Catalonia was once a province of Spain, and also a principality of the crown of Aragon. Now, as an autonomous state, it holds the status of a nation. It is made up of 947 municipalities and 41 counties.
It is bounded on the North by the Pyrenees, West by Aragon, South by Valencia, and East by the Mediterranean Sea. Its population in 2012 was 7.571 million, distributed over an an area of 12, 399 square miles.
The roughly triangle-shaped territory of Catalonia makes up the northeastern corner of the Iberian Peninsula. Since 1833, it has been made up of the four provinces of Catalonia: Barcelona, Gerona, Lérida and Tarragona.
The coast is partly sandy, partly rocky, and extends about 240 miles. The chief harbors of Catalonia are those of the capital, Barcelona, Mataró, Rosas and Tarragona. Its surface is somewhat uneven due to the presence within its area of spurs of the Pyrenees, the direction of which is generally south. At the same time, the range of the Sierra Llena, which bisects Catalonia, and forms its central watershed.
The principal rivers of Catalonia are the Ter, the Llobrégat, and the Ebro (a frequent answer in crossword puzzles), all of which run into the Mediterranean. None of these is navigable and has not served to further commerce to any great degree.
The climate of Catalonia, in spite of frequent mists and rains (reminiscent of Seattle), sudden changes of temperature (Denver), and occasional great midday heat (Phoenix), is overall healthy and favourable to vegetation. The dwarf-palm, orange, lime, and olive grow well in the warmer tracts; while in the higher grounds the thorn-apple, pomegranate, myrtle, esparto and heaths flourish. There is also much woodland, but meadows and pastures are rare.
Maize, millet, rye, flax, liquorice and fruits of all sorts—especially nuts, almonds, oranges, figs, walnuts and chestnuts—are produced. Large quantities of wheat are grown there, and wine grapes are extensively cultivated. Some cattle, sheep, goats and pigs are reared but are not major agricultural crops as far as the region is concerned.
Game is plentiful, and fisheries along the coast are excellent.
The wines of Catalonia tend to be rough and strong, though some are very good.
The Catalonians have a history of being a frugal, sharp-witted, and industrious people. They have great national pride, and a strong revolutionary spirit. The people of Catalonia are distinct in origin from the other inhabitants of Spain, from whom they differ in both dialect, costume, and custom.
Many feel that in their great energy and their love of enterprise they resemble the Basques.
Irrigation, careful husbandry and internal communications have contributed to the development of the resources of their country, and there are many manufacturing towns and industrial establishments.
Catalonia was one of the first Roman possessions in Spain, and formed the north-eastern portion of Hispania Tarraconensis. Around the year 470 it was occupied by the Alans and Goths. It was conquered by the Moors in 712, but these were in turn overthrown by the forces of Spain and the troops of Charlemagne in 788.
Subsequently, Catalonia was ruled by French counts, who soon made themselves independent of France. With the marriage of Count Raymond Berenger IV. of Barcelona with Petronilla of Aragon, Catalonia became annexed to Aragon; but this union was frequently severed. In 1640, when Philip IV. attempted to deprive Catalonia of its rights and privileges, it gave itself up to Louis XIII. of France.
Catalonia was eventually restored to Spain in 1659, and was once more occupied by the French from 1694 to 1697. Under Philip V., Catalonia, in 1714, was deprived of its courts and liberties. From 1808 to 1813 it was held by France, and, in 1823, it was the scene of a civil war, and of important revolutionary operations in the Carlist wars.
Its capital city, Barcelona is very popular with tourists.
Sights to See in Barcelona