The establishment of the Episcopal seat at La Seu d'Urgell has meant that the history of this area is linked to the prelates who have served as bishop of Urgell, one of the most important political posts of the Catalan counties. Stories of saints and heretics, and the ups and downs and the works of certain bishops have shaped the history of the county of Urgell.
The main elements of the heritage of this county are concentrated in La Seu d’Urgell. From La Seu d’Urgell, you can continue to the south, to the village of Organyà, or the route can be followed in the other direction if this is more convenient.
- From la Seu d’Urgell to Organyà
The history: Saint Ermengol of Urgell
The Muslim domination of the territories that should have made up the county of Urgell did not mean a break with the previous Visigoth order. On the contrary, as happened in other dioceses, the hierarchy of the church of Urgell maintained and even strengthened the civil and administrative functions that had been its privilege during the previous period.
In this context, with the area still under Muslim control, in 781, Felix arrived at the Episcopal seat of Urgell as a fervent supporter of adoptionism. This was a line of thought that was considered heretical and that sustained that Jesus Christ did not encompass two natures, the human and divine, but instead only the divine, while he only acceded to the human condition by adoption.
It was under this pretext of heresy that the Frankish kings, once they had conquered Urgell and Cerdanya in 788, dismantled the Visigoth administrative and ecclesiastical structures and removed the diocese from under the control of the Primate of Toledo in order to assign it to the Archbishop of Narbonne. Adoptionism was condemned as heresy in the councils of Regensburg (792) and Frankfurt (794), as a result of which Felix was removed from his post in 799. He died in prison in Lyon, without recanting, it would seem.
Another renowned bishop of Urgell was Saint Ermengol, bishop of Urgell between 1010 and 1035, remembered for establishing the Monastery of Santa Maria d’Urgell and for his promotion of the construction of the first Romanesque cathedral. He did not live to see its completion; he fell accidentally to his death from the scaffolding used in the construction of the new Bar Bridge in Cerdanya.
Saint Ot, son of the Count of Pallars, Artau, and Countess Lucia de la Marche, was also a bishop who was very active in terms of building work during his period as pontiff, between 1095 and 1122. He had the cathedral of La Seu d’Urgell rebuilt—a project that was not completed until the end of the 12th century—and he had the church of Guising consecrated. In addition to this, he established the Peace and Ceasefire of God in Urgell. This was a movement originally begun by the church, aimed at containing feudal violence and preserving the assets of the church and the clergy, as well as unarmed citizens and their property.
Highlights of the county of Urgell
A VISIT TO THE MONUMENTAL COMPLEX OF THE CATHEDRAL OF LA SEU D'URGELL
This stage of the route, which travels through the former Urgell, focuses on a visit to the imposing cathedral of Urgell, a magnificent example of Romanesque art, and the Diocesan Museum of La Seu d’Urgell. The Cathedral of Santa Maria d’Urgell is the only Romanesque cathedral in Catalonia. It dates back to the 12th century and it is the seat of the bishopric of Urgell. The group of buildings encompassed by this monumental complex is highly impressive: the chapels of Saint Eulalia, Saint Francis of Assisi and Saint Michael, and the cloister. The southern and eastern sides of the current cathedral were presumably the site of the Episcopal palace and the charity hospital.
The Diocesan Museum of La Seu d’Urgell is located in the former dean’s house, which is attached to the cathedral cloister. The museum houses various simply extraordinary pieces that are linked directly to Saint Ermengol, such as his cape, or to the founding of the Romanesque cathedral. The museum has a number of rooms open to visitors that are divided over three floors and a crypt, as well as additional rooms for temporary art exhibitions and rooms of multimedia exhibitions.
Alt Urgell Tourist Office
Passeig de Joan Brudieu, 15
25700 La Seu d’Urgell (Alt Urgell)
Tel.: (+34) 973 353 112 / 902 154 715
ARIVING IN LA SEU D’URGELL
La Seu d’Urgell has a large car park in Plaça Doctor Peiró, just behind the cathedral.
La Seu d'Urgell Tourist Office
Av. de les Valls d’Andorra, 33
25700 La Seu d’Urgell (Alt Urgell)
Tel.: (+34) 973 351 511
Points of interest in the county
A particular point of interest in the county of Urgell is the village of Organyà, where the text known as Les Homilies d’Organyà were written, to date the oldest known text in Catalan.
The village of Organyà is the site of the Collegiate Church of Santa Maria, which was constructed between the end of the 10th century and the start of the 11th century. It was originally based on a basilical design with three naves, but it was remodelled at various points throughout history. Only the apse, which has typical Lombard arches, and the main entrance remain of the first period of construction, during the Romanesque era. But Organyà is best known for its homilies, discovered in 1904. This is the oldest known text in Catalan and reproductions can be seen at the interpretation centre of the same name.
Address and contact details:
Organyà Tourist Office
Plaça de les Homilies, s/n
25794 Organyà (Alt Urgell)
Tel.: (+34) 973 382 007