Wandering around the medieval quarter of the wonderful town of Girona, peeking into the courtyards in the Jewish quarter, reading plaques about this and that bit of Iberian Judaica that vanished with the Inquisition of 1492, never to return – no Jews here now! – I felt like declaring to the curators or restauranteurs, Jo sóc un jueu autèntica! (Catalan for, “I am an authentic Jew!) Maybe get a free snack, or a discount museum admission? I thought better of it.
Gerona is beautiful and fascinating. It’s one of those medieval towns that urban planners like to rhapsodize about: the organic growth; the variety of spaces and spatio-temporal experiences as you walk through it; the multiple uses assigned to spaces – street, square, parking lot, market all in one! The old town sits on a rock at the confluence of rivers, and is filled with winding streets, surprising squares, a fine set of walls, and a stupendous set of steps to the cathedral.
Urban views don’t get any better than this one from the old bridge in town, up towards the ‘new’ bridge, a metal affair designed by Gustave Eiffel. The image on the right is of a Romanesque portal to an abbey near the cathedral. Most of the time, I only get to see this sort of thing in museums, in pieces, but here it is intact, although the paint that originally livened it up is long gone. The shapes are weird, looking almost like diatoms. (Click the image for a shot of the full portal.)
The cathedral itself is monumental, and a bit surprising. I plan another post on the characteristics of Catalan Gothic, but suffice it to say that although the arch on this side portal is pointed, this is not your Frenchman’s gothic. The church is enlivened, or ruined? by an enormous late baroque façade applied over the original sober elevation. At that time, the steep and positively enormous flights of steps to the main entrance were added. I imagine that before that, a winding ramp led the faithful to the door.
Drainage always and everywhere…