León the Cradle of Parliamentarism

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León, declared the Cradle of Parliamentarism by UNESCO


The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation included the 1188 Decreta or Decrees of León in its Memory of the World Register.

In 1188, Alfonso IX of León summoned representatives of the church, the nobility and the common people to the Curia Regia (Royal Council), a kind of parliament that was held in the Basilica of San Isidoro.

For the first time in European history, representatives of towns and cities participated in higher-level decision making alongside the nobility and the clergy. The result was the Decreta, also known as the Magna Carta of León, which besides extending the Charter of 1020, enacted laws designed to protect people and their property from the abuse and whims of the nobility, the clergy and even the King himself. Thus, parliamentarianism was born.

The UNESCO statement reads as follows: “The Decreta or Decrees of León of 1188 contain the oldest known written information regarding the European parliamentary system. […] They reflect an original model of government and administration within the framework of Spanish mediaeval institutions, where the institutional presence of the common people in higher-level decision making, together with the king, the church and the nobility, occurs for the first time”. Following Alfonso IX of León’s initiative, other European monarchs convened parliaments to which representatives of the cities were invited, paving the way for common people to participate in government decisions, one of the cornerstones of Western democracy.