Louis the Pious & The Spanish March 801 C.E.
Counties of the Spanish March
Louis the Pious was the son of Charlemagne, who was the first Holy Roman Emperor. Although Louis would later inherit the entirety of the Carolingian Empire from his father and become the second Holy Roman Emperor, he was first appointed by his father as the King of Aquitaine in 781 C.E. While he was King of Aquitaine, he was tasked by Charlemagne with defending the border of the empire from the Moors of Al-Andalus. Charlemagne and Louis saw the fortified city of Barcelona as a strategic target, a fortress that could serve as a buffer between the Muslims in Spain and the Christian kingdoms of Europe. As such, Louis invaded south of the Pyrenees and successfully took all the land between the Pyrenees and Barcelona, and he eventually took the city itself from the Moors after a siege of several months. From his new conquests, Louis formed the Spanish March, with Barcelona as the seat for the Governor of the March. The Spanish March was the term for the series of Counties seen at left, which were under Frankish control and served to keep the Moors in check. This is important because the extended period of time that the Spanish March was under the control of Franks, separated from the rest of Spain, has left an indelible mark on the culture and the identity of the region. This peculiar mixture of French and Spanish influences is what first gave the region of Catalonia its own identity, although that identity was quite fractured at the time. (Busquets 2005, p. 30)
The Foundation of What Would Become Catalonia 870-898 C.E.
Wilfred the Hairy
In the 9th century, the poor management of the Frankish counts and governors led to a particularly capable man being appointed the Count of multiple Counties in the region, including the County of Barcelona. This man was Wilfred the Hairy (Catalan: Guifré el Pilós). As the power and capability of the Frankish kings waned, the Counts became increasingly independent. Wilfred successfully administered his counties with autonomy, free from the Frankish court, and he declared his son as the heir to his Counties, which was not previously allowed, as the Frankish kings appointed all Counts. This establishment of an autonomous and hereditary group of Counties is an important point in the development of Barcelona and wider Catalonia, as it is seen by the modern Catalan nationalist movement as the foundation of the nation of Catalonia. Under autonomy, the city flourished. This period saw the development of the first suburbs outside the city wall, as well as numerous religious institutions locating in the Barcelona Plain, which would come to form the municipal structure of the suburbs outside Barcelona. (Busquets 2005, p. 31)
Almanzor's Sack of the city & The Reconstruction 985 C.E.
The Campaigns of Almanzor
The powerful Moorish ruler Al-Mansur, commonly known as Almanzor, conducted numerous successful campaigns against the Christian kingdoms and counties of the Iberian Peninsula, and Barcelona was no exception. The city was sacked and razed by Almanzor in 985 C.E. Except for the Roman walls, virtually the entire city was burnt to the ground. This obviously had a tremendous impact on the built form of the city. The Roman walls and the rebuilt city gates became a symbol of the city, a symbol of its tenacity and its strength. Because the old city took centuries to fully rebuild in a permanent way, much of it ended up being built in the Gothic style that would arise a century and a half after the city’s destruction. As such, the old medieval kernel of the modern city is often referred to as the Gothic Quarter or the Gothic City. There have been campaigns to restore sections of the Roman wall and to preserve the Gothic structures of the old city as part of historic preservation and as part of the Catalan nationalist movement, which glorifies this period of history as a time when Catalonia was free and independent. (Busquets 2005, pp. 32-34)