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Cerdagne has a land area of 1,086.07 km² (419.33 sq. miles), 50.3% being Spanish territory, 49.7% being French territory. In 2001 the population of Cerdagne was approximately 26,500 inhabitants (53.4% on Spanish territory, 46.6% on French territory), which means a density of only 24 inh. per km² (63 inh. per sq. mile), one of the lowest densities in western Europe. The only urban area in Cerdagne is the cross-border urban area of Puigcerdà-Bourg-Madame : 10,900 inhabitants in 2001 (41% of the whole population of Cerdagne).
The first inhabitants of Cerdagne were probably speaking a language related to the old Basque language and to Aquitanian . Many place names testify to this. In the first millennium BC came the Iberians from the south. Although their identity is still a matter of debate, some theory posit that they were related to the Afro-Asiatic people, and that they separated from the Berbers in North Africa and moved into Spain and then up north to the south of modern-day France.
In Cerdagne they mixed with the native inhabitants, and the resulting people were known as the Kerretes, from the native word ker or kar meaning rock, related to old Basque karri (modern Basque harri, stone). The Kerretes were probably essentially of Basque and Aquitanian-related stock, as the Iberians who mixed with the native inhabitants were a small number of people. The Kerretes kept talking a language related to old Basque and Aquitanian, although some Iberian words may have entered the language, and Iberians clans probably occupied positions at the top of the Kerrete society.
The main oppidum of the Kerrete, commanding the whole country, was called Kere and was built on the hill above the modern-day village of Llívia (Spanish exclave in French territory). Later the Kerretes came under Roman rule, and the Roman renamed the oppidum Julia Libyca, with a significant number of Roman citizens settling there. During the Roman Empire, the area of Cerdagne was a pagus known as pagus Liviensis (name derived from its capital Julia Libyca), part of the province of Hispania Tarraconensis. The pagus Liviensis was itself divided in two: the eastern part around Julia Libyca was known as Cerretania Julia, while the western part was known as Cerretania Augusta. The name Cerdagne comes from Cerretania, itself coming from the old name of the inhabitants the Kerretes. As for Julia Libyca, the name evolved into Julia Livia, and then Llívia.
The Kerretes seem to have kept their old language until very late, probably as late as the 8th or 9th century. Romanization in the area was extremely slow, even though eventually the native language gave way, and people in Cerdagne ended up speaking Catalan, which is a language coming from Latin. At the end of the Roman Empire, Julia Libyca entered a period of decadence, and lost much of its importance. It is around this time that the town of La Seu d'Urgell (in Catalonia, but outside of Cerdagne) started to replace Julia Libyca as the main center of population in that area of northern Catalonia, and in the 6th century when the diocese (bishopric) of Urgell was founded, Cerdagne was inside its limits.
Devastated by the Vandals and other Germanic tribes, Cerdagne was part of the Visigoth kingdom of Toulouse and later Toledo, until eventually it was conquered by the Arabs, although they did not really settle in the area. Then in the end of the 8th century the Franks defeated the Arabs, and conquered the area of Catalonia.
County of Cerdagne
The county of Cerdagne has its origin in the Spanish Marches established by Charlemagne. In the 9th century Cerdagne was one of the lordships united in the person of the counts of Barcelona, who were also counts of Gerona, Narbonne and Urgell. Guifred I "le Velu" (count from 870 - 897) had three sons and established the youngest, Miron (died 927), as Count of Cerdagne.
The county of Cerdagne bordered the counts of Urgell, the county of Barcelona, the county of Besalú, the county of Roussillon, and the county of Razès. The county of Cerdagne was made up of Cerdagne proper, but also included other areas which it managed to acquire over time through inheritance, such as Capcir and Conflent. Thus, the county of Cerdagne was actually quite an important county. The counts of Cerdagne were great patrons of abbeys, most famously Saint-Michel de Cuxa (Catalan: Sant Miquel de Cuixà), located in Conflent.
Cerdagne proper was split between Spain and France at the Treaty of the Pyrenees of 1659, with the north of Cerdagne becoming French, while the south of Cerdagne remained Spanish. Capcir and Conflent also became French at that time.
Today, the Spanish side of Cerdagne is a Catalan comarca known as Baixa Cerdanya (i.e. "Lower Cerdagne"), and whose capital is Puigcerdà. Puigcerdà was already the capital of Cerdagne before the division of 1659, having replaced Hix in 1178 as capital of Cerdagne. Hix is the place where the counts of Cerdagne resided, and is now a village inside the commune of Bourg-Madame on the French side of the border. Hix had itself replaced Llívia, which was the ancient capital of Cerdagne in the Antiquity. At the Treaty of the Pyrenees it was decided that Llívia would remain Spanish (allegedly because the treaty stipulated that only villages were to be ceded to France, and Llívia was considered a city and not a village, due to its status as the ancient capital of Cerdagne), so Llívia is now an exclave of Spain inside French territory.
The French side of Cerdagne is part of the département of Pyrénées-Orientales and has no particular status. People in France refer to it as Cerdagne française (i.e. "French Cerdagne"), or just Cerdagne, while people in Catalonia refer to it as "High Cerdagne" (Alta Cerdanya). Its main towns are Bourg-Madame and the ski resort of Font-Romeu .
Spanish side (Baixa Cerdanya)
- Bellver de Cerdanya
- Fontanals de Cerdanya
- Guils de Cerdanyà
- Lles de Cerdanya
- Montellà i Martinet
- Prats i Sansor
- Riu de Pendís
French side (Cerdagne française)
- Angoustrine-Villeneuve-des-Escaldes (Catalan: Angostrina)
- Bolquère (Catalan: Bolquera)
- Bourg-Madame (Catalan: La Guingueta d’Ix)
- Égat (Catalan Èguet)
- Enveitg (Catalan Enveig)
- Err (Catalan Er)
- Eyne (Catalan Eina)
- Font-Romeu -Odeillo-Via (Catalan Font-Romeu or Odelló i Vià)
- La Cabanasse (Catalan La Cabanassa)
- Latour-de-Carol (Catalan La Tor de Querol)
- Mont-louis (Catalan Montlluís)
- Nahuja (Catalan Naüja)
- Osséja (Catalan Osseja)
- Palau-de-Cerdagne (Catalan Palau de Cerdanya)
- Planès (Catalan Planès)
- Porté-Puymorens (Catalan Portè)
- Saillagouse (Catalan Sallagosa)
- Saint-Pierre-dels-Forcats (Catalan Sant Pere dels Forcats)
- Sainte-Léocadie (Catalan Santa Llocaia)
- Targassonne (Catalan Targasona)
- Valcebollère (Catalan: Vallsabollera)
- Counts of Cerdagne: genealogical tree
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