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History of Tarragona

the roman city

Tarragona is a beautiful city next to the Mediterranean, whose origins date back to Roman times. It was, first, a military camp to later become a town.

And since then, with more or less population, it has been inhabited without interruption.

The city had two periods of splendor: the Roman period and the Middle Ages, during which it revived. For this reason, at present, we can visit numerous vestiges of both periods scattered throughout, above all, through the old town.

The history of Tarraco (the name given to the city of Tarragona by the Romans) begins in the year 218 BC. when the Roman armies arrived in the Iberian Peninsula to fight against the Carthaginians in the battles for control of the Mediterranean.

At first Tarraco was a small military base, to later become the main Roman military base in Hispania. Military, merchants and Roman citizens moved to these territories in search of new opportunities.

During the years 25 and 26 B.C. Tarraco was the capital of the Roman world, since Emperor Augustus settled in the city to direct the battles with the Cantabrians from the north of the peninsula from here. In that moment of splendor the theater and the local forum were built.

In the 2nd century AD the amphitheater was built, one of the great jewels of Roman heritage that is preserved in Tarragona today. It is located near the sea, in a location that continues to amaze with its beauty. In it, gladiator and animal fights, hunts, athletic exhibitions and death torments were held. It even had a forklift under the arena that was used to raise cages with wild beasts, gladiators and other elements.

In front of the amphitheater you will find the remains of the circus where chariot races, circus and theater games were held. It had a capacity of about 25,000 people, a length of 325 meters and a width of 115 meters.

Right next to it you will find the remains of the Roman Provincial Forum, built in 73 AD; It was an immense monumental complex, covering 18 hectares, made up of two large porticoed squares that housed the main administrative, religious and military buildings of Tarraco.

Outside the city we can visit the Ferreres Aqueduct or Pont del Diable, built in the s. I BC to carry water from the Francolí river to Tarraco.

It is in very good condition. It is also located in a forest area with a picnic area where you can recharge your batteries and enjoy nature.

There are many more things to see in Roman Tarraco: the national archaeological museum, the paleochristian necropolis, the Scipios tower, the Mèdol quarry, the wall, the Arco de Bará and countless other things to discover.

A pleasant visit that you can do for yourself, simply wandering the streets and letting yourself be amazed by the beauty of the ruins that we find in the city, or hiring the services of a guide to get to know in depth the details of the Tarraco that was.

And taking a leap in time, we go back to the Middle Ages when the city of Tarragona reappeared after having been almost abandoned during the stay of the Muslims in Catalan territory. It was during the reconquest and repopulation of the Catalan territories by the Crown of Aragon when the city became important again.

The remains of Medieval Tarragona can be found, above all, in the Upper Part. The Cathedral is the most remarkable element of the entire legacy. Its construction began around the year 1146 and it was consecrated in 1331. Its architecture is a sample of the transition from Romanesque to Gothic styles. Once there, stop to admire its enormous rose window on its façade and the cloister inside.

The sculptural ensemble of the Cloister is one of the most remarkable in Romanesque art in Catalonia due to its extremely rich capitals and cymas; among which it is worth noting the well-known “procession of the rats”.

Pla de la Seu, a large open-air space located just in front of the Cathedral, is one of the most beautiful areas and one that best preserves the medieval atmosphere of the city; with a series of Gothic houses among which we find the old rectory, the Balsells house, the House of the Abbot of Poblet and the Porches of Mercería street. It also has some very nice bars and terraces where you can take a break.

The existing wall from Roman times only had to be repaired and maintained during the Middle Ages. In the S. In the fifteenth century the walled enclosure was extended to the area of the old Roman circus with the construction of the “Muralleta”, partially visible today next to the vaults of San Hermenegildo.

As a civil building, it is worth mentioning the façade of the old Hospital de Santa Tecla, founded in 1171. You can also walk the streets of the Jewish quarter around the Plaza dels Àngels. The Jewish quarter even had its own exit. Currently, only a few streets and several isolated Gothic arches remain. You can also visit the King’s Castle, the building around which medieval Tarragona began to be built.

In the Roman amphitheater you can visit the remains of the church of Santa María del Milagro dating from the s. XI-XII. In the national museum there is a Virgin Mary with Child that comes from this church. Belonging to the Middle Ages, you can also visit the Diocesan Museum, the Churches of San Pablo and Santa Tecla, the Castillo del Rey and the Castillo del Paborde.

Do not forget that you can always hire a guide to explain the details of the Middle Ages in Tarragona and thus transport you to the past. Or simply walk at your leisure and enjoy. You will love it! It is only 20 km from Cambrils.

For more information:

Tarragona Tourism

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