Cortes of León of 1188

The Cortes of León or ”The Decreta of León” from year 1188 was a parliamentary body in the medieval Kingdom of León. According to UNESCO it is the first documented written example of modern parliamentarism in the history of Europe.[1]

León Cradle of Parliamentarism logo

After coming to power, King Alfonso IX, faced an attack by his two neighbours, Castile and Portugal, decided to summon the Curia regis. This was a mediæval organisation composed of aristocrats and bishops, but because of the seriousness of the situation and the need to maximise political support, Alfonso IX took the decision to also call the representatives of the urban middle class from the most important cities of the kingdom to the assembly.[2]

However, all these meetings were exceptional and did not lead to a regular attendance of town representatives in the Curiae.

León's Cortes dealt with matters like the right to private property, the inviolability of domicile, the right to appeal to justice opposite the King and the obligation of the King to consult the Cortes before entering a war.[3]


  1. ^ UNESCO website, Memory of the World. The Decreta of León of 1188 - The oldest documentary manifestation of the European parliamentary system
  2. ^ International Memory of the World Register - The Decreta of León of 1188 - The oldest documentary manifestation of the European parliamentary system
  3. ^ "The Leones parliament of 1188: The first parliament of the western world (The Magna Carta of Alfonso IX)" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2016-03-04. Retrieved 2015-06-02.


  • Encyclopædia Britannica, 1911: "History of Europe" (Birth of parliamentary bodies)
  • O'Callaghan,J.F. "The beginninings of the Cortes of León-Castile», American History Review 1969, p. 1504.
  • O'Callaghan, Joseph F. "A History of Medieval Spain". Ithaca 1975.
  • Procter, Evelyn. "Curia and Cortes in León and Castile 1072-1295". Cambridge 1980.
  • Procter, Evelyn."The Interpretation of Clause 3 in the Decrees of León," EHR 85 (1970
  • Merriman, Roger B. "The Cortes of the Spanish Kingdoms in the Later Middle Ages," AHR 16 (1911)
  • Keane, John. "The Life and Death of Democracy". Simon & Schuster, London, 2009.
  • The Decreta of León of 1188. Spanish version.