[[Preguntes més freqüents|Preguntas más frecuentes|Frequently asked questions]]
Barcelona Cultura
Frequently asked questions

What does the War of the Reapers have to do with events in 1714?

During the reign of Philip IV of Castile (1621-1665), the Catalan constitutions began to be slowly but surely eroded due to royal interference in the Principality’s institutions. This process reached a peak under King Philip V with the imposition of the Decree of Nova Planta (1716). The War of the Reapers (1640-1652) broke out because the Commons (Generalitat, Council of One Hundred and military braçor estate) refused to breach the Catalan constitutions in order to satisfy royal demands to provide economic and human resources required by the monarch’s armies fighting in Europe. This dispute ended favourably for the king, who was able to substantially reform the Catalan political system, increasing his capacity to intervene by control over appointments. The conflict was renewed in the Revolt of the Barretines (1687-1689), which broke out due to abusive taxation and demands to supply Castilian troops fighting the French in the Principality. Charles II (1661-1700), who succeeded Philip IV, continued to implement a policy of interference and control over the Catalan institutions, draining Generalitat resources more and more. Charles named the French pretender, Philip of Anjoy, as his heir to the crown, and Philip, advised by his grandfather, Louis XIV, convened the Catalan Courts in autumn 1701 in order to win his subjects’ support. The Courts closed having unblocked the legislative system, but the monarch soon adopted measures that were detrimental to the interests of the Catalan trading and manufacturing bourgeoisie, favouring their French competitors. As if this were not enough, acting on the monarch’s instructions, the Bourbon viceroy Francisco Fernández de Velasco began to systematically breach Catalan laws. It was clear that Philip V had taken his predecessors’ tendency to intervene in the functioning of the country’s institutions a step forward, paving the way for the future suppression of the Catalan political system.

What were the Catalans fighting for in 1714?

Pau Ignasi de Dalmases was the ambassador of the Three Commons to England. Finally received by Queen Anne on 28 June 1713, he informed the monarch that the Catalans were fighting for their freedom, and requested English protection for a country whose laws, privileges and freedoms were in all things similar and almost equal to those enjoyed in England. Although this comparison was somewhat exaggerated, it did indicate the political model towards which the Catalan parliamentary system was heading. The Catalans held out against the long Bourbon siege of Barcelona because they were certain that the ascent of Philip V to the throne would mean the abolition of their constitutions, which guaranteed a political system based on the participation and interests of a large, well-off minority. When Marshal the Duke of Berwick entered Barcelona in victory after accepting the capitulations of the city’s defeated defenders, he ordered the city authorities to be brought out and publicly stripped them of their robes, insignia and standards, piling these up in the middle of the square. The hangman then symbolically executed Catalonia’s institutions and constitutions by setting fire to this “pyre” and, in doing so, the Duke of Berwick showed the Catalans that there remained to them “no other privilege than that which the king in his mercy might grant them”. Defeat left the Catalans at the mercy of the royal whim, and laws ceased to be the expression of the economic, political and social interests of the better-off classes in the Principality, both old and new. Rather, these laws now embodied the will of the monarchy.

Why were the Catalan constitutions important?

The constitutions were the legal expression of a political system based on pact and agreement between the Catalan institutions and the monarch. This body of law was periodically reviewed in response to the demands of the different social groups at the head of the Three Commons (Generalitat, Council of One Hundred and military braç). The constitutions also guaranteed certain individual Catalan rights, such as freedom of residence, the inviolability of domicile and correspondence, habeas corpus, the right of accused parties to free legal representation, the right not to be recruited for the royal army outside Catalonia and exclusive access to political and ecclesiastical posts in the Principality, amongst others.

        Although Catalonia was still organised around the three estates of the realm, the trade and manufacturing bourgeoisie had acquired importance within the Three Commons, steering their affairs jointly with the bourgeois nobility. As a result, the Catalan institutions were more representative than they were in the other territories ruled by the Spanish monarchy. Nonetheless, the country was still far from enjoying the solidity of a parliamentary system like that in England. The Catalan republican movement of the early-18th century was the result, then, of a gradual increase in citizens’ participation in politics and the flexibility of the institutions to act independently of royal authority. When the Commons decided to become involved in the dispute over they succession to the Spanish crown, expressing their support for Archduke Charles, they did so in order to obtain guarantees that would prevent the king from interfering in the country’s affairs, and not with secession as a goal. The constitutions guaranteed a system of rights, freedoms and privileges around which Catalan political, social and economic life was organised, and their suppression meant that, in the 18th century, the Catalan people were forced to explore new channels for modernisation on the margins of political activity.

Are furs (privileges) and constitutions the same thing?

The constitutions were agreements established by the Courts after negotiation, and could be proposed by either the monarch or the braços (estates). These pacts were, then, the result of a need on both sides: on the one hand, the estates wanted to adapt legislation to present circumstances and demands; on the other, the king sought to obtain the economic contribution from the Principality as approved by the Courts. Accordingly, the constitutions were the legal expression of contractual agreements established between the king and the braços after a period of negotiation. At the Courts of 1701-1702 and 1705-1706, new constitutions were agreed that modernised the functioning of the Catalan institutions, reflecting the socio-economic transformations generated by the dynamic political situation and the presence of the bourgeoisie in the Commons. Unlike the constitutions, the furs were privileges or concessions granted by the monarch to a territory or town, with no negotiations taking place between the parties. These furs, therefore, had lower status than the constitutions. The approval of new constitutions at the close of each of the Courts confirmed the vitality and dynamism of a political system that had gradually become more open and representative of the interests of the leading economic and social classes in Catalonia.

Why did most Catalans support Archduke Charles of Austria?

The Catalans began to break their ties with Philip V the day after the Courts of 1701-1702 closed. Anti-French feeling was strong in Catalonia, and this animadversion had grown in the second half of the 17th century due to the constant occupation by their troops (as had occurred during the Nine Year War, from 1689 to 1697) and the massive entry of French-made products, which had saturated the Catalan market since the signing of the Treaty of the Pyrenees (1659). To these must be added other factors, such as the ill-feeling caused by Philip V’s despotic policies during the vice-royalty of Francisco Fernández de Velasco (1703-1705), who systematically breached the constitutions approved by the last Courts and harshly repressed Austriacist supporters, and the bourgeoisie’s disapproval of the Bourbon monarch, who, after the outbreak of war, had banned trade with England and Holland, the main buyers of Catalan brandy. Support for the alternative to Philip V rested mainly on the attraction that constitutionalism exercised amongst the wealthier social groups, as it offered guarantees that they would be able to participate in the political system whilst also resisting the growth of royal power. The process of reforming Catalan institutions, which took place during the Courts of 1705-1706 convened by Archduke Charles, helped to further modernise the Catalan political system, which was moving towards a representative model.

How did Barcelona hold out until September 1714 if the city was no longer receiving support from the allies?

When the viceroy, the Count of Starhemberg, left Barcelona to return to the court in Vienna (9 July 1713), what historians have called “the republican moment” began. The Assembly of Braços met without the king and decided to defend the city. Once this decision had been made, most of the city’s nobles and some members of the bourgeoisie and the clergy fled to Mataró, changing sides. Barcelona was left in the hands of the army, the bourgeoisie and the poorer classes, who effected a political radicalisation of the city. When it was announced publicly that the Assembly of Braços would defend the city in order to safeguard the Catalan constitutions, considered a source of social good, Catalan constitutionalism became republicanism. This “republican moment” was accompanied by a movement of moral reformism, exalting the virtuous behaviour of the population. For this reason, triquets (gaming houses) were closed, the slightest hint of fraud against the administration was punished harshly and the interests of the poorer classes were protected. At the same time, a wave of providentialist demonstrations took place, with an eruption of religious fanaticism that led to a proliferation of rogations, processions and veneration of Our Lady and the saints. Whilst some political leaders encouraged such behaviour in order to reap the benefits for themselves, the highest civil and religious authorities attempted to temper its excesses. These elites were still confident that the emperor would come to their aid, and read hope into the ambiguous messages sent by Ramon de Vilana-Perlas from the imperial court. The final factor that helped to strengthen resistance was Philip V’s political repression and the implementation of the Decrees of Nova Planta in Aragon and Valencia.

What happened exactly on September 11?

The Bourbon troops launched their final offensive on the night from September 10 to 11, at the points where the city walls had suffered most damage, that is to say, between the Portal Nou, Santa Clara and Llevant bastions. At 7 that morning the chief councillor, Rafael Casanova, led the Barcelonan counter-attack on the Jonqueres rampart, holding aloft the flag of Saint Eulàlia, which was flown only at times when the city was in the gravest peril. Casanova soon fell wounded, and the lieutenant and standard-bearer Joan de Lanuza i d’Oms took up the banner whilst the fighting continued. The second and third attacks were launched against the Migdia bastion, where the defenders’ ferocious resistance enabled Coronel Francesc Sans i de Miquel to organise another counter-attack with a few units from the Coronela. Antoni Grases i Des, royal deputy representing the Generalitat, reached the Pla de Palau a few hours later with the flag of Saint George ready to lead a new counter-attack, but Coronel Sans ruled against this, preferring to protect the standard by leaving it in the rearguard. Supreme Commander Antonio de Villarroel mustered a few units of the Coronela together with other scattered combatants in Plaça Born with the aim of launching a second counter-attack against Bourbon troops in Pla d’en Llull. From the other side of the square, the assailants prevented the defenders from making their sortie, and Villarroel was shot and fell. Seriously wounded, he remained trapped under his horse. At three in the afternoon, and without previously informing the Commons, Coronel Pau Thoar, who had been informed of Supreme Commander Villarroel’s wishes by Coronel Juan Francisco Ferrer, made them his own and took the initiative of seeking to parlay with the Bourbon military authorities in order to prevent the sacking of the city come nightfall. The shooting ceased shortly after this, and Coronel Ferrer informed the civil authorities in the Saló de Cent about the terms under which negotiations for the surrender had been established. There was no option but to ratify what was by now a fait accompli. Barcelona had fallen and, the next day, the Three Commons (Generalitat, Council of One Hundred and military braç) met with a view to obtaining a favourable capitulation, but were unable to conserve the Catalan constitutions, which were abolished under the stipulations of the Decree of Nova Planta (1716).

Why did members of the military, the nobility and the clergy go into exile at the court of Vienna?

The policy of repression brought to bear by Philip V did not cease after the end of the Spanish War of Succession, but continued until the Treaty of Vienna (1725). Despite the capitulations signed, the twenty-five military commanders of Barcelona’s resistance against the Bourbon siege of 1713-1714 were imprisoned. The goods and revenues of the main Austriacist leaders were confiscated, and some were banned from exercising their professions, effectively condemning them to a state of permanent penury. Emperor Charles VI welcomed all exiles that had served him as king of Spain and offered them pensions, posts in the imperial army at the same rank, or posts, mostly in the royal administration of the Italian territories.  The Austriacists tended to exaggerate these advantageous conditions due to the repression they had suffered in Catalonia, and the offer exercised an important power of attraction, with thousands of Catalans departing for the emperor’s Italian territories or the court in Vienna. The international context —Philip V’s wars against the Triple and Quadruple Alliances (1717-1719)— led many Austriacists to believe that the situation in Catalonia could quickly be reversed, and fighting units, such as that led by Pere Joan Barceló, el Carrasclet (1718-1720), sprang up to combat the Bourbon authorities. Peace was finally signed and the Spanish War of Succession officially came to an end in Vienna in 1725, when emissaries sent by Philip V and Charles VI agreed to end the repression, free the prisoners of war and return goods and revenues to those defeated on either side. It was not until then that peace was restored in Catalonia and many exiles returned home. Nonetheless, the government continued to be in the hands of the military, a state of affairs criticised even by some Filipists in the Principality.

What repercussions did the Catalan cause have on European chancelleries after 1714?

When the ambassador of the Catalan Commons to the United Provinces, Felip de Ferran de Sacirera, was received in The Hague by the new English monarch, George I, on 18 September 1714, neither knew that Barcelona had surrendered a week earlier. The ambassador proposed various alternatives for resolving the "case of the Catalans”. These included the idea that the Spanish monarchy or the Crown of Aragon should form part of the Holy Roman Empire, or that Catalonia, Majorca and Ibiza should establish a republic under allied protection. On returning to London, however, George I learned of the surrender of Barcelona, but Parliament did not reconvene until 17 March 1715 and, although he had the support of the Whig party, he preferred to accept the new situation regarding Barcelona and the Catalans. The republican solution for Catalonia that Sacirera had suggested to him was nothing new: in 1712, the Catalan ambassador to the Viennese court, Josep de Pastor, had proposed the same idea to Archduke Charles (by then already proclaimed as Emperor Charles VI). However, neither of these Allied powers was willing to defend the establishment of new United Provinces in southern Europe if they were guaranteed no benefits. The question of the Spanish Austriacists was discussed once more during negotiations for the Treaty of Vienna of 1725, but not the “case of the Catalans". During the War of the Polish Succession (1733-1738), which led to conflict between Philip V and Charles VI, many hoped that the tables would also be turned in Catalonia. Voices were raised in both Vienna and Catalonia to support reform of the Spanish monarchy with a view to establishing a confederate, anti-absolutist organisation and, if this were not possible, a republican solution for Catalonia as proposed in certain pamphlets that were circulating around both the Viennese court and the Principality of Catalonia. These included, for example, Via fora als adormits (Get Out with Thee, Drowsy Catalans) and Record de l'Aliança de Jordi I hi ha de dir Record de l’Aliança fet al sereníssim Jordi August, rei de la Gran Bretanya... (Remembrance of the Alliance toGeorge I of Great Britain). However, the defeats suffered by Charles VI’s armies in southern Italy effectively thwarted all chances of subverting the political order in Spain and led to the collapse of the system of aid to the Austriacist exiles, which was based on revenues and posts in those territories. The peace negotiations in Vienna (1735-1738) spelled the end for the Austriacist alternative, moreover. Thereafter, Catalans both inside and outside the Principality had to lodge their complaints before their respective monarchies, with no possibility of calling for an international solution to the "case of the Catalans".

Why was La Ribera neighbourhood demolished?

After the Bourbon siege, the victors decided to build a fortress to control the people of Barcelona. The construction of this Ciutadella, or citadel, caused more destruction in the city’s most dynamic area, La Ribera neighbourhood, than it had suffered in the long months of the siege. The project, drawn up by Joris Prosper van Verboom, entailed such wholesale demolition that the Barcelona people did not believe it was going to happen, and chose to rebuild houses damaged by bombardment even though they were scheduled for destruction. Verboom received the royal commission to build the Ciutadella on 9 March 1715 and, just twenty-five days later, submitted a report and plans for the fortress to the Captain General. This exceptional celerity clearly indicated that the project was already well under way by the time the royal decision was made public. The first demolitions, of houses worst affected by the siege, took place in August 1715, whilst José Patiño, superintendent of Catalonia, demanded a donation from the city’s guilds to finance the construction of the Ciutadella. In autumn 1715, the Bourbon authorities and, above all, the engineer Verboom complained about the lack of cooperation from the Barcelona people in carrying out the work. In early-1718, Rodrigo Caballero, intendant of Catalonia, added his voice, blaming the slow rhythm of the work on the Barcelonans’ lack of zeal in demolishing their own houses. Nonetheless, the first stone in the Ciutadella was laid on 1 March 1716. Work continued slowly, and the second stage in the demolition work, intended to create the esplanade that separated the city from the fortress, was completed in January 1718. The third and final stage entailed the elimination of fewer buildings than initially planned, and work on the Ciutadella perimeter was completed on 25 January 1725, shortly before King Philip V and Emperor Charles VI signed the Treaty of Vienna, thereby ending the hostilities that had been latent since the conclusion of the Spanish War of Succession.

Where did the people displaced from La Ribera neighbourhood go when their homes were demolished?

The Bourbon military wanted to build two new neighbourhoods to rehouse the population displaced by the demolition of La Ribera neighbourhood, one in El Raval and the other on the beach. The proposal for a maritime neighbourhood outside the walls did not prosper due to the objections made by the new Bourbon authorities. In September 1715, after the first stage in the demolition work, the construction of the new neighbourhood in El Raval was approved, but none of the householders affected wanted to move there. El Raval was not a suitable neighbourhood for displaced residents who formed part of the most active economic sectors in the city, and these people preferred to move to areas closer to the demolition zone. A shantytown, Barceloneta, sprang up on the beach, where the displaced people went to live. Although the authorities prohibited this at first, they finally had no choice but to turn a blind eye, and finally regulated the urban plan for the new neighbourhood in 1753. Around 90% of the displaced residents did not leave the city, but stayed in the areas near the demolition zone, to the point at which 40% of those affected by the first stage in the demolitions moved into an area that was also scheduled to be pulled down later, including what is now the Born archaeological site. These people were therefore forced to move once more, some to more distant parts, such as the area around the Parish Church of Sant Just Pastor, and others to streets not so far from their original neighbourhood. All this caused an extraordinary increase in population density in La Ribera. For example, in 1716, a house in Carrer Montcada was occupied by eighteen families, a total of thirty-three people.

When did September 11 commemorations begin to take place?

The first commemoration of the fall of Barcelona on 11 September 1714 was convened by the Catalan Centre, presided over by Valentí Almirall, and took place in Santa Maria del Mar in 1886 with a funeral service for the victims. However, due to the fact that the Catalan Centre entered into crisis, and Barcelona City Council undertook to erect a statue dedicated to Rafael Casanova, these commemorations were discontinued. The first floral offering before the aforementioned monument took place on 7 April 1889, as part of a campaign of protests against the reform of the civil code, which entailed the elimination of Catalan civil law. However, it was not until 1894 that the custom began of placing floral wreathes before the monument on the night of September 10 to 11. In 1901, the nocturnal floral offering was met by a huge police deployment aimed at preventing the gathering. The confrontation between young Catalan nationalists and the forces of order ended with many arrests. Catalan society responded to this incident two days later with a huge demonstration that brought together Catalan nationalists from the entire ideological spectrum, with the exception of the Regionalist League. The establishment of the Catalan Solidarity platform in 1905 helped to confer greater importance and wider social support on September 11 commemorations. The ritual celebration became consolidated after 1907 and was only interrupted in 1909 due to the climate of tension caused by the events of Tragic Week. Interrupted during the dictatorships of Miguel Primo de Rivera and Francisco Franco, September 11 commemorations became more widely supported during the Second Republic. After the restoration of democracy, September 11 was confirmed as Catalonia’s national day, particularly after the great demonstration in favour of devolution in 1977. Once the Generalitat government had been reinstated, President Jordi Pujol’s first government institutionalised the celebration and, ever since, September 11, which is a public holiday in Catalonia, has featured a combination of official events and popular demonstrations.