Encyclopædia Britannica, Ninth Edition/Tarragona (2.)

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
For works with similar titles, see Encyclopædia Britannica, Ninth Edition/Tarragona.

From volume XXIII of the work.
See also the Project Disclaimer.

TARRAGONA, the capital of the above province, is a flourishing seaport, the seat of an archbishopric, at the mouth of the Francoli, 63 miles by rail west-south-west of Barcelona, in 41° 10' N. lat. and 0° 20' E. long., with a population of 23,046 in 1877. The picturesque but badly built older portion of the town stands on the steep slope of a hill 760 feet high, and is still surrounded by walls of Roman (in parts Cyclopean) origin. Below the walls a broad street, the Rambla, divides the upper from the lower town, which has been more regularly built in modern times along the low promontory which stretches out into the Mediterranean. The city is most beautifully situated, and gains considerably in effect from its magnificent cathedral, one of the noblest examples of early Spanish art. It is 300 feet in length and 100 feet in breadth, and consisted originally of a nave, aisles, transepts with an octagonal lantern at the crossing, and an apsidal chancel. Several exterior chapels have been added in later times, and on the south-east stands a 14th-century steeple raised on a Romanesque tower. The east end was probably begun in 1131 on the ruins of an earlier church, but the main body of the building dates from the end of the 12th century and the first half of the 13th, and is of transitional character,—the exuberant richness of the sculptured capitals being admirably kept in subordination by the Romanesque simplicity of the masses. Considerable changes were introduced at a later date; and the present west end of the nave cannot have been completed till late in the 14th century. On the north-east side is a cloister contemporary with the church, with which it communicates by a very fine doorway. The cloister contains much remarkable work, and the tracery of the windows bears interesting marks of Moorish influence. Two other noteworthy churches in the city are San Pablo and Santa Tecla la Vieja, both of the 12th century. The mole, begun in 1491, was chiefly constructed out of the Roman amphitheatre, of which a few rows of seats can still be seen on the sea-shore. The remains of a Roman aqueduct form a picturesque feature in the landscape. The Carcel de Pilatos is said to have been the palace of Augustus Cæsar; it was partly destroyed by Suchet, and now serves as a prison. The museum contains a collection of the Roman antiquities which are continually being discovered during excavations.

The trade is steadily increasing. During 1885 the vessels cleared amounted to 377,250 tons (45,795 tons British, 47,181 French, and 42,617 Swedish and Norwegian). The exports were valued at £1,289,533 (wine £1,023,847), and the imports at £1,237,012. The exports were mostly to France, Great Britain, and the River Plate; the imports were chiefly from Germany, Russia, France, and Sweden. There is communication by rail with Barcelona, Valencia, and Lerida, and by steamer with other ports of Spain.

Tarraco was one of the earliest strongholds of the Romans in Spain, and became a colony (of Julius Cæsar), the capital of Hispania Citerior, and the richest town on the coast. To the Romans the Visigoths under Euric succeeded in 467, but on their expulsion by the Moors in 710 the city was razed to the ground. It was long before the ruins were again inhabited, but by 1089, when the Moors were driven out by Raymond IV, of Barcelona, there must have been a certain revival of prosperity, for the primacy, which had been removed to Vich, was in that year restored to Tarragona. In 1118 a grant of the fief was made to the Norman Robert Burdet, who converted the town into a frontier fortress against the Moors. In 1705 the city was taken and burned by the English, and a century later, after being partly fortified by them, it was captured and sacked by the French in 1811 under Suchet.