1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Gijón

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GIJÓN, a seaport of northern Spain, in the province of Oviedo; on the Bay of Biscay, and at the terminus of railways from Avilés, Oviedo and Langreo. Pop. (1900) 47,544. The older parts of Gijón, which are partly enclosed by ancient walls, occupy the upper slopes of a peninsular headland, Santa Catalina Point; while its more modern suburbs extend along the shore to Cape Torres, on the west, and Cape San Lorenzo, on the east. These suburbs contain the town-hall, theatre, markets, and a bull-ring with seats for 12,000 spectators. Few of the buildings of Gijón are noteworthy for any architectural merit, except perhaps the 15th-century parish church of San Pedro, which has a triple raw of aisles on each side, the palace of the marquesses of Revillajigedo (or Revilla Gigedo), and the Asturian Institute or Jovellanos Institute. The last named has a very fine collection of drawings by Spanish and other artists, a good library and classes for instruction in seamanship, mathematics and languages. It was founded in 1797 by the poet and statesman Gaspar Melchor de Jovellanos (1744–1811). Jovellanos, a native of Gijón, is buried in San Pedro.

The Bay of Gijón is the most important roadstead on the Spanish coast between Ferrol and Santander. Its first quay was constructed by means of a grant from Charles V. in 1552–1554; and its arsenal, added in the reign of Philip II. (1556–1598), was used in 1588 as a repairing station for the surviving ships of the Invincible Armada. A new quay was built in 1766–1768, and extended in 1859; the harbour was further improved in 1864, and after 1892, when the Musel harbour of refuge was created at the extremity of the bay. It was, however, the establishment of railway communication in 1884 which brought the town its modern prosperity, by rendering it the chief port of shipment for the products of Langreo and other mining centres in Oviedo. A rapid commercial development followed. Besides large tobacco, glass and porcelain factories, Gijón possesses iron foundries and petroleum refineries; while its minor industries include fisheries, and the manufacture of preserved foods, soap, chocolate, candles and liqueurs. In 1903 the harbour accommodated 2189 vessels of 358,375 tons. In the same year the imports, consisting chiefly of machinery, iron, wood and food-stuffs, were valued at £660,889; while the exports, comprising zinc, copper, iron and other minerals, with fish, nuts and farm produce, were valued at £100,941.

Gijón is usually identified with the Gigia of the Romans, which, however, occupied the site of the adjoining suburb of Cima de Villa. Early in the 8th century Gijón was captured and strengthened by the Moors, who used the stones of the Roman city for their fortifications, but were expelled by King Pelayo (720–737). In 844 Gijón successfully resisted a Norman raid; in 1395 it was burned down; but thenceforward it gradually rose to commercial importance.