1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Gerona (capital)

GERONA, the capital of the province of Gerona, in north-eastern Spain, on the railway from Barcelona to Perpignan in France, and on the right bank of the river Ter, at its confluence with the Oña, a small right-hand tributary. Pop. (1900) 15,787. The older part of the town occupies the steep slope of the Montjuich, or Hill of the Capuchins, and with its old-fashioned buildings presents a picturesque appearance against a background of loftier heights; the newer portion stretches down into the plain and beyond the Oña, which is here crossed by a bridge of three arches. The old city walls and their bastions still remain, though in a dilapidated state; and the hill is crowned by what were at one time very strong fortifications, now used as a prison. Gerona is the seat of a bishop, has a seminary, a public library and a theatre, and carries on the manufacture of paper and cotton and woollen goods. Its churches are of exceptional interest. The cathedral is one of the grandest specimens of Gothic architecture in Spain, the nave being the widest pointed vault in Christendom, as it measures no less than 73 ft. from side to side, while Albi, the next in size, is only 58 ft., and Westminster Abbey is only 38. The old cathedral on the same site was used as a mosque by the Moors, and on their expulsion in 1015 it appears to have been very greatly modified, if not entirely rebuilt. During the 14th century new works were again carried out on an extensive scale, but it was not till the beginning of the 15th that the proposal to erect the present magnificent nave was originated by the master of the works, Guillermo Boffiy. The general appearance of the exterior is rather ungainly, but there is a fine approach by a flight of 86 steps to the façade, which rises in tiers and terminates in an oval rose-window. Among the tombs may be mentioned those of Bishop Berenger or Berenguer (d. 1408), Count Ramon Berenger II. (d. 1082) and the countess Ermesinda (d. 1057). The collegiate church of San Felíu (St Felix) is mainly of the 14th century, but it was considerably modified in the 16th, and its façade dates from the 18th. It is one of the few Spanish churches that can boast of a genuine spire, and it thus forms a striking feature in the general view of the town. The Benedictine church of San Pedro de Galligans (or de los Gallos) is an interesting Romanesque building of early date. It is named from the small river Galligans, an affluent of the Oña, which flows through the city. In the same neighbourhood is a small church worthy of notice as a rare Spanish example of a transverse triapsal plan.

Gerona is the ancient Gerunda, a city of the Auscetani. It claims to be the place in which St Paul and St James first rested when they came to Spain; and it became the see of a bishop about 247. For a considerable period it was in the hands of the Moors, and their emir, Suleiman, was in alliance with Pippin the Short, king of the Franks, about 759. It was taken by Charlemagne in 785; but the Moors regained and sacked it in 795, and it was not till 1015 that they were finally expelled. At a later date it gave the title of count to the king of Aragon’s eldest son. It has been besieged no fewer than twenty-five times in all, and only four of the sieges have resulted in its capture. The investment by the French under Marshal Hocquincourt in 1653, that of 1684 by the French under Marshal Bellefonds, and the successful enterprise of Marshal Noailles in 1694 are the three great events of its history in the 17th century. Surrendered by the French at the peace of Ryswick, it was again captured by the younger Marshal Noailles in 1706, after a brilliant defence; and in 1717 it held out against the Austrians. But its noblest resistance was yet to be made. In May 1809 it was besieged by the French, with 35,000 troops, under J. A. Verdier, P. F. Augereau and Gouvion St Cyr; forty batteries were erected against it and a heavy bombardment maintained; but under the leadership of Mariano Alvarez de Castro it held out till famine and fever compelled a capitulation on the 12th of December. The French, it is said, had spent 20,000 bombs and 60,000 cannon balls, and their loss was estimated at 15,000 men.

See Juan Gaspar Roig y Jalpi, Resumen de las Grandezas, &c. (Barcelona, 1678); J. A. Nieto y Samaniego, Memorias (Tarragona, 1810); G. E. Street, Gothic Architecture in Spain (London, 1869).