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Index of documents > Euromeetings Magazine > Euromeetings Number 18

The first inhabitants of the area were the Iberians. By the end of the 3rd century b.C the territory was occupied by Romans and Pompey ordered to build a fortified city called Gerunda over Via Herculea (later known as Via Augusta) approximately in 77 b.C.

The remains of the Roman city can still be seen: Cardo Maximus (the main street that divided Roman cities in half), known today as Carrer de la Força (Strength street), the main street of Call, Girona´s Jewish Quarter. The Roman Forum was located in today´s Cathedral square. The city´s temple stood probably inside the forum, where we find Girona´s Cathedral today.

In our visit, we could admire “cases penjades”, buildings painted in bright pastel colours that hang over Girona´s river, the Oñar, which passes through the city. They were built in different historical periods over the walls facing the river and were initially inhabited by fishermen; after the enlargement of la Rambla and the demolition of that part of the wall, “cases penjades” became part of the historic center and were restructured and artistically enhanced. At dusk, they are reflected on Oñar´s waters with magical sparks. They make you remember Florence´s houses reflected on river Arno, and that is why Girona is also known as “Little Florence”. El Puente de las pescaderías viejas ( Old fishmonger´s bridge) calls your attention, for it was projected by Gustave Eiffel in 1877 (two years before the Eiffel Tower was built in Paris). It was meant to be built in the parisian house in Paris, but the Project was acquired by Girona´s Town Council to substitute the old red wooden bridge.

We walked around Call, the Jewish quarter, with its characteristic narrow streets, ramps and stairs and full of historical residences in which Jewish wise men and Cabbalists lived in ancient times. We passed through the Arab bath, that served as a public bath and bath-house and was built by the end of the 12th century and restored in 1929.

In the Old Quarter, Rambla de la Llibertat, where Girona´s most important events take place, deserves a special mention. During the Middle Ages it was the place where the market took place; nowadays it is a nice avenue that provides shade and where you can find arcades full of modern shops and cafés with tables outside.

There is a popular fact tied to Rambla: In the Low Middle Ages, there were several cases of plague in Carrer d'Argenteria, the last part of Rambla. Access to the street was closed with wooden barricades at the sides and windows and doors of houses were sealed to avoid the transmission of the disease. Its inhabitants were left isolated and they got entertained thanks to a popular character, Tarlà, who spun around a wooden stick placed between two of the balconies in the street. An effigy hanged by a bar and imitating Tarlà´s pirouettes was made to remember him. This tradition is repeated every 23rd April, on the day of St.George, patron saint of Catalonia.
Girona´s cathedral, la Catedral de Santa María, is impressive. It is the basilica-plan church with the longest Gothic nave in the world (22.98 metres) after Saint Peter´s Basilica in the Vatican (25 metres).

We stopped in front of Saint Feliu´s Church to look at “la Lleona”, a medieval statue which represents a lioness climbing a small column. The legend says that when Girona´s people set off for a long journey they must kiss the lioness bottom and promise they will go back to the city. The promise is valid also for tourists who go back home.

Our visit to the city of Girona ended this way. Throughout history, it has constituted a crossroad of cultures and traditions and nowadays it is perfectly communicated with Europe due to its international airport, the highway network and high speed trains.

Egidio Ramondetti