- Diocese of Urgell
The Diocese of
Urgellis a Roman Catholic ecclesiastical unit in Catalonia, Spain, with origins in the fifth century ADor possibly earlier.
Among its most notable events are Bishop Felix's adoptionist revolt, the coup of Bishop Esclua and the overthrowing of the bishop by members of aristocratic families (namely Salla i Ermengol del Conflent, Eribau i Folcs dels Cardona, Guillem Guifré de Cerdanya and Ot de Pallars) between the years 981 and 1122.
Also important is the diocese's patronage of
Andorra, with the bishop holding the role of "ex officio" Co-Prince of the Pyrenean Catalan-speaking nation jointly with the President of the French Republic. Andorrawas ceded to the Bishop of Urgellby the Count Ermengol IV of Urgell in the 12th century.
Up to 1802, the ecclesiastical border corresponded with the royal one established under the
Treaty of the Pyreneesin 1659. As such the 33 towns of the northern Cerdanya(now in France) came under the diocese's control.
Description of the Diocesan Territory
Roman Catholic Churchcontrols the metropolitan church of Tarragona, with its see or capital of the Seu d’Urgell (Urgell See). It contains 7630 km² and a population of 200,761 according to the 2000 censusand is the largest bishopric of the eight that have a see in Catalonia. In contrast, it is the most sparsely populated. The diocese borders the bishoprics of Vic, Solsona, Lleida, Barbastro-Monzón, Toulouse, Pamiersand Perpignan. It has been deeply linked for many years to the regions that constituted the counties of Urgell, Pallarsand Cerdanyaduring the Middle Ages, with which it identifies and forms a historical and geographic unit maintained up to the present day. The diocese totally or partially occupies the Ripollès, Cerdanya, Alt Urgell, Segarra, Urgell, Pla d'Urgell, Noguera, Pallars Jussà, Pallars Sobirà, Alta Ribagorçaand the Vall d'Aranregions.
The bishopric’s jurisdiction extends to 408 parishes, although today some have a very reduced population. Almost all of the parishes come from distant times, as the very titular saints of their churches. The most common are
Saint Mary(in 90 parochial churches, as well as the cathedral), Saint Peter(35), Saint Martin (29), Saint Saturninus(24), Saint Steven(23), Saint Michael(19), Saint Andrew(17), Saint Julian (12), Saint Eulalia(11), Saint Vincent and Saint Felix (10). Many churches of the bishopric, parochial or not, conserve elements of great architectural interest, and thirty-six of them are considered cultural goods of national interestin Spain.
Amongst all Catalonian bishoprics, the Diocese of Urgell has been that which has experienced the most border-related changes throughout its existence, mainly for political reasons: the loss of
Ribagorça(9th century), to the benefit of the Diocese of Roda, and the cession of 144 parishes of the Berguedà, the Solsonèsand a part of the Segarra, to the benefit of the new diocese of Solsona (1593-1623); later, it was necessary to adapt the territory to the borders between states, and thus in 1803, the 24 parishes of French Cerdagne, which had been ceded to France from the Treaty of the Pyrenees in 1659, also passed ecclesiastically to that country; and in 1804, the 28 from the Aran Valley, a territory circumscribed by Franceyet united fully to the Catalan-Aragonese territories at least since the 12th century, were annexed to the diocese of Urgell, coming from the eliminated Gascondiocese of Sant Bertran de Comenge. In 1874 the sixty-odd towns that formed the erstwhile exempt jurisdictions of Gerri, Mur, Montodó-Bonrepòs, the order of Saint John of Jerusalemand Meiàwere annexed to the diocese. Finally, in 1956, the diocese gained the seven parishes of the Artesa de Segreenclave and gave up the 19 of the Franja de Ponent[Western Strip] to Lleidaand Barbastre, grouped into three enclaves.
Origin of the Urgell Diocese
The diocese, without excluding the possibility of a more remote origin, was already constituted at the beginning of the 6th century. The first known bishop, Saint Justus, figures among the participants of the councils of Toledo (531),
Lleidaand Valencia (546). His successors also took part regularly in the Toledo councils celebrated throughout the 7th century. The Episcopal succession, despite the uncertainty of names and chronology, seems to not be interrupted by the Saraceninvasion of 714. Monasticismmust have been introduced into the diocese during the Visigothic period. The monasteries of Tavèrnoles, Gerri, Codinet, and Trespontsare probably anterior to the Saracen invasion. These foundations and the later ones-- la Vedella, Elins, Bagà, la Portella, les Maleses, Villanega, Oveix, Bellera, el Burgal, Lavaix, Alaó, Escales, Ovarra, Taverna, Gualter, etc.--often adopted the Benedictine observance from the 9th century on, following the example of the majority of the coenobitic monasteries then extant in the Marca Hispanica. This became the norm for monastic life in the following century. These monasteries, alongside the parochial and canonical organization (the Urgell Diocese, Solsona, Cardona, Organyà, Ponts, Ager, Mur, Tremp) would greatly influence the Christianization of the country and in its human, cultural and economic development.
The canonical monasteries derived into colleges as a result of their
secularization(1592), and due to their corruption, the 1851 concord eliminated them, along with the other preexisting ones ( Castellbò, Guissona, Balaguer). Mur and Àger were without a doubt the most famous Catalan canonical colleges, exempt from episcopal jurisdiction
Early Middle Ages
pontificateof the Bishop Felix(781-799), who was accused of adoptionismby the Carolingiantheologians and for this motive deposed and confined to Lyon, the city of Urgell and its church were completely destroyed by the Arabs around 793. With the founding of the Marca Hispanica, the diocese, like the others recently restored, became part of the ecclesiastical province of Narbonneuntil the recreation of the metropolitan see of Tarragonain 1091. The Frankishkings intervened effectively in the country’s reconstruction, promoting the Reconquestlaying the foundations of its government. The territory now being free, mainly, from the Moors' power, with the help of the first Catalan Counts, they promoted the construction of a new cathedral, completed in the second part of the 9th century, to which were assigned 289 towns or villages--all the northwestern area of the Pyrenees.
At the same time, the Urgell church, ruled for more than two centuries (914-1122) by members of the Counts' families, fully entered the ring of the feudal system, which allowed it to shape for itself an extensive seigniorial patrimony, which among other cities and territories included the city of Urgell, the valleys of
Andorra, the Vall de la Llosa, the Vall d’Arquesand the Ribera Salada, the villages of Sanaüja, Guissona, and from 1257 onwards, Tremp. This, however, forced it into a certain dependence on the superior power of the Counts. Also, the Gregorian Reform, introduced to the County of Urgell during the last years of the 11th century, preceded by the change of the Visigothic ritefor the Roman rite, reduced those interventions of the laymenin ecclesiastical affairs and achieved the complete freedom of the Church in the spiritual and temporal domains. Moreover, the maintenance of those possessions originated constant tension and fighting throughout the Middle Ages with the Viscounts of Castellbóand his heirs, the Counts of Foix.
List of Bishops of Urgell
1 During a "
List of Co-Princes of Andorra
* [http://www.bisbaturgell.org/bisbat_urgell/episcopologi.htm Episcopologi de l'Església d'Urgell List of Bishops from 527]
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