History of Catalonia

What’s Catalonia?

Catalonia is situated on the north east of the Iberian Peninsula in Europe. Officially called Principality of Catalonia nowadays it’s an Autonomous Community inside Spain styled as a Nationality. It has its own laws, government, parliament, language, culture and Barcelona as its Capital city.

Catalonia has a marked geographical diversity, considering 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.

Even though  Catalonia has a surface area of just 32,108 km2 (similar to the size of Southland in New Zealand or Wales in the United Kingdom) it has a population of more than 7.5 million people.

Catalonia has its roots in a series of counties established by the Carolingian Empire in the western Pyrenees, to create a buffer zone against Muslim Spain at the end of the 8th century.

But the origin of the name Catalonia is quite uncertain. Some historians believe that the name is an evolution of the word “Castle”, as the area was full of them at the time. Some other historians believe that Catalonia could be an evolution of the word “Gothland” (land of Goths or Gathia Launia in Latin), as the early official name established by the Carolingian rulers was Duchy or March of Gothia.


Map of the Principality of Catalonia 1608 courtesy of ICGC (Institute of Cartography and Geography of Catalonia).

Some historians claim that the first Count of Barcelona to break away from the Carolingian rule at the end of the 10th century, Borrell II, was also the first one to use the title Princep (principal or sovereign in medieval Latin). That title evolved to the word Principality to define the group of counties under the rule of the Count of Barcelona.

But the term Catalonia itself is first documented in an early 12th century Latin chronicle called the Liber maiolichinus, where Ramon Berenguer III, Count of Barcelona is referred to as dux catalanensis and referring Catalania as his homeland.