Development The councils

The Councils

The Council, or concilium, was one of the most singular models of communal administration and judiciary in the Kingdom of León. The importance that these councils had, as the driving force behind the administration and economy of rural and urban life, is witnessed by the fact that they have survived to the present day. The influence that the councils began to exercise resulted in an invitation to participate in the Curia of 1188, held in the city of León. The participation of the social classes they represented transformed the Curia into the democratic Parliament of 1188, the first such “parliament” held in Europe.

Catedral-de-Len-03The councils are recorded in documents dating from the 10th century, at a time when the borders with the Arab world, situated along the Duero River, were in the process of consolidation. The monarchy organized and resettled conquered territory and, with the idea of attracting the population to border territories and renewing activity in the cities along the Saint James’ Way, a series of privileges in the form of laws and municipal charters were articulated, granting a certain level of local autonomy, which led to the formation of the councils.

Urban centres began to acquire a series of commercial, artisanal and administrative functions, and daily issues, the organization of economic resources and the individual and the collective use of common resources such as woods, open land, hillsides, water and pasture were resolved by the inhabitants, through councils. Local meetings ensured the protection of property, whether privately or communally held, and they had sufficient authority to resolve disputes and regulate activities of common interest.

Plaza-Mayor.-SalamancaThe council was, and is, an assembly of the inhabitants of a centre of population, where this is understood as a city, town or other urban or rural centre, or hamlet and surrounding area, endowed with such rights. Initially, all members of the community participated in the council, making it open and democratic. However, over time it became a vehicle of power which was no longer open to everyone. At first, people who did not live continuously in the community, such as merchants and transient residents, were excluded, and finally only permanent residents, understood as those who paid taxes and their children, participated. In order to belong to a council, it was necessary to demonstrate prolonged residence in the community, be accepted by the council and be registered in the parish. Membership implied friendship and solidarity with other residents.

Plaza-Mayor.-Valderas.-LenThe councils maintained a series of formalities. They were convened by town criers and the peal of bells. A fundamental requisite was that the council be held in an open space, normally the door of a church or a square. Among the responsibilities that the councils acquired were the election of magistrates, the approval of municipal by-laws, the regulation of weights and measures, the election of representatives and the construction of bridges, etc.

The 1017 Law of León included the scope of the council for León, which met in front of the cathedral to address economic issues related to the setting of prices, a day’s work, judicial measures, military service and administrative, governmental and fiscal matters.


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Monasterio de Santa Maria de Carracedo. Sala Capitular. Carracedo del Monasterio. León Santuario de Camposagrado Castillo de Simancas.Simancas. Valladolid Doña Urraca. San Marcelo. Burgos Arco de la Lealtad. Zamora Castillo. Ciudad Rodrigo Monasterio de San Facundo y San Primitivo. Sahagún Las Cabezadas. León Palacio Conde Luna. Tormenteria - Alfonso VII. León