Roman Catholic Diocese of Urgell

Diocese of Urgell
Dioecesis Urgellensis
Diócesis de Urgell (es)
Diòcesi d'Urgell (ca)

Country Spain and Andorra
Ecclesiastical province Tarragona
Metropolitan Tarragona
Area 7,630 km2 (2,950 sq mi)
- Total
- Catholics
(as of 2010)
195,270 (96.3%)
Denomination Roman Catholic
Sui iuris church Latin Church
Rite Roman Rite
Established 4th Century
Cathedral Cathedral of St Mary in Urgell
Current leadership
Pope Francis
Bishop Joan Enric Vives i Sicília
Metropolitan Archbishop Jaume Pujol i Balcells
Website of the Diocese

The Diocese of Urgell is a Roman Catholic diocese in Catalonia, Spain, and Andorra,[1][2] with origins in the fifth century AD or possibly earlier. It is based in the region of the historical Catalan County of Urgell, though it has different borders. The seat and Cathedral of the bishop are situated in la Seu d'Urgell town. The state of Andorra is a part of this diocese.

Among its most notable events are Bishop Felix's adoptionist revolt, the coup of Bishop Esclua and the overthrowing of the bishop by members of aristocratic families (namely Salla i Ermengol del Conflent, Eribau i Folcs dels Cardona, Guillem Guifré de Cerdanya and Ot de Pallars) between the years 981 and 1122.

Also important is the diocese's patronage of Andorra, with the bishop holding the role of ex officio Co-Prince of the Pyrenean Catalan-speaking nation jointly with the President of the French Republic (and formerly, the King of France). Andorra was ceded to the Bishop of Urgell by the Count Ermengol VI of Urgell in 1133.[3]

Up to 1802, the ecclesiastical border corresponded with the royal one established under the Treaty of the Pyrenees in 1659. As such the 33 towns of the northern Cerdanya (now in France) came under the diocese's control.

Description of the diocesan territory

The Roman Catholic Church controls the metropolitan church of Tarragona, with its see or capital of the Seu d’Urgell (Urgell See). It contains 7630 km² and a population of 200,761 according to the 2000 census and is the largest bishopric of the eight that have a see in Catalonia. In contrast, it is the most sparsely populated. The diocese borders the bishoprics of Vic, Solsona, Lleida, Barbastro-Monzón, Toulouse, Pamiers and Perpignan. It has been deeply linked for many years to the regions that constituted the counties of Urgell, Pallars and Cerdanya during the Middle Ages, with which it identifies and forms a historical and geographic unit maintained up to the present day. The diocese totally or partially occupies the Ripollès, Cerdanya, Alt Urgell, Segarra, Urgell, Pla d'Urgell, Noguera, Pallars Jussà, Pallars Sobirà, Alta Ribagorça and the Vall d'Aran regions.

The bishopric’s jurisdiction extends to 408 parishes, although today some have a very reduced population. Almost all of the parishes come from distant times, as the very titular saints of their churches. The most common are Saint Mary (in 90 parochial churches, as well as the cathedral), Saint Peter (35), Saint Martin (29), Saint Saturninus (24), Saint Steven (23), Saint Michael (19), Saint Andrew (17), Saint Julian (12), Saint Eulalia (11), Saint Vincent and Saint Felix (10). Many churches of the bishopric, parochial or not, conserve elements of great architectural interest, and thirty-six of them are considered cultural goods of national interest in Spain.

Amongst all Catalonian bishoprics, the Diocese of Urgell has been that which has experienced the most border-related changes throughout its existence, mainly for political reasons: the loss of Ribagorça (9th century), to the benefit of the Diocese of Roda, and the cession of 144 parishes of the Berguedà, the Solsonès and a part of the Segarra, to the benefit of the new diocese of Solsona (1593-1623); later, it was necessary to adapt the territory to the borders between states, and thus in 1803, the 24 parishes of French Cerdagne, which had been ceded to France from the Treaty of the Pyrenees in 1659, also passed ecclesiastically to that country; and in 1804, the 28 from the Aran Valley, a territory circumscribed by France yet united fully to the Catalan-Aragonese territories at least since the 12th century, were annexed to the diocese of Urgell, coming from the eliminated Gascon diocese of Sant Bertran de Comenge. In 1874 the sixty-odd towns that formed the erstwhile exempt jurisdictions of Gerri, Mur, Montodó-Bonrepòs, the order of Saint John of Jerusalem and Meià were annexed to the diocese. Finally, in 1956, the diocese gained the seven parishes of the Artesa de Segre enclave and gave up the 19 of the Franja de Ponent [Western Strip] to Lleida and Barbastre, grouped into three enclaves.

Origin of the Urgell diocese

The diocese, without excluding the possibility of a more remote origin, was already constituted at the beginning of the 6th century. The first known bishop, Saint Justus, figures among the participants of the councils of Toledo (531), Lleida and Valencia (546). His successors also took part regularly in the Toledo councils celebrated throughout the 7th century. The Episcopal succession, despite the uncertainty of names and chronology, seems to not be interrupted by the Saracen invasion of 714.

Monasticism must have been introduced into the diocese during the Visigothic period. The monasteries of Tavèrnoles, Gerri, Codinet, and Tresponts are probably anterior to the Saracen invasion. These foundations and the later ones--la Vedella, Elins, Bagà, la Portella, les Maleses, Villanega, Oveix, Bellera, el Burgal, Lavaix, Alaó, Escales, Ovarra, Taverna, Gualter, etc.--often adopted the Benedictine observance from the 9th century on, following the example of the majority of the coenobitic monasteries then extant in the Marca Hispanica. This became the norm for monastic life in the following century. These monasteries, alongside the parochial and canonical organization (the Urgell Diocese, Solsona, Cardona, Organyà, Ponts, Ager, Mur, Tremp) would greatly influence the Christianization of the country and its human, cultural and economic development.

The canonical monasteries derived into colleges as a result of their secularization (1592), and due to their corruption, the 1851 concord eliminated them, along with the other preexisting ones (Castellbò, Guissona, Balaguer). Mur and Àger were without a doubt the most famous Catalan canonical colleges, exempt from episcopal jurisdiction

Early Middle Ages

On the first decade of the Umayyad conquest of Hispania, Berber troops set up garrisons on the northernmost hilly regions and towns. Uthman ibn Naissa settled down in Cerdanya, killed the bishop of Urgell, and rebelled against central Cordovan rule in 730. The Berber lord was killed in 731, and the region subdued by Abd al-Rahman al-Ghafiqi.

During the pontificate of the Bishop Felix (781-799), who was accused of adoptionism by the Carolingian theologians and for this motive deposed and confined to Lyon, the city of Urgell and its church were completely destroyed by the Arabs around 793. With the founding of the Marca Hispanica, the diocese, like the others recently restored, became part of the ecclesiastical province of Narbonne until the recreation of the metropolitan see of Tarragona in 1091. The Frankish kings intervened effectively in the country’s reconstruction, promoting the Reconquest laying the foundations of its government. The territory now being free, mainly, from the Moors' power, with the help of the first Catalan Counts, they promoted the construction of a new cathedral, completed in the second part of the 9th century, to which were assigned 289 towns or villages--all the northwestern area of the Pyrenees.

At the same time, the Urgell church, ruled for more than two centuries (914-1122) by members of the Counts' families, fully entered the ring of the feudal system, which allowed it to shape for itself an extensive seigniorial patrimony, which among other cities and territories included the city of Urgell, the valleys of Andorra, the Vall de la Llosa, the Vall d’Arques and the Ribera Salada, the villages of Sanaüja, Guissona, and from 1257 onwards, Tremp. This, however, forced it into a certain dependence on the superior power of the Counts. Also, the Gregorian Reform, introduced to the County of Urgell during the last years of the 11th century, preceded by the change of the Visigothic rite for the Roman rite, reduced those interventions of the laymen in ecclesiastical affairs and achieved the complete freedom of the Church in the spiritual and temporal domains. Moreover, the maintenance of those possessions originated constant tension and fighting throughout the Middle Ages with the Viscounts of Castellbó and his heirs, the Counts of Foix.

List of Bishops of Urgell

Bishops to 1695

  • Justo bef. 527 – aft. 546
  • Epigan c. 550
  • Marcel I c.570
  • Simplici 589–599
  • Gabila c. 604
  • Renari c. 633
  • Meurell 653–665
  • Leuderic I 665–683
  • Jacint ? 672–680 ?
  • Leuberic 683–693
  • Urbici 693–704
  • Marcel II 704–721
  • Just II 721–733
  • Anambad ? 733–731
  • Leuderic II 732–754
  • Esteve 754–765
  • Dotila 765–783
  • Félix 783–792
  • Radulf 792–798
  • Félix (second time) 798–799
  • Leidrat de Lió 799–806
  • Posedoni I 806–819
  • Sisebut I 819–823
  • Posedoni II 823–833
  • Sisebut 833–840
  • Florenci 840–850
  • Beat 850–857
  • Guisad I 857–872
  • Golderic 872–885
  • Esclua 885–892
  • Ingobert 893–900
  • Nantigis 900–914
  • Trigilbert 914
  • Radulf 914–940
  • Guisad I 940–981
  • 981–1010
  • Ermengol 1010–1035
  • Eribau 1035–1040
  • Guillem Guifredo 1040–1075
  • Bernat Guillermo 1075–1092
  • Folc II of Cardona 1092–1095
  • Guillem Arnau 1092–1095
  • Ot 1095–1122
  • Pere Berenguer 1122–1141
  • Bernat Sanç1141–1162
  • Bernat Roger 1162–1166
  • Arnau de Preixens 1166–1195
  • Bernat de Castelló 1195–1198
  • Bernat de Vilamur 1198–1203
  • Pere de Puigvert 1203–1230
  • Ponç de Vilamur 1230–1257
  • Abril Pérez Peláez 1257–1269
  • Pere de Urtx 1269–1293
  • Guillem de Montcada 1295–1308
  • Ramon Trebailla 1308–1326
  • Arnau de Llordat 1326–1341
  • Pere de Narbona 1341–1348
  • Niccoló Capocci 1348–1351
  • Hug Desbac 1351–1361
  • Guillem Arnau i Palau 1361–1364
  • Pedro Martínez Luna 1364–1370
  • Berenguer d'Erill i de Pallars 1370–1387
  • Galcerà de Vilanova 1387–1415
  • Francesc de Tovia 1415–1436
  • Arnau Roger de Pallars 1436–1461
  • Jaume de Cardona i Gandia 1461–1466
  • Roderic de Borja i Escrivà 1467–1472
  • Pere Folc de Cardona 1472–1515
  • Joan d'Espés 1515–1530
vacant 1530–1532
  • Pedro Jordán de Urries 1532–1533
  • Francisco de Urríes 1533–1551
  • Joan Punyet 1551–1553
  • Miquel Despuig 1553–1556
  • Juan Pérez Garcia de Oliván 1556–1560
  • Pere de Castellet 1561–1571
  • Joan Dimes Lloris 1571–1576
vacant 1576–1578
  • Miquel Jeroni Morell 1578–1579
  • Hug Ambrós de Montcada 1579–1586
vacant 1586–1588
  • Andreu Capella 1588–1609
  • Bernat de Salba i Salba 1609–1620
vacant 1620–1622
vacant 1632–1634
  • Pau Duran 1634–1651
vacant 1651–1655 (due to war)
  • Juan Manuel de Espinosa 1655–1663
vacant 1663–1664
  • Melcior Palau i Bosca 1664–1670
vacant 1670–1671
  • Pere de Copons i Teixidor 1671–1681
vacant 1681–1682
  • Joan Baptista Desbac i Mortorell 1682–1688
vacant 1688–1689
  • Oleguer de Montserrat i Rufet 1689–1694

Bishops from 1695

Name Reign
Julià Cano Thebar 1695–1714
Simeó de Guinda i Apeztegui 1714–1737
Jordi Curado i Torreblanca 1738–1747
Sebastià de Victoria Emparán y Loyola 1747–1756
Francesc Josep Catalán de Ocón 1757–1762
Francesc Fernández de Xátiva y Contreras 1763–1771
Joaquín de Santiyán y Valdivielso 1771–1779
Juan de García y Montenegro 1780–1783
Josep de Boltas 1785–1795
Francesc Antoni de la Dueña y Cisneros 1797–1816
Bernat Francés Caballero i Mathet 1817–1824[5]
Bonifaci López i Pulido 1824–1827
Simó de Guardiola i Hortoneda 1827–1851
Josep Caixal i Estradé 1853–1879
Salvador Casañas y Pagés 1879–1901
Ramon Riu i Cabanes 1901
Toribio Martín (Diocesan administrator)1 1902
Joan Josep Laguarda i Fenollera 1902–1906
Josep Pujargimzú (Vicar capitular)1 1907
Juan Benlloch i Vivó 1907–1919
Jaume Viladrich i Gaspa (Vicar capitular)1 1919–1920
Justí Guitart i Vilardebó 1920–1940
Ricard Fornesa i Puigdemasa (Vicar capitular)1 1940–1943
Ramon Iglesias i Navarri 1943–1969
Ramon Malla Call (Apostolic Administrator)1 1969–1971
Joan Martí i Alanis 1971–2003
Joan Enric Vives Sicília (Archbishop, personal title) 2003–present

1 During a sede vacante.

See also: List of Co-Princes of Andorra


  1. "Diocese of Urgell" David M. Cheney. Retrieved February 29, 2016
  2. "Diocese of Urgell" Gabriel Chow. Retrieved February 29, 2016
  3. Bueno Salinas, Santiago; Pérez-Madrid, Francisca. "Religion and the Secular State in Andorra" (PDF). International Center for Law and Religion Studies: 58. Retrieved 16 August 2015.
  4. "Archbishop Antonio Pérez, O.S.B." David M. Cheney. Retrieved August 27, 2016
  5. From 28 Jul 1817 to 27 Sep 1824."Andorra: Co-Rulers (Urgell)". Retrieved 2015-01-15.

Coordinates: 42°21′29″N 1°27′43″E / 42.358°N 1.462°E / 42.358; 1.462

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