History of Girona
The first historical 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 in 715. Finally, Charlemagne reconquered it in 785 and made it one of the fourteen original counties of Catalonia. It was wrested temporarily from the Moors, who recaptured it in 793. From this time until the Moors were finally driven out, 1015, the city repeatedly changed hands and was sacked several times by the Moors (in 827, 842, 845, 935, 982). Wilfred the Hairy incorporated Girona into the County of Barcelona in 878. Alfonso I of Aragon declared Girona a city in the 11th century. The ancient county later became a duchy (1351) when King Peter III of Aragon gave the title of Duke to his first-born son, John. In 1414, King Ferdinand I in turn gave the title of prince of Girona to his first-born son, Alfonso. The title is currently carried by Princess Leonor of Asturias, the second since the 16th century to do so.
The 12th century saw the Jewish community of Girona flourish, having 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 presence of the Jewish community of Girona came to an end in 1492, when the Catholic Monarchsoutlawed Judaism throughout Spain and Jews were given the choice of conversion or exile. Today, the Jewish quarter 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.
Onyar river in Girona, c. 1852
Girona has undergone twenty-five sieges and been captured seven times. It was besieged by the French royal armies under Charles de Monchy d’Hocquincourt in 1653, under Bernardin Gigault de Bellefonds in 1684, and twice in 1694 under Anne Jules de Noailles. In May 1809, it was besiegedby 35,000 French Napoleonic troops under Vergier, Augereau and St. Cyr, and held out obstinately under the leadership of Alvarezuntil disease and famine compelled it to capitulate on 12 December. Finally, the French conquered the city in 1809, after 7 months of siege. Girona was center of the Ter department during the French rule, which lasted from 1809 to 1813. The defensive city walls of the western side were demolished at the end of the 19th century to allow for the expansion of the city, while the walls of the eastern side remained untouched but abandoned.
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.