The memory of a country

Permanent exhibition

On the periphery of the empire

For Catalonia, the Modern Age was a period of economic and demographic expansion, not without its conflicts. Within the Spanish Monarchy, the Principality maintained its own institutions of government, but the growing authoritarianism of the kings led to confrontation between two different concepts of politics.

Wars over the European hegemony of the Habsburgs, the increase in Berber and Ottoman piracy in the western Mediterranean and banditry caused by the increase in inequality in society characterised a period also marked by the exuberant Baroque style and the dogmas of the Counter-Reformation.

The conflicts between Catalonia and the monarchy reached their peak during the Reapers’ War (1640-1659) and the War of the Spanish Succession (1702-1715). At the end of the latter conflict, Philip V, the first king of the Bourbon dynasty, abolished Catalonia’s constitutions and institutions with the Nueva Planta decree.

A corner of the empire

From 1516 onwards, Catalonia formed part of the territories of the Habsburgs, a huge European empire which also extended into America led from Castile. Catalonia was a peripheral territory virtually unable to intervene on general issues. In the north, there were continual wars on the French border, while in the Mediterranean the threat of the Ottoman Empire and the scourge of Berber piracy were very much present.

However, Catalonia maintained its idiosyncrasies and system of government, based on the constitutions and the tradition of consensus. This tradition continues to evolve and was in contrast to the growing authoritarianism of the monarchy. During the 16th century, despite the great conflicts, the population of the country increased and the economy recovered some of its former success.


Charles I, count of Barcelona

After the death of Ferdinand the Catholic, Charles of Ghent inherited the territories of the Spanish Monarchy. In 1519, he called the Corts of the Principality and swore the Catalan constitutions. That year, he also became Holy Roman Emperor, as Charles V.


The revolt of the Brotherhoods

This was a popular revolt that spread through the kingdoms of Valencia and Majorca. It had similarities with a series of anti-seigneurial outbreaks occurring all over Europe. There were only a few disturbances in the Principality of Catalonia.

1519 - 1523

Battle of Lepanto

To combat the rise of the Ottoman Empire in the Mediterranean, the Holy League was established – an alliance formed by the Spanish Monarchy, the Holy See, the Duchy of Savoy and the republics of Genoa and Venice. Its navy, commanded by John of Austria, defeated the Ottomans in the Gulf of Lepanto.


Expulsion of the moriscos

The decrees to expel the Moriscos were promulgated by Philip III, who ordered their perpetual exile from the Spanish kingdoms. The Moriscos were the descendants of the population of Muslim origin, forced to convert to Christianity after 1526.


The revolt of The Reapers

The presence of Spanish tercios and the authoritarian policy of the government of the Count-Duke of Olivares were the sparks that ignited the latent social and political conflict. The political institutions of the country joined the popular rising and rebelled against the Spanish Monarchy.


Treaty of the Pyrenees

The Treaty of the Pyrenees put an end to the Reapers’ War and the conflict between the Spanish Monarchy and France. Under this treaty, the county of Rosselló and part of Cerdanya were ceded to France, becoming known as Roussillon and Cerdagne.


Death of Charles II

The death of Charles II, the last monarch of the Habsburg dynasty, without issue led to a conflict between the various European powers.


The masia or farmhouse

The masia or farmhouse

Bandits and pirates

Violence was frequent in Catalonia in the Modern Age. Many private conflicts were resolved with arms. The groups of bandits were the result of social and economic changes that brought with them greater social polarisation. Revenge, crime, kidnapping, blackmail, attacks and even small-scale private wars proliferated in a society marked by gang culture.

Piracy increased due to the struggle between the different Mediterranean States, particularly between the Ottoman Empire and the Spanish Monarchy. Fleets from North Africa launched violent attacks on the Catalan coast. Gradually, however, a defensive network based on watchtowers was organised.

The Miquelet lock

The Miquelet lock



The Counter-Reformation and the Baroque style

After the Council of Trent (1545-1563), the Catholic Church redefined its dogmas, questioned by the Protestant Reformation, and dictated a new morality. In the Spanish kingdoms, the Counter-Reformation was imposed by Philip II and his successors, with a considerable component of fanaticism and intolerance towards other religious beliefs.

In art, the Renaissance style gave way to the Baroque, characterised by a more exuberant language. Catalan continued to be the language popularly used at all levels of society and there were great authors such as Vicenç Garcia and Francesc de Fontanella. However, the local aristocracy became castilianised and Castilian Spanish gradually became the predominant language of culture, fuelled by the literature of the Golden Age.

Altarpiece from the Procurator’s House in Escaladei

Altarpiece from the Procurator’s House in Escaladei


The Baroque altarpiece consists of an altar table with two drawers, two cupboards on each side, two steps and a terrace above the altar. The main body includes a display niche enclosed with glass containing an image of the Virgin and Child.

Saint Bruno

Polychrome terracotta sculpture representing Saint Bruno of Cologne, founder of the Carthusian order.

Saint Roseline

Polychromed terracotta sculpture representing Saint Roseline of Villeneuve (Provence), a Carthusian nun.

Arms of the Carthusian monastery of Escaladei

The altarpiece originally formed part of the chapel of the Procurator’s House for the Carthusians of Escaladei in Carrer Banys Nous in Barcelona. In 1835, the Royal Academy of Medicine of Catalonia established its headquarters in the house.

The Reapers’ War

During the 17th century, war between Spain and France was bound to affect Catalan territory. The presence and arbitrary nature of the Spanish tercios, together with the authoritarian policy of the Count-Duke Olivares, were the spark that ignited the latent social and political conflict. In 1640, Catalonia rose up against the Spanish Monarchy.

The popular revolution, led by the peasants, was followed by a political revolution led by the institutions. These events were remembered in a popular song, Els Segadors (The Reapers), which is the origin of Catalonia’s national anthem. The long war (1640-1659) ended with the signing of the Treaty of the Pyrenees. Under this treaty, the county of Rosselló and part of Cerdanya were annexed to the French Crown and became known as Roussillon and Cerdagne.

Els Segadors (The Reapers)

Els Segadors (The Reapers)

The War of the Spanish Succession

The death without issue of Charles II unleashed an international conflict: the War of the Spanish Succession (1702-1715). Beyond the dynastic issue in the dispute for the Spanish throne, there were political, strategic and trade issues that ended up dividing Europe into two opposing sides.

The Catalans finally positioned themselves in favour of Archduke Charles of Austria (Charles III) and against Duke Philip of Anjou (Philip V), who had the support of the Crowns of Castile and France. The main consequence of defeat in the war and the fall of Barcelona on 11 September 1714, was the abolition of the Catalan constitutions and institutions and the beginning of harsh repression.

El sitio de Barcelona

11 September

11 September