cardinal Gil Albornoz created the college of San Clemente in Bologna to house all the students from the Hispanic kingdoms, which did not stop them from forming specific groups, like those belonging to the natio catalanorum129 or the Portuguese students130. In reality, it was a game of scales and proximity: in Majorca, the consulate of the Castilian nation assisted any mercader castellà o portogalès o altre generació d’Espanya (“Castilian or Portuguese merchant or other generation from Spain”131), and in 1416, in the Council of Constance, the nation of Spain covered the Portuguese, Castilians and the members of the Crown ← 32 | 33 → of Aragon, which included Sards and Sicilians132. Thus, the evolution requires the specific characteristics of this fit to be dealt with.

4. Medieval and modern models of cohesion – and rupture – in the Iberian Peninsula (15th-19th centuries)

Politics and culture accentuated interrelations in the Peninsula in the 15th century. The political interests of the four Christian crowns in the Peninsula intersected, and in three of them, the same dynasty, the Trastámara, consolidated its leading position133. At the same time, the generalisation of the invocation of the Visigoth or classic Hispanic past led various authors to adopt the peninsular unity in their historical and literary references134.

This Hispanic perspective was increasingly conceived in benefit of Castile, imagined as a receptacle of the line of legitimation and future backbone, by authors like Sánchez de Arévalo, who specified, Quodmodo in regno quod hodie appellatur Castellae et Legionis residet titulus et nominatio regum Hispanie, so solum autem regem Castellae vocant Hispaniae regum135. The mesianism that contributed to sustaining the royal crown, although also at a given moment incorporating the current from the Catalan-Aragonese crown136, contributed powerfully to establishing the direct line between the Visigoth past, the Castilian transmission ← 33 | 34 → and the Hispanic future in benefit of Christianity137. The Castilian literary prestige worked in the same line, summing writers from the Crown of Aragon who expressed themselves bilingually in Catalan and Castilian, and Castilian authors who rejected the Italianising influx to accentuate a nationalist perspective. Through these different ways, there was a movement towards a pan-Iberism whose epicentre was Castile138.

The dynastic union reached in 1479, when Ferdinand V of Castile became also Ferdinand II of Aragon, mantained the institutional singularities and even allowed the sovereign to adopt Aragonese models as references while still confirming the strengthening of the Hispanic monarchy. The long list of titles that Ferdinand and Isabella then held could be simplified by describing both as rey e reyna de España139 (“king and queen of Spain”). The external perception was clear: in 1482 in Genoa the expression il serenissimi re de Spagna was used140. This Spain maintained the plurality of kingdoms and nations, as Ferdinand himself showed when referring to nuestros reynos de Espanya (“our kingdoms of Spain”) or to universis et singulis consulibus mercatoribus tam cathalanorum et castellanorum quam etiam quarumvis aliarum nacionum nostrorum Hispanie regnorum ac aliorum subditorum nostrorum141. Yet, the political perspective imposed a unifying tendency: in 1488, the king equalled the rights of the Catalan and Spanish consulates in Brugges, a ffin que todos los vasallos nuestros tengan y gozen de unos mismos privilegios142 (“in order our vassals have and enjoy the sames laws”).

← 34 | 35 → The same dynastic strategy would enable the Portuguese crown to share a parallel Hispanic destiny, attempted more than once at the end of the 15th and early 16th centuries, the most important of which came through Prince Miguel da Paz, son of the Portuguese king, Manuel I, and Isabella of Castile-Aragon, daughter and heiress to the Catholic Monarchs, a possibility only broken by the prince’s premature death in 1500143. It was not until 1580 – and since then until 1640 – when Portugal came under the same sovereign as the rest of the Peninsula144. In these decades, Portugal had to face new situations in its history, such as the absence of the king or the practice of the “delegated government” (although these were very frequent in other societies in Europe)145.

However, in the specific case of Portugal, it is clear that from the start of the modern epoch, throughout the history of the kingdom, the affirmation of the identity of the monarchy and Portuguese society was of crucial importance, with consequences at distinct levels, while, as a backdrop, the organisation and institutionalisation of the political, judicial, economic and social space was taking place. The guidelines of this process were orientated through schemes that have to be understood in an Iberian dimension. Thus, fitting Catalonia and Portugal into the Hispanic monarchy gave rise to a concretisation of the generalised dispute in contemporary Europe between the emerging absolutist model and the so-called mixed monarchies inherited from the medieval period146, because counterbalanced royal power with that of the estates, as explicitly legislated in the ← 35 | 36 → Parliament of Barcelona in 1599147. Significantly, in both Catalonia148 and Portugal149, the change from 16th to the 17th centuries brought growing tension that aimed to shield the power of their own institutions to govern, closer to the oligarchy and as a counterbalance the regal pretensions, with arguments based on the origin and evolution of the respective countries in line with the legislation and memory supplied by the Middle Ages150.

The tension broke out in 1640 in Catalonia and Portugal. The legitimacy of those who claimed to represent the country clashed with that brandished by the sovereign of Spain. The fortunes of war were different in each case, with distinct fates for Portugal and Catalonia: independence in the former case, submission under the Hispanic monarch in the latter.

The 17th century conflict was part of the contemporary European context that culminating in the Peace of Westphalia in 1648 that sanctioned a Europe of internally unified and separate states151. This approach not only moved away from the medieval models but also fertilised the ground for the growing political identity for the national community. The internal unification of Spain in the 18th century contributed powerfully ← 36 | 37 → to the consolidation of a specific national discourse for a Spain without Portugal152. This line was reinforced in the 19th century153, when the aim was to sustain power and social cohesion through merging the notions of State and Nation154. At that time, Portugal was not compared with Catalonia, but rather Spain, under the logic of two states with national identities in the same Peninsula155. Until the consolidation of this model, it was intended to influence the construction of a pluri-national Spain from Catalonia, which would have been closer to the medieval roots and included Portugal156. Significantly, Iberism, arising with growing power from the mid-19th century as an intellectual and social proposal that called for the cultural vision and even the political shaping of plural peninsular unit, found one of its principal epicentres in Catalonia157, while also finding an echo in Portugal158.

← 37 | 38 → It is evident that throughout this process, any comparison is affected by something that clearly differentiates Portuguese evolution since the Middle Ages and especially its position within the Iberian Peninsula: the maritime and colonial expansion, first along the coast of Africa and to the East and then, to Brazil. Indeed, as Pedro Cardim and Mafalda Soares da Cunha highlighted:

No que respeita aos equilíbrios no espaço político e económico interno das Coroas ibéricas a descoberta e ocupação dos territórios ultramarinos trouxeram a inexo­rável centralidade de pólos políticos e económicos estabelecidos no Sul de Portugal (Lisboa) e no sul de Castela (Sevilha), com implicações decisivas na crescente feri­zação da fronteira nortenha entre Portugal e a Galiza159.

Regarding the balances in the internal political and economic areas of the Iberian crowns, the discovery and occupation of the overseas territories implied the inexorable centrality of the political and economic centres established in the south of both Portugal (Lisbon) and Castile (Seville), with decisive implications for the growing peripheralisation of the northern frontier between Portugal and Galicia.

5. Researching the questions open through an ESF research project

The path from the Middle Ages to the present leads to an Iberian Peninsula converted into a suitable receptacle for contradictory discourses of justification, which at the same time can hinder the correct analysis historical. This thus requires a historiographic revision to enhance and combine research already under way and which arise in precisely the same scenarios that were the scene of a shared peninsular relation.

← 38 | 39 → The sub-programme European Comparisons in Regional Cohesion, Dynamics and Expressions (EuroCORECODE), set up by the European Science Foundation within the Eurocores Programme in 2009, appeared as the ideal setting for studying and comparing the historical roots that have articulated regional identities in Europe. This was also a concern in other historical European regions, so the seven research groups from the different countries took up a study that allowed us to go deeper into knowledge of regional history and, at the same time, reach points of comparison regarding the elements of regional identity, cohesion and articulation. Under this scope a research project titled Cuius Regio. An analysis of the Cohesive and Disruptive Forces Destining the Attachment of Groups of Persons to and the Cohesion within Regions as a Historical Phenomenon was submitted under the general coordination of Dick de Boer. The approval and award of this research project by the European Science Foundation allowed intense work to be carried out between 2010 and 2013 in the study of Bohemia, Catalonia, Guelders-Lower Rhine, Livonia, Portugal, Schleswig-Holstein, Silesia and Transylvania, in each case with strong teams directed respectively by Lenka Bobkova, Flocel Sabaté, Dick de Boer, Anu Mänd, Luís Adão da Fonseca, Kurt Villads, Roscislaw Zerelik and Cosmin Popa-Gorjanu. Attempting to detect the axes of regional and its historical persistence in each case, the combination of regular scientific meetings allowed us to move towards joint definitions. These benefited even further from interdisciplinary meetings with the other two projects financed in the same sub-programme160, which enriched especially the attention to the construction of ideological values, the global historical perspective and the effect of geography in its widest sense.

This research framework at a European level accentuated the need for a specific study to relate the two peninsular geographical entities dealt with in the project: Portugal and Catalonia. Both shared a scenario, clear historical coincidences and, at the same time, different fates in the building of identity. A common and comparative study could reach a new ← 39 | 40 → perspective, that is, a diachronic and holistic view. With this scope, the exchange of information and opinions highlighted the necessity for a scientific meeting to present the conceptual revisions and debate the themes open. Thus, as part of the second International Medieval Meeting Lleida, organised by the Consolidated Medieval Research Group “Space, Power and Culture”, the meeting titled Catalonia and Portugal: The Iberian Peninsula from the Periphery was held in the Catalan city of Lleida between the 26th and 29th of June 2012. This looked again at the historical and conceptual origins of both entities and analysed the development of their identity from the Middle Ages to the 19th century, thanks to the papers submitted by Luis A. García Moreno (Universidad de Alcalá de Henares), Tomàs de Montagut (Universitat Pompeu Fabra), Michel Zimmermann (Université de Versailles-Saint Quentin-en-Yvelines), José Augusto de Sottomayor-Pizarro (Universidade do Porto), Josep Moran (Universitat de Barcelona), Philip D. Rasico (Vanderbilt University), Xavier Barral (Université Rennes-2), Stefano Maria Cingolani (La Sapienza, Università di Roma), Paula Pinto Costa (Universidade do Porto), José Ángel Sesma (Universidad de Zaragoza), Cristina Pimenta (Universidade do Porto), Vicent Josep Escartí (Universitat de València), Antoni M. Simon (Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona), Òscar Jané (Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona), Eulàlia Miralles (Universitat de València), Giovanni C. Cattini (Universitat de Barcelona), David Cao (Universitat de Barcelona), Òscar Costa (Universitat de Barcelona), Robert von Friedeburg (Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam), Dick de Boer (Rijksuniversiteit Groningen), Luís Adão da Fonseca (Universidade do Porto) and Flocel Sabaté (Universitat de Lleida). Despite having participated in the preparatory debates, Pedro Cardim (Universidade Nova de Lisboa) and Conceição Mereiles Pereira (Universidade do Porto) were unfortunately unable to attend, but they sent their papers. In contrast, new communications were submitted by Ana Cristina Santos Leitão (Universidade de Lisboa), Luis Ribeiro Gonçalves (Universidade de Lisboa), Manuel Fialho (Universidade de Lisboa), Max Siller (Universität Innsbruck), Jordi Juan Villanueva (Universitat de Barcelona) and Andrea Knox (Northumbria University). The meeting culminated in enriching debates chaired by Flocel Sabaté (Universitat de Lleida), Paul Freedman (Yale University), Isabel Grifoll (Universitat de Lleida), Joan J. Busqueta (Universitat de Lleida), Luís Adão da Fonseca (Universidade do Porto), Josep Maria Domingo (Universitat de Lleida), Jordi Casassas (Universidad de Barcelona), Covadonga Valdaliso (Uni­versidade ← 40 | 41 → de Coimbra) and Roser Salicrú (Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, Barcelona).


ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2015 (April)
Pheriperal Border Portugal Identity Catalonia
Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, New York, Oxford, Wien, 2015. 534 pp., 1 b/w ill.

Biographical notes

Flocel Sabaté (Volume editor) Luís Adão Da Fonseca (Volume editor)

Flocel Sabaté is Professor of Medieval History at the University of Lleida and former director of the Institute for Research into Identities and Society. He has served as an invited professor in the universities of Paris-I, Poitiers, Yale, UNAM (Mexico), Cambridge and ENS (Lyon). He is doctor honoris causa of the Universidad Nacional de Cuyo (Argentina). Luís Adão da Fonseca is Professor of Medieval History (retired) at the University of Porto and President of the Scientific Council of the Centro de Estudos da População, Economia e Sociedade. He has served as an invited professor in the universities of Navarra, São Paulo, Johns Hopkins and EHESS (Paris).


Title: Catalonia and Portugal