The Objects

10th Jun 1815

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Source: Arxiu Històric de la Ciutat de Barcelona, with permission.

Shelfmark B.1815_8°op.23

The Bishop of Barcelona Enters the Fray

Contributed by: Jordi Roca Vernet

In this pamphlet from 1815, bishop of Barcelona directed his parishioners to support the king, Ferdinand VII, in his new war against Napoleon. The city of Barcelona had had considerable exposure to Napoleonic ideas having been in French hands during the six years of the Peninsular War (1808-14). It was also the last city to be abandoned by Napoleon’s soldiers after Paris surrendered to the Allied coalition in 1814.

Here the bishop attacks Napoleon as a disturber of empires and a violator of the principles of equity, justice, social order and religion; the Treaty of Fontainebleau that had followed Napoleon’s defeat in 1814 is denounced for having allowed his return. However, the central claim of the text is that the return of Napoleon should be understood as a divine punishment for the Spanish people for their corruption, and their contempt and disregard for the Catholic religion. The bishop urged the Spanish people to redeem themselves through their vows, prayers and penances, and thereby to regain the favor of God. And he directed priests to behave as vassals of the king, to assist the king in meeting the expenses of the war, and to ensure that the city’s young people were not corrupted by the perverse ideas of Napoleon’s supporters.

The pamphlet reveals the Bishop’s fears that Barcelona might take up the Napoleonic cause. Indeed, a few years later Barcelona became the first city in which “liberals” (Spanish revolutionaries) were reconciled with “afrancesados” (collaborators with the Napoleonic occupation). It was also the first city in Spain to honour Napoleon on his death and to record its admiration for him. For all the Bishop’s warning, at least some residents of Barcelona clearly welcomed Napoleon’s return in 1815.