The Catalan language is considered by many people one of the dialects of the Spanish language that is spoken exclusively in Barcelona and the other cities located in the region known as Catalonia.
In fact, Catalan has numerous dialects itself, an overview of its history and evolution revealing that, 13 centuries ago, a wide territory of Europe was inhabited by people who spoke it as their native language.
Brief History of the Catalan Language
As many other Romanic languages, it derived from the vulgar Latin, the first documents written in an early form of Catalan dating in 1080. However, as a spoken language, it appeared in the 8th century and it developed once the County of Barcelona became independent from the Carolingian Empire.
The Low Middle Ages marked a peak in the popularity of the Catalan language, as it was spoken not only in the Spanish kingdoms of Aragon and Castille and in some regions from Valencia, but also in Sardinia and Sicily. With the signing of the "Treaty of the Pyrenees", in 1659, the North of Catalonia came under French ruling. As a direct result, the language was spread to other regions of France by the Catalan speakers who settled there.
The modern era came with laws that discriminated the citizens who spoke and wrote in a dialect instead of using the official language of the state. In France, the most famous laws in this category were issued in 1789, after the victory of the republicans over the monarchy in the French Revolution. They are known as the "patois" laws, from the term used to indicate the prohibited languages.
In Spain, discriminatory laws expressly banned the use of Catalan and other non-official languages and dialects during the Francisco Franco's dictatorial ruling from 1939 to 1978. Today, the independent state of Andorra adopted Catalan as its official language, while, in France and Spain, although it does not have the statute of an official language, it is widely used in public institutions from the regions where the majority of the population speaks Catalan.
Famous Representatives of the Medieval Catalan Literature
Ausias March - He was born in 1397, in Gandia, but he moved to Valencia, being considered one of the greatest medieval poets in this region. His entire literary creation is written in Catalan, with Cant Spiritual being considered his masterpiece.
Joanot Martorell - Born in 1413, in Valencia, he is famous for creating Tirant lo Blanch, one of the most popular chivalry novels. Some specialists even consider it as being the first modern novel of the European literature.
The literary creations of these authors continue to be reprinted and read by many people, being a proof of the popularity the Catalan language enjoys.
The palace of Alhambra, poetically named by the locals "the red flower of the Andalusia", is a splendid work of art, a monument reminding of the Moor domination in this part of the Iberic Peninsula. The delicate, detailed, magnificent decorations of different rooms in the palace speak of a time of peace, when science and culture flourished.
A document from year 889 mentions for the first time a fortress, the Alhambra Q'alat, and a primitive form of castle occupying the current location of the palace. However, the monument, as it is today, was built starting from 1238, during the reign of Abdallah ibn al-Ahmar.
Muhammad II and Muhammad III continued the plans of their ancestor, turning Alhambra into a complex of marvelous palaces that, starting with the reign of Youssef I and his successor Mohammed V, served as the main residence of the Moor rulers.
After the conquest of Andalusia and Granada by the Spanish troops of the Catholic rulers Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabel of Castille, a part of Alhambra was destroyed, because it was considered a monument dedicated to paganism and pleasures, in total opposition with the dogma of the Catholic church.
Although the destroyed part was rebuilt a few times, even serving as a royal residence during the reigns of Charles I (1516-1556) and Philip V (1700-1746), it was never fully restored to its former splendor.
Currently, the whole complex is declared UNESCO World Heritage Site, with the accent on the buildings that preserve the Moorish decorative and architectural style.
Representative Parts of the Alhambra
- Hall of the Ambassadors - It is the largest hall of the complex, situated on the Torre de Comares. The floor of the room is decorated with square and oval tiles, the latter featuring inscriptions that make them resemble a medallion. A pattern of leaves and flowers also decorates the floor, interwoven with the medallions.
- Court of the Lions - This interior court is famous for featuring a gallery supported by more than 120 columns, all of them made of white marble. The pavilions placed at each square of the patio have the walls covered in small tiles and the roof shaped as a dome. The fountain from the center of the court is known as the "Fabulous Fountain" or "The Fountain of Lions", as the basin is sustained by 12 white marble statues shaped as lions.
- Sala de los Abencerrajes - It features a beautifully gold, blue, red and brown decorated ceiling, with the support columns springing and forming arches. The visual effect offered by this element is truly impressive, and it is the same in the case of the over 500 stalactites decorating the portion of the ceiling shaped like a dome.
No visit of Spain would be complete without a tour of this one of a kind architectural masterpiece.
Arts are a fundamental part of the Spanish culture, and Picasso and Goya are the names on everyone's lips, especially as far as painting is concerned. While the former is perceived more as an universal spirit, the latter is known for representing memorable scenes from the history of the country and for portraying important figures of the Spanish high society of his time.
Francisco Goya was born on the 30th of March, 1746, in the town of Fuendetodos from Aragon, one of the most important historic regions of Spain. When he was 14, Goya became the apprentice of Jose Luzan, a famous painter of that time, then, he began to study with Anton Raphael Mengs, another famous painter, a favorite of the nobles at the Spanish Court.
However, Goya began to manifest his personality and to develop his unique style, using light, delicate tonalities and fine shades under the guidance of Francisco Bayeu, whose sister Josefa he married in 1773.
This is when his road to fame began, a great number of court officials and highly ranked noblemen, such as the Crown Prince Don Luis, the Count of Floridablanca, and, last but not least, the Duke of Alba and his wife, commissioning Goya to paint their portraits.
In 1808, Spain was invaded by the French troops of Emperor Napoleon, a moment which, along with the death of his beloved wife Josefa, marked dramatically Goya's life and career. After the former king, Philip VII, was reinstated, the artist felt isolated and deluded by the intolerant policy of the government, so, in 1819, he moved to France, where he remained until his death, in 1828.
Goya's Most Famous Works
- "The Majas" - This name refers to two of his most famous paintings, "La Maja Desnuda" and "La Maja Vestida". In the same room, with the same decor elements, a woman is painted in a provocative, inviting position. In the first painting, La Maja Desnuda, she is represented naked, while in La Maja Vestida, the woman is painted with the clothes on.
- "The Disasters of War" - It is the generic name given to a series of 81 aqua-tint plates presenting moments from the French invasion and from the brutally repressed May 2nd, 1808 uprising. Instead of presenting battle scenes, the plates are a terrible chronicle of the horrific effects war had on the population.
- "The Black Paintings" - They were created after the restoration of the monarchy in Spain, during the period Goya lived in "Quinta de Sordo" (Mansion of the Deaf Man). The dark images of witches gathered to celebrate the Sabbath or the god Saturn devouring one of his children are, according to most of the specialists, reflections of the artist's tormented mind.
Regardless of their subject and the manner in which they are painted, all Goya's works are part of the invaluable Spanish cultural treasure.
Impressive cathedrals, fantastic landscapes and richly decorated palaces are not the only things Spain welcomes its visitors with. In fact, the local cuisine is one of the main reasons why people find it difficult to leave this country and look for excuses to return again and again.
- Aragon - The rural area of the region is famous for the pork dishes such as "almojabanas de cerdo" that consists in roasted pork legs and vegetables, or "magras con tomate", lean pork meat in tomato sauce. If you prefer lamb, you absolutely have to try one of the specialties of this island, called "asado de ternasco", roasted lamb with fat bacon, garlic and salt.
- Cantabria - It is the land of fine quality dairy products, "quesucos de Liebana", smoked cheese and "picon Bejes-Tresviso" being some of the most famous. Tasty pastries are also prepared in this region, "quiesadas pasiegas" and "sobaos" being just two examples.
- Andalucia - This region of Spain is well-known for the great variety of cold and hot soups prepared here. The "Gazpacho", based on a mixture of five types of vegetables and vinegar, the "Zoque" and the pulley are representative for the first category, while the so-called "cat soup" is the most popular hot soup prepared in Andalusia.
- Basque Country - The dishes specific to this area are very spicy, and most of them are based on meat and fish. Cod specialties such as "cod Bilbao" or "bacalao al pil pil" are very appreciated by locals and tourists alike.
- Catalonia - The long tradition in culinary art and the impressive variety of tasty dishes are two of the things that made this region famous. Farigola soup, tortilla beans, "escudella" and coca "recapte" are just some of the delicious, mouthwatering specialties prepared here.
- Valencia - The cuisine specific to the coastal area is focused on fish dishes, "all i pebre" being frequently cooked and highly appreciated. The rural region of Valencia is known for "fideua" and "paella".
Spanish Islands Cuisine
- Canary Islands - A great variety of fish dishes, accompanied by mojo picon, a kind of sauce, are specific to this area. All kinds of fruits growing on the islands, such as persimmons, Platanos de Canaria or mangos are frequently consumed. The Canary Islands are also known for the Malvasia wine produced here.
- Balearic Islands - The local cuisine was substantially influenced by the British and the French occupation during various periods of its history. Spicy sausages, the Mahon cheese and roasted suckling pig are some of the foods and dishes commonly met here.
Everywhere you go in Spain, you have the chance to live an incredible culinary experience. All you need is time and a local wine to match the delicious flavors.