Torroella de Montgrí
Torroella de Montgrí was once a port, but centuries of silting left it high and dry. In the 13th century the Lords of Torroella, at the behest of Jaume I, took part in the conquest of the Balearic Islands. Bernat de Santa Eugènia was the first governor of Mallorca, Guillem de Montgrí undertook the conquest of Ibiza and Ramon de Torroella was the island’s first bishop. Torroella became a royal township, since it was of special interest to the crown for its strategic value, bordering the upstart earldom of Empúries. King Pere II (13th century) began the construction of the walls; the only parts still standing are the Portal de Santa Caterina and the Torre de les Bruixes (Witches’ Tower). Torroella had a significant Jewish community, and parts of the Call where most of them lived can still be seen. It was during the 15th century, in the wake of a massive increase of population, that the town went through its most flourishing period, renowned for its textiles, and became the nerve centre of the Empordà and the country residence of various monarchs. But Torroella fell from royal favour in the 16th century, and its economy was gradually whittled down to agriculture. The town remains distinctly medieval in appearance with its narrow streets, a colonnaded square, baronial mansions and a rather impressive 14th century Gothic church, the venue for an ambitious international Summer Music Festival, partly sponsored by the British Council. Its façade and bell-tower are 18th century.
Fransesc Gimeno: Un poble empordanès/An Ampordan village (Torroella de Montgrí. Note Montgrí in the background) (1918)
The town’s secondary school is in a lovely old convent, used by a British music conservatory for its summer school around the time of the Festival. The town’s Natural History museum is well presented. The old town is flanked on either side by a rambla which substituted the walls. From the main square it is not too difficult to find the old municipally-owned cinema and art-nouveau Casino bar, where I have had some delightful evenings seeing movies followed by live jazz. There are several other bars and places to eat, but no spectacularly good restaurants. The best lunchtime menus are in the two hotels on the Carrer Major. A Torroella cake shop poisoned several hundred people in 2002. The Festa Major lasts for several days around August 29th.
This article was written by Francis Barrett. See also Francis' excellent guide to Ireland irelandbyways.com
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