Girona, Spain

Girona, Spain

Girona is a city located in the northeast of Catalonia, Spain, at the confluence of the rivers Ter and Onyar. It is the capital of the Spanish province of the same name and of the Catalan comarca of the Gironès. The recorded population in 2005 was 86,672.


The first 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. Guifré I 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 Pere III d” Aragó gave the title of Duke to his first-born son, Joan. In 1414, King Ferran I in turn gave the title of Prince of Girona to his first-born son, Alfons. The title is currently carried by Prince Felipe, Prince of Asturias, the first Borbón 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 Spain. 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. 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.

Ecclesiastical History

The Diocese of Girona in Catalonia, suffragan of the archbishopric of Tarragona, is bounded on the north by the Pyrenees, on the south and east by the Mediterranean and on the west by the dioceses of Barcelona and Vic. The district is mountainous, with forests of pine, oak and chestnut, and numerous mineral springs. The episcopal city of Girona is the chief town of the province of the same name, and it situated at the confluence of the Ter and the Onyar.

It is said that the apostles Paul and James, on their arrival in the Iberian Peninsula, first preached Christianity there, and tradition also has it that St. Maximus, a disciple of St. James, was the first bishop of the district. It is generally held that the see was erected in 247. On 18 June, 517, a synod convened here was attended by the Archbishop of Tarragona and six bishops; canons were promulgated dealing with the recitation of the Divine Office, infant baptism and the celibacy of the clergy.

About 885 Bishop Ingobert of Urgell was expelled from his see by the intruder Selva, who, under the protection of the Count of Urgell, was consecrated in Gascony. This usurper also unlawfully placed Hermemiro over the see of Girona. In 892 a synod was held in the Church of Santa Maria in Urgell; the two usurpers were deposed, their vestments rent, their crosiers broken over their heads, and they were deprived of their sacerdotal faculties.

A council held in Lleida in 1246 absolved James I of Aragon from the sacrilege of cutting out the tongue of the Bishop of Girona. Another synod at Girona in 1078 affirmed the nullity of simoniacal ordinations.

Honoured with papal prerogatives relating to the pilgrim routes to Compostella, the Church of Le Puy assumed a sort of informal primacy in respect to most of the Churches of France, and even of Christendom, manifesting itself practically in a ”right to beg”, established with the authorization of the Holy See, in virtue of which the chapter of Le Puy levied a veritable tax upon almost all the Christian countries to support its hospital of Notre-Dame. In Catalonia this droit de quête, recognized by Spanish Crown, was so thoroughly established that the chapter had its collectors permanently installed in that country. A famous “fraternity” existed between the chapter of Le Puy and that of Girona in Catalonia. The earliest document in which it is mentioned dates only from 1470, and he supposes that at this date the chapter of Girona, in order to escape the financial thraldom which bound it, like many Catalonian Churches, to the chapter of Le Puy, alleged its “fraternity” involving its equality — with the Church of Le Puy. In 1479 and in 1481 Pierre Bouvier, a canon of Le Puy, came to Girona, when the canons invoked against him certain legends according to which Charlemagne had taken Girona, rebuilt its cathedral, given it a canon of Le Puy for a bishop, and established a fraternity between chapters of Girona and Le Puy. In support of these legends they appealed to the liturgical Office which they chanted for the feast of Charlemagne — an Office, dating from 1345, but in which they had recently inserted these tales of the Church of LePuy. In 1484 Sixtus IV prohibited the use of this Office, whereupon there appeared at Girona the “Tractatus de captione Gerunde”, reaffirming the Girona legends about the fraternity with Le Puy. Down to the last days of the old regime the two chapters frequently exchanged courtesies; canons of Le Puy passing through Girona and canons of Girona passing through Le Puy enjoyed special privileges. In 1883 the removal by the Bishop of Girona of the statue of Charlemagne from that cathedral marked the definitive collapse of the whole fabric of legends out of which the hermandad between Le Puy and Girona had grown.

In the early 20th century, under bishop Francesc Pol i Baralt, born at Arenys de Mar in the diocese on 9 June, 1854, the diocese had 373 parishes, 780 priests, 325,000 Catholics. The Capuchins have a monastery at Olot, and among the cloisters for women in the diocese are those of the Franciscan, the Augustinian and the Capuchin nuns.


The ancient portion of the city with its once-formidable fortifications stands on the steep hill of the Capuchins, while the more modern section is in the plain and stretches beyond the river. The bastions of the walls which have withstood so many sieges are still to be seen.

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 noblest monuments of the school of the Majorcan architect Jaume Fabre and one of the finest specimens of Gothic architecture in Spain. 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 (73 feet). 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 Raymond Berenger and his wife.

The Collegiate Church of Sant Feliu is also architecturally noteworthy. 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 Romanesque style of an early date.

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.


During the professional cycling season, various non-European pro cyclists have called Girona home, as illustrated in the book Inside the Postal Bus by Michael Barry, written during his time with the US Postal Service cycling team. Between races, cyclists do their training rides outside the city, which provides excellent training terrain.

In the Spring of 1997 Marty Jemison, Tyler Hamilton and George Hincapie moved to Girona as teammates of the US Postal Service Professional Cycling Team. This was the first year that American cyclists started living in Girona and meeting for training rides at the Pont de Pedra.

Soccer (football) is also widely popular.


The city is the home of the Universitat de Girona.



The town is on the Autopista AP-7 and N-II. The city is also the hub of the local road network with routes to the coast and inland towards the Pyrenees.

Public Transport

The city has a comprehensive local bus service. There are also services to the other towns in the Girona province.


Girona is served by the mainline from Barcelona to Portbou and the French Frontier. The journey time to Barcelona is approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes. There are plans to create a station on the new High speed rail line from Barcelona to Avignon.


The town’s airport, Girona-Costa Brava, is 10 km south of the town centre. It has grown tremendously in recent years principally as a result of Ryanair choosing it as one of their European hubs. Whilst the airport has been used since the early 1980s for charter flights, holidaymakers and other travellers now have a wide range of scheduled flights available from a number of destinations across Europe. Girona Airport is well situated for travellers to the resorts of the Costa Brava.

Girona Airport is an hour bus ride from Barcelona centre, 92 km to the south. Most low cost airlines mention “Barcelona” in their descriptions of Girona airport. The bus stops in the center of Barcelona, in Estacio d”Autobusos Barcelona Nord, Barcelona”s main bus terminal.

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