The General Assemblies up to the 19th century
The General Assemblies used to be the central focus of Bizkaia's political system. Meetings are known to have been held in other locations, such as Aretxabalagana, on the way from Bilbao to Gernika, although the first reference to an Assembly held in Gernika dates back to 1308. Those first testimonies show that the functions of the institution were twofold: firstly, the reception of the Lord's oath to uphold the uses and customs of Biscayans, and secondly, its involvement in the legislative process.
Over time, more documentation became available, from which it is clear that the General Assemblies, as the maximum governing body, reflected in their internal composition both the original division of the Lordship in three large territorial entities (central Bizkaia, Duranguesado and Encartaciones) and the different social and legal nature of the two basic pillars of Central Bizkaia, the Open Land and the Chartered Towns.
The competences of the General Assemblies can be summed up, in general terms, as follows:
- The preparation of bylaws and regulations, including the drawing up of the Fuero or Territorial Law.dd>
- To receive the Oath of the Lord of Bizkaia before the Tree and safeguard the territorial integrity through the mechanisms made available by the Foral Pass..
- The election of members, councillors and other officials (lawyers, syndics, clerks and secretaries, treasurers...).
- The minutes include innumerable provisions that affect the economic activity of the Lordship.
- The Assembly had to give its consent for the provision of this service.