Images from a walking tour of a Spanish town steeped in history
Girona, a city in Spain’s northeastern Catalonia region, is known for its medieval architecture. Girona is located at the conference of four rivers (Ter, Onyar, Galligans and Güell). The city began as an Iberian settlement. The Romans built a citadel and named the town Gerunda. It’s position along the Via Augusta between Cadiz and Rome made it a popular stopover spot for the Romans. Because of its strategic location, it was fought over many times throughout history, earning it the nickname “the city of a thousand sieges.”
Girona was ruled by the Visogoths and later the Moors. Charlemagne captured the city in 785 A.D. Girona became one of the principal districts of Catalonia. More than twenty sieges occurred over the subsequent years and Girona was captured seven more times.
I took a guided walking tour of the old medieval part of the city. Here are images of Girona from that tour.
In the first century B.C. the Romans built a fortress with an almost triangular perimeter known as the Força Vella. Parts of that wall can still be seen today. Extensions to the wall were done in medieval times.
There was a significant Jewish population in Girona from the nineth century through the fifteenth century, with over 1,000 Jews present at the height of prosperity, artisans, merchants, doctors, bankers, moneylenders, poets and philosophers. By the twelfth century, the population had become concentrated in the narrow labyrinth of streets in the Call, a term which meant “narrow streets”. The Call was close to the Cathedral, from which clerical authorities could offer protection or, as our tour guide suggested, keep a watchful eye on the Jews.
When the plague swept across Europe in the mid-14th century, Jews became scapegoats. The incidence of the disease was lower among the Jewish population because of their isolation in ghettos and better hygiene due to ritual handwashing. The Call became a place of confinement and discrimination against Jews increased. They were expelled from Girona in 1492. Their homes remained vacant for centuries until new structures were built and gradually buried the Jewish call. Work to uncover and preserve Girona’s Jewish history began in the late 1970s. Today the city is home to a Jewish history museum and a centre for Jewish studies.
Girona is about 115 kilometres northeast of Barcelona. It can be reached by train, bus or car. Girona is a popular stop on tour company day excursions outside of Barcelona.