Paleolithic paintings and remains have been found in the mountain area of the municipal district. In total there are 11 sets of cave paintings of a naturist and schematic style (declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1998), rock cave prints and deposits of the Paleolithic, Neolithic and Bronze Age.
Between the 4th century BC and the 2nd century BC there was a settlement of the Iberian tribe of the Cossetans in Pla de Santa Bàrbara, the hill that gives its name to Montblanc. Roman settlements (villas) of later centuries have also been found.
The remains of the Visigoth and Saracen periods are very scarce. From the middle of the 9th century up to the beginning of the 10th century, the northern part of the province of Tarragona becomes no-man’s land, a border between Arabs and Christians. In this way, the Montblanc zone remains uninhabited for a long time.
In 978, the saracen leader Almansor made a strike against the County of Barcelona. According to the chronicle, the first confrontation occurred in the castle of al-Daliya, which has been identified as that of Lilla, at the borders of Montblanc and Valls. The Christian advance continued and in 1076 the Count of Barcelona Ramon Berenguer II ordered to create the town of Duesaigües in the confluence of the Anguera and Francolí rivers.
In order to favor the repopulation of New Catalonia, Count Ramon Berenguer IV granted tax exemptions (not paying rents, census, nor taxes for fires or water) in some towns, including Duesaigües. Then, in 1155, the town became known as Vilasalva (town saved from taxes).
The continuous floods and the need to install a fortress halfway between Tarragona and Lleida, convinced King Alfonso I to order the transfer of the town to a small and barren, nearby hillside. He gave the new population card to Pere Berenguer of Vilafranca. This was how Montblanc was born in February 1163.
The town grew rapidly. In 1170 the castle at the top of the hill and a Romanesque church dedicated to Santa Maria are already documented. Mercadal district with commercial activities appeared.
In the 13th century Montblanc grew thanks to new royal privileges and the concession of markets and livestock fairs. The municipality was constituted by order of Peter the Great in 1284, called the vegueria of Montblanc and the Royal Clerks and the Higher Study were founded.
The oldest known coat of arms of Montblanc dates from 1287 and, together with the shields of Barcelona, Girona, Lleida and Cervera, constitute the first Catalan civic shields known today. They were used by the councils of the different towns to ratify the Oloron treaty and the parchment is guarded at the Departmental Archives of Marseille. The current shield, is not formalized by the Generalitat, but it is the one used by the City Council.
The village acquired importance in the Principality. The works of these times include the church of Sant Miquel, the Jewish quarter, the convent of Sant Francesc, the convent and the Sanctuary of La Serra, the Mercè, and the hospital-church of San Bartolomé and Santa Magdalena. From this period we also highlight some civil buildings such as the Casa de la Vila, the Royal Palace and the Josa house.
In Valencia there is a street called Montblanc, a gift from King James I to the town in gratitude to a group of noblemen from Montblanc who participated in the conquest of the Kingdom of Valencia.
The maximum splendor of Montblanc was reached in the 14th century when it became the seventh city of Catalonia in terms of inhabitants number, after Barcelona, Lleida, Tortosa, Girona, Tarragona and Puigcerdà, and a town with a significant economic weight. King John the Hunter grants his brother (and future king) Martin the title of Duke of Montblanc.
The Catalan Courts were held in Montblanc several times:
1. In 1307 by King James II.
2. In 1333 by King Alfonso IV.
3. In 1370-71 by King Peter IV.
4. In 1410 the General Parliament of Catalonia met there.
5. In 1414 by King Ferdinand I.
6. In 1640, Philip IV planned some that finally were not celebrated.
The most important works of the town were built: the walled enclosure (with 31 towers and 5 portals), the church of Santa Maria, the church-hospital of Sant Marçal and the Alenyà Palace. The Riuot torrent was covered, which passed right through the middle of the town, and mills, bridges, jail, etc. were built.
Since the beginning of the 15th century, the priest of the parish of Santa Maria de Montblanc receives the title of a parson. Currently there are only two more, in Oliva (la Safor) and Ontinyent (Vall d’Albaida).
At the end of the century, Montblanc suffered a series of years of bad harvests, epidemics and the Catalan Civil War that ended with the spectacular growth of the Vila Ducal. The walls were affected, as well as many houses and bridges.
In the sixteenth and seventeenth century there was a slight revival but the Reapers’ War meant another blow to the population: part of the wall was destroyed, the archives were burned and, during the withdrawal of the Castilian troops, General Palavicino commanded to bomb the facade of the gothic church of Santa Maria. The town suffered multiple assaults, looting and fires that put an end to the earlier greatness of Montblanc, which finally lost its political and economic importance. This episode is known as La General Crema.
With the War of Succession the city lost many privileges, as well as the vegueria, which was transformed into Mayor’s Office of the Corregimiento de Tarragona. The French War and the struggles between liberals and absolutist finished it completely.
The population recovered fast in the middle of the nineteenth century with craftsmen and farmers working in the vineyard cultivation. There was a demographic and commercial explosion when communications were improved (roads to Valls,1821 and Reus, 1843) and, above all, with the arrival of the railway in 1863. In order to be able to drive cars, each time getting heavier, between the years 1855 and 1865 the arcs, that covered part of the Main street, were destroyed since they were obstructing the traffic. Also, the two portals located at each end of the Main Street (portals of Sant Francesc and Sant Antoni) were demolished.
But the phylloxera plague completely ruined the vineyards. And it would not be until the second half of the twentieth century that the town began to recover, with the creation of Casal Montblanquí (which got to have sections of football, roller hockey, basketball, cycling, skating …) , and the arrival of foreign industries (especially the radiators factory of the Behr group) thanks to the construction of the AP2 toll motorway in the seventies of the last century. In recent years, the city has enjoyed the biggest urban transformation in its history, surpassing 6,500 inhabitants.
Massanés, Cristina «Com era la vida al Montblanc Medieval». Sàpiens [Barcelona], núm. 66, abril 2008, p. 26-31
«La Conca de Barberà». dipta.cat. Diputació de Tarragona.