1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Saragossa (city)

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34665011911 Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 24 — Saragossa (city)

SARAGOSSA (Zaragoza), the capital of the Spanish province of Saragossa and formerly of the kingdom of Aragon, seat of an archbishop, of a court of appeal, and of the captain-general of Aragon; on the right bank of the river Ebro, 212 m. by rail N.E. of Madrid. Pop. (1900) 99,118. Saragossa is an important railway junction; it is connected by direct main lines with Valladolid, Madrid and Valencia in the west and south, and by the Ebro Valley Railway with Catalonia and the Basque Provinces; it is also the starting-point of railways to the northern districts of Aragon and to Cariñena on the south-west. The city is built in an oasis of highly cultivated land, irrigated by a multitude of streams which distribute the waters of the Imperial Canal, and surrounded by an arid plain exposed to the violent gales which blow down, hot in summer and icy in winter, from the Castilian plateau. The monthly range of temperature frequently varies by as much as 50° Fahr., and the climate is rarely pleasant for many consecutive days except in spring, when warm easterly winds blow from the Mediterranean. The city is surrounded by gardens, farms and country-houses (locally known as torres, “ towers ”). Seen from a distance it has a fine appearance owing to the number of its domes and towers; on a nearer approach it presents a remarkable contrast between the older streets, narrow, gloomy, ill-paved and lined with the fortress-like palaces of the old Aragonese nobility, and the business and residential quarters, which are as well build as any part of Madrid or Barcelona. Saragossa is thus in appearance at once one of the oldest and one of the newest of Spanish cities.

One of its two stone bridges, the seven-arched Puente de Piedra, dates from 1447; there is also an iron bridge for the railway to Pamplona. Beside the river there are public walks and avenues of poplar; the suburb on the left.bank is named Arrabal. The two most important buildings of Saragossa are its cathedrals, to each of which the chapter is attached for six months in the year. La Seo (“The See”) is the older of the two, dating chiefly from the 14th century; its prevailing style is Gothic, but the oldest portion, the lower walls of the apse, is Byzantine. The Iglesia Metropolitana del Pilar is the larger building, dating only from the latter half of the 17th century; it was built after designs by Herrera el Mozo, and owes it name to one of the most venerated objects in Spain, the “pillar” of jasper on which the Virgin is said to have alighted when she manifested herself to St James as he passed through Saragossa. It has little architectural merit; externally its most conspicuous features are its cupolas, which are decorated with rows of green, yellow and white glazed tiles. The church of San Pablo dates mainly from the 13th century. The Torre Nueva, an octangular clock tower in diapered brickwork, dating from 1504, was pulled down in 1892; it leaned some 9 or 10 ft. from the perpendicular, owing to faulty foundations, which ultimately rendered it unsafe. Among other conspicuous public buildings are the municipal buildings, the exchange (Lonja), and the civil and military hospitals and almshouse (Hospicio provincial), which are among the largest in Spain. The university was founded in 1474, but its history has not been brilliant. To the west of the town is the Aljaferia or old citadel, originally built as a palace by the Moors and also used as such by its Christian owners. Late in the 15th century it was assigned by Ferdinand and Isabella to the Inquisition, and has since been used as a military hospital, as a prison and as barracks. Saragossa is the headquarters of a large agricultural trade; its industries include iron-founding, tanning, brewing, distillation of spirits, and manufactures of machinery, candles, soap, glass and porcelain.

History.—Saragossa (Celtiberian, Salduba) was made a colony by Augustus at the close of the Celtiberian War (25 B.C.), and renamed Caesarea Augusta or Caesaraugusta, from which “Saragossa” is derived. Under the Romans it was a highly privileged city, the chief commercial and military station in the Ebro valley, and the seat of one of the four conventus juridici (assizes) of Hither Spain. It is now, however, almost destitute of antiquities dating from the Roman occupation. It was captured in 452 by the Suebi, and in 476 by the Visigoths, whose rule lasted until the Moorish conquest in 712, and under whom Saragossa was the first city to abandon the Arian heresy. In 777 its Moorish ruler, the viceroy of Barcelona, appealed to Charlemagne for aid against the powerful caliph of Cordova, Abd-ar-Rahman I. Charlemagne besieged the Cordovan army in Sarkosta, as the city was then called; but a rebellion of his Saxon subjects compelled him to withdraw his army, which suflered defeat at Roncesvalles (q.v.), while recrossing the Pyrenees. The Moors were finally expelled by Alphonso I. of Aragon in 1118, after a siege lasting nine months in which the defenders were reduced to terrible straits by famine. As the capital of Aragon, Saragossa prospered greatly until the second half of the 15th century, when the marriage between Ferdinand and Isabella (1469) resulted in the transference of the court to Castile. In 1710 the allied British and Austrian armies defeated the forces of Philip V. at Saragossa in the war of the Spanish Succession; but it was in the Peninsular War (q.v.) that the city reached the zenith of its fame. An ill-armed body of citizens, led by José de Palafox y Melzi (see Palafox), whose chief lieutenants were a priest and two peasants, held the hastily-entrenched city against Marshal Lefebvre from the 15th of June to the 15th of August 1808. The siege was then raised in consequence of the reverse suffered by the French at Bailen (q.v.), but it was renewed on the 20th of December, and on the 27th of January the invaders entered the city. Even then they encountered a desperate resistance, and it was not until the 20th of February that the defenders were compelled to capitulate, after more than three weeks of continuous street fighting. About 50,000 persons, the majority non-combatants, perished in the city, largely through famine and disease. Among the defenders was the famous “Maid of Saragossa,” Maria Agustin, whose exploits were described by Byron in Childe Harald (1, 55 sqq.).