Palau de la Generalitat de Catalunya in Barcelona
The Palau de la Generalitat is a historic palace in Barcelona, Catalonia, northern Spain. It houses the offices of the Presidency of the Generalitat de Catalunya. It is one of the few buildings of medieval origin in Europe that still functions as a seat of government and houses the institution that originally built it.
The palace is located in the district of Ciutat Vella in Barcelona. It is bounded by the Carrer del Bisbe, Carrer de Sant Sever and Carrer de Sant Honorat . Its principal façade fronts on the Plaça de Sant Jaume, across from the City Hall of Barcelona.
The first building was purchased in 1400 by then President Alfonso de Tous. It was located on the Carrer de Sant Honorat, in the former Jewish Quarter, or Call. The first extension (in the year 1416) faced the street and was carried out by Bishop Marc Safont, who also built the Chapel of St. George, in 1434.
In 1596, Pere Blai designed the current principal façade on the Plaça de Sant Jaume, in the Renaissance style. This is the first grand façade of this architectural style in Catalonia. Thereafter, several other houses were purchased and integrated into the palace.
The Palau de la Generalitat today is not just a public building with historical associations. It is also the seat of the Government of Catalonia and the Presidency of the Generalitat.
One hundred and twenty-eight Presidents have governed from this house, from Berenguer de Cruïlles (1359) to the current President, Artur Mas i Gavarró.
In 1289, the Catalan 'Corts' or Parliament - considered as of the year 1300 as representing the totality or 'generality' (Generalitat) of Catalonia - formed a commission to collect the taxes that the Corts granted the King. The Corts - or 'General Assembly' of Catalonia, meeting at Cervera in 1359, formalised that commission or Deputation (Diputació) of the General. It consisted of deputies from the three estates: military or noble, ecclesiastical, and popular or royal (representatives of the guilds and citizens of towns directly subject to the King).
At the start of the 15th century, that Diputació del General, or Generalitat, replaced to some degree royal power by implementing the decisions of the Catalan Corts. The exercise of these functions gave rise to the oldest part of the current Palau de la Generalitat (1403), one of the few mediaeval buildings in Europe that is still today the seat of the institution that originally built it.
Centuries later, at the start of the 18th century, King Philip V of Spain fought against Catalonia, as the region had decided to defend the Arch-duke Charles of Austria as pretender to the Spanish throne. This conflict, part of the War of the Spanish Succession, ended on September 11, 1714, when Barcelona fell into the hands of the absolutists of Philip V. The Generalitat and the Corts Catalanes were abolished. Catalonia suffered harsh repression and the Palau de la Generalitat became the King's Court in Barcelona.
The institutions of the Generalitat were not restored until the 20th century, when, as a result of their sweeping victory of the 1931 municipal elections, Francesc Macià formed a pact with the Spanish central government for the re-establishment of the Generalitat, Government of Catalonia. He later became its President (1931-1933). Macià abolished the four Provincial Councils (Diputaciones) and this Palau (palace) became once more the seat of the Generalitat and its Government. The Statute of Autonomy of 1932 granted Catalonia a Parliament, its own Justice system (with the Tribunal de Cassació or High Court), and its own police force. In 1934, his successor, President Lluís Companys, completed the unification of autonomous political power through the suppression of the provincial Civil Governors, a role created by the Madrid Government in the 19th century.
After the 1936-39 Spanish Civil War, the Generalitat went into exile. Francisco Franco's new regime repeated the repression of Philip V and also abolished the institutions of the Generalitat. Its President, Lluís Companys, defender of Republican constitutional legality, was tried by a court martial, sentenced to death and shot at Montjuïc Castle (1940).
After Companys' death, Josep Irla, last President of the Catalan parliament, took charge of the Presidency of the Generalitat in exile until in 1954 Josep Tarradellas succeeded him, also in exile.
Centralism once again imposed its Civil Governors and Provincial Councils, and the Diputación de Barcelona was once again installed in this palace. The division of Catalonia into four provinces ignored the traditional division of Catalonia into comarques.
After democracy was restored to Spain and after the 1977 Spanish General Election, the Palau became once again the seat of the Generalitat, which was restored on September 29, 1977, before the approval of the Spanish Constitution of 1978. A new Statute of Autonomy was passed as law in December 1979, and the elections of March 20, 1980 appointed 135 deputies to the Parliament of Catalonia. The Parliament was convened on April 10. Finally, with the election of the President of the Parliament and the President of the Generalitat, so forming the first Government under the Statute, the Generalitat was basically re-established.
The Palau de la Generalitat is one of the Catalonia's most valued symbols, among other reasons because it has managed to survive so many historical and political disasters. Also, it has come to represent, along with the Palau del Parlament, a bastion of democracy in Catalonia