What happened on September 11th?
It was on this day in 1714 that the Catalan troops were defeated in Barcelona at the end of the War of Spanish Succession, which had lasted since July 1702. The war was fought to decide who would take over as King of Spain after the previous ruler, the Habsburg King Charles II, had died childless and so with no one to take over the throne. The war opposed Archduke Charles of Austria on the side of the Habsburg Monarchy, backed by England, Scotland, Prussia and Holland, and the forces of the Bourbon king, Philip V of Spain (originally from France).
The Catalan capital had been seized by Archduke Charles in 1705, and it wasn’t long before the local authorities, known as the Catalan Courts, accepted the Archduke as their new ruler. Until then, and since 1641, the area had been an independent Republic with its own political autonomy and constitution, under the protection of France.
However, towards the end of the War of Succession, a peace deal known as the Utrecht Treaty was signed and granted the power to the Bourbon king. The Catalan province was required to hand over power to the newly appointed ruler, but resistance was fought, and in 1714, the army of King Philip attacked the last of the Catalan troops in what is known as the Siege of Barcelona. The city finally capitulated on September 11, 1714, marking a devastating political defeat for the region.
As a result of what was seen as a betrayal on behalf of the Catalan province, the Bourbon king imposed the Nueva Planta decree which revoked the region’s political autonomy and abolished its constitution. There were also important administrative sanctions and the University of Barcelona, one of the oldest in Spain, was moved to Cervera. The Catalan language was officially banned, having major cultural repercussions in the area.
Why is this day so important in Catalonia?
The date was first marked as a national holiday in the province in 1886 and quickly became a symbol of its national identity and heritage. For many, September 11th represents the day that Catalonia’s independence was lost for the last time in history and the beginning of its submission to the Spanish monarchy.
Unsurprisingly, given the wide anti-Catalan sentiment of the authorities at that time, the celebration of the Catalan National Day was forbidden throughout the dictatorship of General Franco. It was not until 1980 that the national day was once again celebrated, upon the restoration of the autonomous government of Catalonia.
Significantly, there is a large independence movement here in Catalonia, with many citizens wishing to see the area regain full political independence and freedom from the central political powers in Madrid. For this reason, each year on the Diada, processions and demonstrations are organized by political parties, trade unions, and other pro-independence movements who see this as an occasion to display their opposition.
However, for some people, it is also simply a day to celebrate Catalan culture and identity, without any particular political message. In many towns and villages across Catalonia, festivities are organized with displays of traditional folklore such as the sardana– and ancient type of group dance – or castellers, the impressive human pyramids. There, the Diada is simply an occasion to celebrate the best of Catalan culture and take pride in its cultural heritage.
We show you two emblematic places to visit any day in Barcelona, but especially today, September 11.
⇒The Fossar de les Moreres, the old church cemetery, became historically important during the siege of Barcelona (1713-1714), when it was turned into the common grave of the men and women who died fighting to defend the city. It was remodeled and acquired its current layout in 1989, and in 2001, a torch was added with an eternal flame in memory of those who fell in the siege.
The beginning of the end
On 11 September 1714, during the War of the Spanish Succession, Barcelona surrendered to the Bourbon troops after 13 months of resistance and Philip V triumphantly entered the city. Harsh repression of both the populace and the Catalan institutions followed. Over time, 11 September became the National Day of Catalonia, the Diada, and the Fossar de les Moreres cemetery became the setting for annual political, social, and cultural events.
Defenders of the homeland
At the side separating the square from the street, Carrer de Santa Maria, you can read an inscription taken from the famous poem by Frederic Soler Pitarra, paying tribute to those who fell during the siege:
“Al fossar de les moreres / no s’hi enterra cap traïdor; / fins perdent nostres banderes / serà l’urna de l’honor” (In the graveyard of the mulberry trees / no traitor is buried / Even if we lose our flags / it will be our urn of honour)
These lines, which also appear on a commemorative plaque at the back of the square in the shade of the mulberry trees, refer to an episode during the siege, when apparently the gravedigger and his grandson refused to bury the corpse of an enemy soldier, despite the fact that he belonged to the same family (he was the son of the gravedigger and father of the grandson).
From a more universal perspective, the Fossar de les Moreres could be interpreted as a reminder of all anonymous combatants, a kind of tomb of the unknown soldier similar to those in other European cities.
The cemetery is right in the middle of the Ribera neighborhood, surrounded by historical buildings and places of great heritage interest, such as the Church of Santa Maria del Mar itself, Carrer de Montcada, and Passeig del Born, where centennial shops stand next to fashion boutiques.
⇒ Rafael Casanova Monument, Rafael Casanova was the Councillor in Chief of Barcelona during the war of the Spanish succession. He is a Catalan national hero and was wounded defending the city when it fell to Bourbon troops on September 11th 1714.
Catalan politicians and public figures lay floral tributes in front of the statute as part of the anual Diada de Catalunya commemorations.
The larger than life-size bronze statue by artist Rossend Nobas was commissioned in 1886. The statue shows a defiant Casanova with a pained expression just after being shot. In one hand he holds his sword, in the other the pendant of Saint Eulalia.
The carved stone plinth supporting the statue is the work of Josep Llimona and was added in 1914 when the statue was transferred to its current location on Ronda de Sant Pere. The location is said to coincide with where Casanova was shot.