Girona History Facts and Timeline

(Girona, Catalonia, Spain)

An ancient medieval city with its origins in history dating back more than 2,000 years, Girona was officially founded as long ago as 79 BC. The city began its life as a small Iberian settlement, before garnering the interest of the Romans, who built a citadel here and named the city 'Gerunda'.

Girona was a particularly strategic location for the Romans, being an important stop-off along the lengthy Via Augusta, between Cadiz (Spain) and Rome (Italy). Those with a particular interest in the city's history should head to the thoroughfare named the Carrer de la Forca, which sits within the Old Town district and actually follows a section of the original Via Augusta.

As the centuries followed, so did the inevitable battles for control of this growing town. Girona passed into the hands of the Visigoths, before being ruled by the Moors and then overthrown by Charles the Great (Charlemagne) in the year 785.

Royalty in the Catalan City

Girona was now one of the principal districts within Catalonia and the town continued to gain size, improving its overall infrastructure and expanding its boundaries. In 878, Girona joined forces with nearby Barcelona, being declared a city during the early years of the 11th century, thanks to the King of Aragon and Navarre, Alfonso (I) the Battler.

In the year 1414, Spanish king Ferdinand I of Aragon made history when he granted his young son the prestigious title - Prince of Girona. The title ceased to exist from the 16th century onwards, although the Spanish royal family resurrected this name as recently as the late 1970s.

A Jewish 12th Century

During the city's 12th century, the resident Jewish community began to establish itself as a prominent part of Girona's population, with its schools and religious buildings being much revered all over Europe. However, the prominence of the Jews came to a rather abrupt end in the final decade of the 15th century, when Roman Catholic kings forcibly removed all Jewish families from the whole of Catalonia.

Today, visitors to Girona will find that the Jewish ghetto (named 'The Call') has become something of a leading attraction in the city, along with the nearby Montjuic (Jew Mountain), where a vast cemetery was once situated.

Sieges and Wars

More than 20 different sieges followed over the subsequent years in history, with Girona being conquered a total of seven further times and often proving a target for the French. One particularly notable battle took place in the spring of 1809, when more than 30,000 of Napoleon's soldiers marched on the city and took control. The Napoleonic troops found their lengthy siege quite a struggle, since not only were they battling against the locals, but also against both famine and illness.

The French rule lasted just over three years and when independence was gained, the city drew up ambitious expansion plans, removing lengths of its encircling fortified city walls in the latter part of the 19th century so that new boundaries could be defined.

City Walls and Tourist Attractions

Sections of Girona's city walls still remain and hold so much appeal for tourists that the city has recently started to reconstruct parts of the eastern stretch, naming it the 'Passeig de la Muralla'.

Other places of interest for history buffs include the Cathedral of Saint Mary - consecrated in 1038, the 12th-century Banys Arabs (Arab Baths) and the 17th-century Basilica of Sant Feliu. A walk along the Passeig Arqueologic is also recommended.