Tarragona, Spain (Capital) - Encyclopedia

GEOGRAPHICAL NAMES Spanish Simplified Chinese French German Russian Hindi Arabic Portuguese

TARRAGONA (anc. Tarraco), the capital of the Spanish province of Tarragona, a flourishing seaport, and the seat of an archbishop; at the mouth of the river Francoli, 63 m. by rail W.S.W. of Barcelona, in 41° 10' N. and o° 20' E. Pop. (woo) 23,423. Tarragona is on the coast railway from Barcelona to Valencia, and is connected with the Ebro Valley Railway by a branch line to Reus. The picturesque old town, with its dark and steep alleys, occupies a rugged hill which rises abruptly from the sea to an altitude of about 550 ft. Its highest point, where the ancient citadel stood, is crowned by the cathedral, the seminary for priests, and the palace of the archbishop, who shares the title primate of Spain with the archbishop of Toledo. Many of the houses in this quarter are very old, and are built partly of Roman masonry; one such fragment, immured in the palace wall, is inscribed with the epitaph of a charioteer (auriga) who, it says, would rather have died in the circus than of fever. Massive ruined walls encircle the old town. Their lowest course is "Cyclopean," consisting of unhewn blocks about 12 ft. long and 6 ft. wide; Roman masonry of the Augustan age is superimposed. The six gates and the square towers are also, to a great extent, "Cyclopean." The palace, itself a building of the early 19th century, has an old fortified tower, and there are barracks and forts in the city; but Tarragona can no longer be regarded as a fortress capable of withstanding modern artillery, although it is officially classed as such.

The new town, divided from the old by one broad and shady avenue, the Rambla de San Carlos, and intersected by another, the more modern Rambla de San Juan, extends to the west and south along a low promontory which juts out into the Mediterranean. Its outlying districts merge into the Camp de Tarragona, a plain planted with vines and walnut, almond and olive groves. Tarragona cathedral is one of the noblest examples of early Spanish art. It is 320 ft. long and 103 ft. broad, and consisted originally of a nave, aisles, transepts with an octagonal lantern at the crossing, and an apsidal chancel. Several exterior chapels were added in later times, and on the south-east stands a 14th-century steeple raised on a Romanesque tower. The east end was probably begun in 1131 on the ruins of an earlier church, but the main body of the building dates from the end of the 12th century and the first half of the 13th, and is of transitional character, - the exuberant richness of the sculptured capitals being admirably kept in subordination by the Romanesque simplicity of the general design. Considerable changes were introduced at a later date; and the present west end of the nave cannot have been completed till late in the 14th century. On the north-east side is a cloister contemporary with the church, with which it communicates by a very fine doorway. The cloister contains much remarkable work, and the tracery of the windows bears interesting marks of Moorish influence. Two other noteworthy churches in the city are San Pablo and Santa Tecla la Vieja, both of the 12th century. There is a fine Roman aqueduct; the Roman amphitheatre was dismantled in 1491 to furnish stone for the eastern mole, though a few rows of seats are left near the sea-shore; and the museum contains a large collection of Roman antiquities. The Torreon de Pilatos is said to have been the palace of the Emperor Augustus; it was partly destroyed by the French in 1811 and now serves as a prison. Its name is connected with an old tradition that Pontius Pilate was a native of the city. Tarragona has also many public buildings, including the law courts, several hospitals, a provincial institute, training schools for teachers, and offices of the provincial and municipal governments. When the monks of the Grande Chartreuse were compelled to leave France, they settled at Tarragona in 1903, and established a liqueur factory; 20,000 cases of liqueur were exported in 1904 and 39,000 in 1905. A characteristic feature of Tarragona is the number of its underground storehouses for wine (bodegas); wine is exported in large quantities. There is a British steel file factory; chocolate, soap, flour, ironware, paper, pipes and salted fish are also manufactured. The harbour is at the extreme south-west of the new town. It was originally protected by a Roman breakwater, which was destroyed in the 19th century. The eastern mole, founded in 1491 and frequently enlarged, terminates in a lighthouse. Its length was 1400 yards in 1904, when the construction of a new section was begun. In each of the five years 1901-5 about 870 ships of 580,000 tons entered the port. Wine, oil, nuts, almonds and small quantities of lead and pig iron are exported; the imports include coal from Great Britain, grain from the Black Sea, staves and petroleum from the United States, dried codfish from Norway and Iceland, guano and phosphates. Close to the harbour and at the mouth of the Francoli is the fishermen's quarter (barrio de pescadores), in which most of the houses are coloured pale blue.


Tarraco, the capital of the Iberian Cessetani, many of whose coins are extant, was one of the earliest Roman strongholds in Spain. It was captured in 218 B.C. by Gnaeus and Publius Cornelius Scipio, who improved its harbours and enlarged its walls. A Roman monument on a hill 3 m. E. is known as the Sepulcro de los Escipiones, and locally believed to be the tomb of the Scipios, who were defeated and slain by the Carthaginians under Hasdrubal Barca in 212 B.C. The battle took place at Antiorgis, the modern Alcaniz in the province of Teruel; there is no good reason to believe that the bodies of the Scipios were conveyed to Tarragona for burial, nor is the monument older than the 1st century A.D. As the Colonia Triumphalis, so called to commemorate the victories of Julius Caesar, Tarraco was made the seat of one of the four assize courts (conventus juridici) established in Hispania Citerior. Augustus spent the winter of 26 B.C. here, and made Tarraco the capital of the whole province, which received the name of Hispania Tarraconensis. A temple was built in his honour. It was afterwards restored by Hadrian (A.D. 117-138), and the city became the Spanish headquarters of the worship of the goddess Roma and the deified emperors. Its flax trade and other industries made it one of the richest seaports of the empire; Martial and Pliny celebrated its climate and its wines, and the fragmentary remains of temples, baths, amphitheatre and other Roman buildings bear witness to its prosperity. It became an archbishopric in the 5th century.

To the Romans the Visigoths under Euric succeeded in 467, but on their expulsion by the Moors in 711 the city was plundered and burned. It was long before the ruins were again inhabited, but by 1089, when the Moors were driven out by Raymond IV. of Barcelona, there must have been a certain revival of prosperity, for the primacy, which had been removed to Vich, was in that year restored to Tarragona. In 1118 a grant of the fief was made to the Norman Robert Burdet, who converted the town into a frontier fortress against the Moors. In 1705 the city was taken and burned by the British; in 1811, after being partly fortified, it was captured and sacked by the French.

Custom Search

Encyclopedia Alphabetically

A * B * C * D * E * F * G * H * I * J * K * L * M * N * O * P * Q * R * S * T * U * V * W * X * Y * Z

Advertise Here


- Please bookmark this page (add it to your favorites)
- If you wish to link to this page, you can do so by referring to the URL address below.


This page was last modified 29-SEP-18
Copyright © 2018 ITA all rights reserved.