HERMANDAD (from hermano, Lat. germanus, a brother), a Castiiian word meaning, strictly speaking, a brotherhood. In the Romance language spoken on the east coast of Spain in Catalonia it is written germandat or germania. In the form germania it has acquired the significance of " thieves' Latin " or " thieves' cant," and is applied to any jargon supposed to be understood only by the initiated. But the typical "germania" is a mixture of slang and of the gipsy language. The hermandades have played a conspicuous part in the history of Spain. The first recorded case of the formation of an hermandad occurred in the 12th century when the towns and the peasantry of the north united to police the pilgrim road to Santiago in Galicia, and protect the pilgrims against robber knights. Throughout the middle ages such alliances were frequently formed by combinations of towns to protect the roads connecting them, and were occasionally extended to political purposes. They acted to some extent like the Fehmic courts of Germany. The Catholic sovereigns, Ferdinand and Isabella, adapted an existing hermandad to the purpose of a general police acting under officials appointed by themselves, and endowed with large powers of summary jurisdiction even in capital cases. The hermandad became, in fact, a constabulary, which, however, fell gradually into neglect. In Catalonia and Valencia the " germanias " were combinations of the peasantry to resist the exactions of the feudal lords.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)