Around the year 1000 a series of important political, social and economic changes took place. Are the prophecies true? The world comes to an end? Actually yes, a certain world exhales its last breath…
But another begins: the feudal world. A new era begins where political power is atomized, where the military force exercised by the feudal lords predominates, where the law that judges the people is derived only from the stately powers and where small agriculture must hand over its properties to these new powers and swear obedience. This is how feudal manors are built.
The beginnings of the Viscounty of Cabrera are situated in this context, in the 11th century, when Ermessenda de Montsoriu and Guerau de Cabrera, joining in marriage, created the embryo. They do not know it, but this incipient lordship, located in the current regions of La Selva, Osona, Vallès Oriental and Maresme, will go down in history achieving a symbiosis of more than 500 years between lineage and territory. Some genealogists of the time attribute legendary origins to the viscounty but, in this case, the actual vicissitudes of various viscounts, and other important characters of the viscounty surpass the legends.
During the 11th, 12th and 13th centuries, the eyes of the Cabrera lineage glimpse new landscapes towards the western lands, scenes of recent territorial conquests against the Saracens. They become viscounts of Àger and also have a prominent role in the history of the county of Urgell, when a branch of the family manages to obtain their ownership after a political dispute with King Jaime the Conqueror.
In 1278 Guerau VI de Cabrera died without male offspring. Faced with this situation, his only daughter, called Marquesa, takes the reins of the viscounty when she comes of age. In 1327 Marquesa de Cabrera granted an important privilege to the inhabitants of Hostalric, establishing the creation of her university (a neighbourhood community with legal personality). This fact becomes a decisive impulse towards the administrative capital of the viscounty by Hostalric and, also, for the promotion of some of its inhabitants. For example, Pere de SantAntoni, a notary public from Hostalric and a prominent jurist, who throughout his life holds various positions under Cabrera: ordinary judge, attorney general and notary public of the entire viscounty.
Marquesa survives her offspring and, when she ends, the vescomtal title is transferred to her cousin Bernardo I de Cabrera. Soon however, the litigation that Bernard’s son started against his own father was successful: Bernat II becomes the Viscount of Cabrera.
In the 14th century, the casal de Barcelona consolidated its power over the rest of the noble families of the Catalan counties and King Pedro el Ceremonioso carried out a policy of rigorous control of the territories he dominates and of Mediterranean maritime expansion there. In all these matters he had a principal advisor of proven fidelity: Bernat II de Cabrera. This viscount has a life worthy of a chivalric novel that ends as a real tragedy. He actively participated in land and naval battles where he achieved notable victories, becoming the insignia of the Catalan-Aragonese fleet, carrying out high political actions alongside the king…
But, eventually, he falls into disgrace; he is accused of treason against the crown, subjected to a judicial process and dies beheaded in 1364. Shortly before the descent of the Cabrera family, Bernat III had been appointed count of Osona by the king Peter the Ceremonious. Now, in the decline of the saga, the king takes advantage of the viscounty’s rebellion against the crown, motivated by the beheading of Bernat II, to confiscate all his possessions, including the new county of Osona. As for the revolt, finally only the castle of Montsoriu resists the long siege of the royal troops sent to quell it.
In addition, Bernat III died in 1368 fighting in Castilian lands after leaving Vescomtal territory when he saw the armed uprising fail. But the Cabrera’s wives, Timbor de Fenollet and Margarita de Foix, demand the return of their domains aided by the attorney general of the viscounty, the knight Berenguer de Malla, who always remains faithful to the service of the Cabrera lineage during all these military and political difficulties. In 1373 Pedro the Ceremonious returned the possessions (without the county of Osona) to Bernat IV de Cabrera, the grandson of Bernat II.
Bernat IV de Cabrera participated in the fight to regain power in Sicily together with the Catalan-Aragonese crown and is awarded a territory and a title on the island: the county of Modica. This good situation of Bernat IV chronologically matches with a period of transition towards the Renaissance: new airs, new techniques of warfare and new ways of living. Enturonat castles appearance was too rustic for this new aristocracy, who preferred urban palaces. In this context, the Viscount of Cabrera is the one who ordered the construction of the vescomtal palace in Blanes. The sea and trade take more prominence and promote the development of this town and its port. But the viscounts more and more set sail towards the Mediterranean, towards Sicily … And thus, with the rebirth of the splendour of the saga, the path towards a new historical change of remarkable importance also begins: the end of the fully feudal times and the arrival of modern times.
An important character that is at the service of the Viscounts of Cabrera is a good paradigm of this change and of the many facets of the men and women of the incipient European Renaissance: Jaume Ferrer de Blanes (1445? – 1529). Ferrer occupies the positions of clavario, general lieutenant and general collector of the vescomtats of Cabrera and Bas. And, as a cosmographer, cartographer and navigator, he communicated with Christopher Columbus and advised the Catholic Monarchs during the disquisitions on the territorial division of the Tordesillas treaty. Thus, we see that the footprint of the Viscounty of Cabrera and its inhabitants is increasingly widening outside the Catalan counties.
But also inside: the abbot Miguel Sansón of the monastery of San Salvador de Breda came to hold the position of president of the Generalitat from 1470 to 1473. Despite the changes, some characters from the different spheres of power in the viscounty continue to move around the higher spheres of politics.
Between the years 1566 and 1574 the Vescomtal territories passed to Francisco de Moncada, Marquis of Aitona, and finally the manorial title, by marriage, goes to the Montcada family in the house of the Fernández de Córdoba (Dukes of Medinaceli). The Viscounty of Cabrera disappeared in the 19th century when the manorial jurisdictions were extinguished.
But today several elements of this family and these events survive. For example, the heraldic symbol of the Cabrera family, the black goat on a gold background, is still present in some municipal coats of arms. Likewise, the current organization of the territory, communications and the function of some municipalities has their roots in the time of the viscounty. And, also, many elements of the tangible and intangible heritage that were created or managed during the Cabrera government period have survived to this day, surely with a different function but preserved, making their Vescomtal origin evident.
The Viscounty of Cabrera existed from the 11th to the 19th century, but its most outstanding years are those of the late Middle Ages (11th – 14th centuries), during feudalism. In the same way that feudal lordships are created and consolidated, the impressive new buildings of the time, castles, walls and churches are also raised stone by stone, thanks to the concentration of wealth in a few hands and, also, through the power of the discourses that ruled over society (obedience to military power and religious power). At the peak of the Cabrera viscounty, in the mid-fourteenth century, its limits ranged from the Sierra de Cabrera (in Collsacabra), from where the lineage took its name, to the coastal area of Blanes, in the Costa Brava; and from the baixmontsenyenc sector of the pre-littoral depression to the plain of La Selva.
Therefore, at this time the Viscounts of Cabrera dominate extensive domains that include 4071 fires or families, corresponding to approximately 20,500 inhabitants. This figure far exceeds the number of subjects of the rest of the country’s lords, who on average do not reach 2,000 families. As for the physical spaces of power in the territory of the viscounty, their cores are established squarely in the current region of La Selva, near the Montseny massif and the lower section of the Tordera River.
At a military level, of the more than thirty castles and fortified houses that were part of the Cabrera viscounty in the mid-14th century, the most important is the castle of Montsoriu (Arbúcies – Sant Feliu de Buixalleu). With the architectural reform ordered by Bernat II de Cabrera around 1350, Montsoriu was transformed into an impregnable castle endowed with the best characteristics at the poliorcetics level (as its military captain Berenguer de Malla can verify during the siege of Pedro el Ceremonioso) and, also, in a gothic palace with construction elements of authentic luxury, a true symbol of the military and stately power of the Cabrera family.
In the administrative sphere, the walled city of Hostalric, dominated by its medieval castle and endowed with a university (in the sense of “town hall”) in 1327 by the Viscountess Marquesa, centralizes the management and government functions of the Viscounty of Cabrera becoming the seat of the jurisdictional curia (with the presence of notaries, such as Pedro de SantAntoni, and writers). Hostalric also has a key geographical location, situated on top of one of the main access roads to the Iberian Peninsula and in the middle of two major cities: Girona and Barcelona. This strategic location of the town and the castle means that its defences continue to be used until contemporary times. Therefore, while the city walls and towers are the original ones from the Middle Ages, the old medieval castle has been transformed into a fortress with bastions and ravelins.
Regarding the religious reference, the Benedictine monastery of San Salvador de Breda is the spiritual centre of reference of the Viscounty of Cabrera. Founded in 1038 by the Viscounts Ermessenda de Montsoriu and Guerau de Cabrera, it has a magnificent Romanesque bell tower that still stands today marking the passage of 6 o’clock, just as it marks the rhythms of the community of Benedictine monks until the 19th century. At the beginning of the 14th century, great Gothic reforms were planned with the main objective of transforming the nave of the monastery church. Miquel Sansón, abbot of the Bredenc monastery between 1470 and 1507 and thirty-first president of the Generalitat of Catalonia, completes these long reforms by promoting the new facade of the church and the gothic abbey palace.
The coastal city of Blanes, dominated by the castle of San Juan, acquired a greater geopolitical prominence within the Viscount of Cabrera when, at the end of the 14th century, the viscounts achieved new Mediterranean dominions there. This greater role in Blanes is also evidenced by the presence of illustrious neighbours such as the versatile Jaume Ferrer (1445-1529). The Vescomtal palace, the Gothic fountain, the turns of the Ancha street and the portal of the Virgin Mary are the main material witnesses. For any territorial political entity, the fact of having a coastline is a very precious asset. Thus, for the Viscounty of Cabrera (at a time of commercial and military expansion through the Mediterranean and with the importance of coastal shipping in the transport of goods at the time), the port of Blanes had a very significant role, which was a key element when Bernat IV de Cabrera hold the title of Count of Modica (Sicily).
But, in addition to these important symbols of power in the Viscounty of Cabrera, there are many other elements that are part of the rich Vescomtal architectural heritage: the old Hermitage of San Pedro Sestronques de Inglés, the castle of Caldes de Malavella, the castle of San Juan de Lloret de Mar, the Cistercian monastery of Valldemaria de Maçanet de la Selva, the tower of Pega de Riells i Viabrea, the church of Sant Feliu de Buixalleu, the church of Santa Maria de Sils, the castle of Fornils de Susqueda, the castle of Sant Iscle de Vidreres, etc.
Thus, the Viscounty of Cabrera has a numerous first-rate architectural heritage, which is complemented by an interesting intangible heritage (legends, festivals, traditional artisan techniques …), and which is integrated into a varied natural heritage that since the highest peaks of the Montseny Biosphere Reserve, with its beech and fir trees, up to the pine-covered cliffs that pour out over the Mediterranean on the Costa Brava; passing through the hills, the plains and the rivers, streams and humid areas of the Jungle with the presence of holm oaks, cork oaks, riverside forests … In short, a living territory with a great diversity of landscapes where the spirit of the places becomes apparent.
Visiting the different places, towns and heritage elements of the Viscounty of Cabrera allows you to relive and understand the Middle Ages with rigor, following in the footsteps of one of the most important noble lines of Catalonia: the Cabrera. At the same time, but while we enter the viscounty to discover its attractive medieval past, we have the opportunity to live intensely a territory that is very active in the present: parties, commerce, gastronomy, accommodation, sports and cultural activities…
Multiple possibilities to enjoy fully enriching personalized experiences in a context where the essence of the Viscounty of Cabrera is maintained, which today is one of the identity traits of a community that claims it without nostalgia but with pride, and that wants to share it with its visitors…
Visiting the various places, towns and heritage elements of the Viscounty of Cabrera allows you to relive and understand the Middle Ages with rigor, following in the footsteps of one of the most important noble lines of Catalonia: the Cabrera. At the same time, while we enter the viscounty to discover its attractive medieval past, we have the opportunity to live intensely a territory that is very active in the present: parties, commerce, gastronomy, accommodation, sports and cultural activities …
Multiple possibilities to provide the visitor with a fully enriching customized experience in a context where the essence of the Viscounty of Cabrera is maintained, as one of the identity traits of a community that claims it without nostalgia but with pride, and that wants to share it with its visitors…