Destinos
Girona

Destination: Girona

El origen de Girona is a city in the northeast of Catalonia, Spain at the confluence of the rivers Ter, Onyar, Galligants and Güell with an estimated population of 95,000. It is the capital of the province of the same name and of the comarca of the Gironès.

Patio de la Estrella

Patio de la Estrella

The first historical inhabitants in the region were Iberians; Girona is the ancient Gerunda, a city of the Ausetani. Later, the Romans built a citadel there, which was given the name of Gerunda. The Visigoths ruled in Girona until it was conquered by the Moors. Finally, Charlemagne reconquered it in 785 and made it one of the fourteen original countships of Catalonia. Thus it was wrested temporarily from the Moors, who were driven out finally in 1015. Wilfred the Hairy incorporated Girona to the countship of Barcelona in 878. Alfonso I of Aragón declared Girona to be a city in the 11th century. The ancient countship later became a duchy (1351) when King Peter III of Aragon gave the title of Duke to his first-born son, John. In 1414, King Ferdinand I in turn gave the title of Prince of Girona to his first-born son, Alfonso. The title is currently carried by Prince Felipe, Prince of Asturias, the first since the 16th century to do so.

The 12th century saw a flourishing of the Jewish community of Girona, with one of the most important Kabbalistic schools in Europe. The Rabbi of Girona, Moshe ben Nahman Gerondi (better known as Nahmanides or Ramban) was appointed Great Rabbi of Catalonia. The history of the Jewish community of Girona ended in 1492, when the Catholic Kings expelled all the Jews from Catalonia. Today, the Jewish ghetto or Call is one of the best preserved in Europe and is a major tourist attraction. On the north side of the old city is the Montjuïc (or hill of the Jews in medieval Catalan), where an important religious cemetery was located.

Girona has undergone twenty-five sieges and been captured seven times. It was besieged by the French royal armies under Marshal Hocquisicourt in 1653, under Marshal Bellefonds in 1684, and twice in 1694 under de Noailles. In May, 1809, it was besieged by 35,000 French Napoleonic troops under Vergier, Augereau and St. Cyr, and held out obstinately under the leadership of Alvarez until disease and famine compelled it to capitulate, 12 December. Finally, the French conquered the city in 1809, after 7 months of siege. Girona was center of the Ter department during the French rule, which lasted from 1809 to 1813. The defensive city walls were demolished at the end of the 19th century to allow for the expansion of the city. In recent years, the missing parts of the city walls on the eastern side of the city have been reconstructed. Called the Passeig de la Muralla it now forms a tourist route around the old city.

Piedra Sinagogal

Piedra Sinagogal

Girona is a popular destination for tourists and Barcelona day-trippers - the train journey from Barcelona Sants to Girona takes less than two hours. The old town stands on the steep hill of the Capuchins to the west of the river, while the more modern section stands on the plains to the east.

The ancient cathedral, which stood on the site of the present one, was used by the Moors as a mosque, and after their final expulsion was either entirely remodelled or rebuilt. The present edifice is one of the most important monuments of the school of the Majorcan architect Jaume Fabre and an excellent example of Spanish Gothic architecture. It is approached by eighty-six steps. An aisle and chapels surround the choir, which opens by three arches into the nave, of which the pointed stone vault is the widest in Christendom (22 meters). Among its interior decorations is a retable which is the work of the Valencian silversmith Pere Bernec. It is divided into three tiers of statuettes and reliefs, framed in canopied niches of cast and hammered silver. A gold and silver altar-frontal was carried off by the French in 1809. The cathedral contains the tombs of Ramon Berenger and his wife.

The old fortifications are another popular sight. Historically, these have played a vital role in protecting Girona from invaders for hundreds of years. The city wall of the old town was an important military construction built in Roman times in the 1st century BC. It was thoroughly rebuilt under the reign of Peter III the Ceremonious in the second half of the 14th century. The Roman wall was used as a foundation. At thet start of the 16th century, the wall was absorbed in the city. The walled precinct lost its military value. Bit by bit, the wall was degrading, as parts were gradually altered from the inside and the outside. The walls and lookout towers that make up these fortifications are split in two - a small section in the north of the old town and a much larger section in the south. It is possible to walk the entire length of the walls and climb the towers, where visitors can enjoy panoramic views of Girona and the surrounding countryside.

The Collegiate Church of Sant Feliu is noteworthy from an architectural point of view. Its style is fourteenth-century Gothic, the façade dating from the eighteenth, and it is one of the few Spanish churches which possesses a genuine spire. It contains, besides the sepulchre of its patron and the tomb of the valiant Álvarez, a chapel dedicated to St. Narcissus, who according to tradition was one of the early bishops of the see.

The Benedictine church of Sant Pere de Galligants is in early Romanesque style. From the same period is the Monastery of St. Daniel.

Most traces of Girona's rich Jewish history were wiped out when the Jews were expelled from Spain (see Spanish expulsion), however some remain. On Carrer de Sant Llorenc, the doorway of an old building has a rectangular indentation which once held a mezuzah. Further along is the Centre Bonastruc ça Porta and the Catalan Jewish Museum. The Bonastruc ça Porta project started in the 1970s, when it became fashionable to renovate properties in the old town. Clearing away nearly 700 years of construction, Jose Tarres, a local restaurateur, discovered the remains of what turned out to be the medieval yeshiva founded by Nahmanides.The city has a number of relevant Art Nouveau buildings including the Farinera Teixidor by Rafael Masó.

 

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