1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Tortosa
TORTOSA, a fortified city of north-east Spain, in the province of Tarragcna; 40 m. by rail W.S.W. of the city of Tarragona, on the river Ebro 22 m. above its mouth. Pop. (1900), 24,452. Tortosa is for the most part an old walled town on the left bank of the river, with narrow, crooked and ill-paved streets, in which the houses are lofty and massively built of granite. But some parts of the old town have been rebuilt, and there is a modern suburb on the opposite side of the Ebro. The slope on which old Tortosa stands is crowned with an ancient castle, which has been restored and converted into barracks and a hospital. All the fortifications are obsolete. The cathedral occupies the site of a Moorish mosque built in 914. The present structure, which dates from 1347, has its Gothic character disguised by a classical façade with Ionic pillars and much tasteless modernization. The stalls in the choir, carved by Cristobal de Salamanca in 1588–1593, and the sculpture of the pulpits, as well as the iron-work of the choir-railing and some of the precious marbles with which the chapels are adorned, deserve notice. The other public buildings include an episcopal palace, a town-hall and numerous churches. There are manufactures of paper, hats, leather, ropes, porcelain, majolica, soap, spirits, and omaments made of palm leaves and grasses. There is an important fishery in the river, and the harbour is accessible to vessels of 100 tons burden. Corn, wine, oil, wool, silk, fruits and liquorice (a speciality of the district) are exported. The city is connected with Barcelona and Valencia by the coast railway, and with Saragossa by the Ebro valley line; it is also the terminus of a railway to San Carlos de la Rápita on the Mediterranean. Near Tortosa are rich quarries of marble and alabaster.
Tortosa, the Dertosa of Strabo and the Colonia Julia Augusta Dertosa of numerous coins, was a city of the Ilercaones in Hispania Tarraconensis. Under the Moors it was of great importance as the key of the Ebro valley. It was taken by Louis the Pious in 811 (after an unsuccessful siege two years before), but was soon recaptured. Having become a haunt of pirates, and exceedingly injurious to Italian commerce, it was made the object of a crusade proclaimed by Pope Eugenius III. in 1148, and was captured by Ramon Berenguer IV., count of Barcelona, assisted by Templars, Pisans and Genoese. An attempt to recapture the city in 1149 was defeated by the heroism of the women, who were thenceforth empowered by the count to wear the red sash of the Order of La Hacha (The Axe), to import their clothes free of duty, and to precede their bridegrooms at weddings. Tortosa fell into the hands of the duke of Orleans in 1708; during the Peninsular War it surrendered in 1811 to the French under Suchet, who held it till 1814.