Definitions

Usatges of Barcelona

Usages of Barcelona

The Usages of Barcelona (Catalan: Usatches or Usatges de Barcelona, Castilian: Usos or Usanzas de Barcelona) were the customs that form the basis for the Catalan constitutions. They are the fundamental laws, fueros, and basic rights of the Catalonia, dating back to their codification in the twelfth century.

The Usages combined fragments of Roman and Visigothic law with the resolutions of the comital court of Barcelona and the religious canons of ecclesiastic synods. The first Usages were compiled and codified by Ramon Berenguer I, Count of Barcelona (10351076), to repair the deficiencies of Gothic law. However, the evidence for Ramon's work dates from the codes of James the Conqueror of a later date (reigned 12131276). James, seeing that some judges ruled by Gothic law and some by Roman law, according to a tradition of usus terrae (local custom), approached the Cortes in 1251 to establish the primacy of the Usages. Though the Usages applied legally only to the Barcelonan county, in practice they were applied to the entire Principality of Catalonia.

The Usages incorporated several other competing codes of the same era:

The oldest manuscript containing the Usages dates from the end of the twelfth century. Between the fifteenth and eighteenth centuries, they were copied frequently. The Nueva Planta decrees superseded them with the central legislation of the Bourbons, though continued to have some force.

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