History and legends of Lloret de Mar

History of Lloret de Mar

The first settlers of Lloret de Mar were the indigets, one of the tribes of the Iberians who used to inhabit the current Catalonia. There are archeological sites from this period in Montbarbat, Puig de Castellet and Turó Rodó.

The site of Montbarbat is on top of a mountain with the same name. It was inhabited between the 6th century BC and the 9th century AD. In the various excavations carried out on the site remains of Iberian and Emporitan ceramics were found, as well as, Iberian and Punic amphoras, bronze materials and agricultural iron tools.

The site of the Puig de Castellet was built in the 3rd century BC and was used as a watchtower to control the coast.

The present town was formed around 15th century beside the beach district. The parochial church of Sant Romà was finished in 1522, inside it stands out the main altarpiece (1545-1549), painted by Pere Serafí.

The 17th and 18th centuries were times of hardship and conflicts, such as the Revolt of the Joseps.

The port of Lloret has become increasingly important, especially after obtaining the permission to trade with American colonies. From this time the houses built by the men returning from American colonies (in Catalonia they were called Indians) are worth mentioning. Unfortunately, many were destroyed in the process of later urban growth. Can Garriga at the seafront is one example of those houses that you can still see. It was built in 1888 by Enric Baptista Garriga. Currently it houses the Maritime Museum of Lloret de Mar. Another museum of the city is the Casa dels Gats Museum, on Carrer de Sant Albert.

From this era there is also the modernist cemetery (1901) where one can see the works of Puig i Cadafalch, Antoni Maria Gallissà Soqué and Bonaventura Conill Montobbio.

The current 21st century, tourism and growth model of the city is being questioned. Lloret has undergone a rampant urban development, which has not done a favour to the aspects of it that are considered to give it its touristic attractiveness, such as its natural, lush and cared for environment, at the foot of the coast.

Ancient history

The archaeological excavations that were carried out on the Montbarbat mountain and in other places allow us to learn that the first inhabitants of Lloret were from the Lower Palaeolithic, also Iberian settlements from the 4th and 1st centuries BC were found in the areas of Montbarbat, Puig de Castellet, Turó Rodó and Coll de Llop. The settlers of these Iberian urban centers had, essentially, a subsistence economy. Their activity was related to agriculture, livestock, hunting and fishing. In various different excavations carried out in Montbarbat and Puig de Castellet, there are elements of defense (walls, towers …), housing structures, siloses, handmade and potter’s wheel made ceramics, and in Puig de Castellet, fragments of Campanian pottery and Punic amphora were found.

According to some studies, it is likely that in the first century BC, the first Romans reached the coast of Lloret. However, it was not until the first century that the Roman settlement of the beach of Fenals reached its most splendid time. The excavations carried out in Fenals uncovered large structures that were used, surely, as a kind of industrial warehouse for the commercialization of the ceramic production that they were making in their ovens. Therefore the beach of Fenals must have facilitated the entry and exit of the pottery production. Also, from the Roman era, the tomb tower that dates back to the 2nd century AD stands out. The archaeological excavations carried out around the current hermitage of Sant Quirze also allow to confirm the existence of a paleochristian basilica and a necropolis that dates from the 4th century AD.

Middle ages

The first documentary mention of Lloret de Mar dates back to 966. The text, which is located in the Biblioteca de Catalunya, on volume 572 of the manuscript (PonsGuri 1989d), describes the donation in allod of the villa of Tossa de Mar carried out by important magnates of the Catalonia of the 10th century, acting as executors of Miró count of Barcelona and Girona, to the monastery of Santa Maria de Ripoll. The document outlines its limits, to the south “in mare magnum”, to the west “in termino de Loredo, siue in rio de Canelles” and to the north “in ipsas Palomares de Villanova siue in Caldes”.

However, it was not until 1001, when the Lloret allod was formed, following from the fact that Count Ramon Borrell of Barcelona separated it from the town of Maçanet to transfer it to the viscount of Girona, Seniofred. The lordship or dominion of Lloret was kept in the hands of the viscounts of Girona, until 1041, nine years after the conflict between the two daughters of Amat de Montsoriu and Seniofred granddaughters, Ermessenda and Sicardis, in 1032 it was agreed that the second would resign from the inherited rights of her parents in favor of the first, wife of Guerau I of Cabrera, in exchange for the territory and goods of Lloret.

The construction of the Sant Joan Castle, located on the top of the mountain that separates the beaches of Lloret and Fenals most likely dates from this time. The building had an extraordinary view and was used as a watch and, nevertheless, as a refuge for the people of Lloret when it was in danger. It had a chapel of Sant Joan, that at first was inside the fortified area and that changed its location because of the danger of falling into ruin, but it was never suggested where it was moved.

The lady of Lloret, Sicardis, promoted and facilitated the construction of the chapel of Sant Romà (the current hermitage of Les Alegries) in a territory that did not reach the sea. Later, in 1079, she managed to consecrate it as a church and days later, the church of Sant Joan of the Lloret castle was also consecrated. In 1165, the cathedral of Girona became the sole owner of the castle of Lloret, but this fact was not recognized until 1217. The Chapter of Girona was administering all its assets by means of twelve parishes, and to distinguish them, each of them received the name of one month of the year. Each parish was governed by a provost, or administrator, who could reside or not in the administered area. The parish that took care of the property of Lloret was the one called November.
At that time, the town was a scattering of farmhouses that were mainly located in the interior area and, therefore, it should not be surprising that the first parish of Saint John was that far from the current urban center of Lloret.

According to the historian Elvis Mallorquí, the first references to the establishment of Lloret on the seafront are from 1262, from this date there is a rapid growth of households and people, reaching 36 households or about 160 people, in 1346, shortly before the outbreak of black plague in the Catalan Countries and the incursion of the Genoese, who besieged and burned the seaside town of Lloret in 1353.

The people of Lloret who lived near the sea dedicated themselves to commercializing the products of the interior (wood, charcoal …) and practiced fishing and sea transport navigation, which progressively became more important.

In the middle of the 14th century two events took place that overwhelmed the Lloret’s population. In the first place, the black plague which spread throughout Europe and caused havoc among the population. And secondly, as a result of the war that Peter III of Aragon faced with the Genoese, who attacked the territory and caused destruction and fire to the houses that were near the beach and destroyed the Castle which had to be reconstructed few years later. The census of 1359 accounted only 67 households (some 320 inhabitants) in Lloret. The Italians created the neighborhood of Venice and it is said that they fitted their fishermen’s boats as Venetian gondolas making processions by sea. At the same time, began the spreading of the belief in saints and virgins of Italian traditions such as the Virgin of Loreto, Santa Rosalia, San Sebastián and Santa Cristina, who became the patron saint of Lloret.

In 1446 people of Lloret began to ask for the incorporation of their territory into the Crown. Queen Maria of Castile granted them protection so that they could initiate the lawsuit but, nevertheless, there was a strong tension between the Parish and the people of Lloret. Queen Maria even ordered the death of Llorens Gaspar Guirat to be explained, who apparently had been mistreated by provost.

Modern times

It is not known for sure how long the division of the chapels lasted, that of San Juan and that of Sant Romà (Les Alegries), but what is known is that in the middle of the 15th century it was already in discussion to build a New parochial church, close to the place where fishermen and sailors lived. The works began in 1509 and finished in 1522 and the total cost was 3,000 pounds. The church was built according to the Catalan Gothic style of the time and it was decided that the new parish should also serve as a refuge for parishioners during pirate incursions. Thus, the bell tower was fitted with merlons and embrasures and the gateway (which had a drawbridge) ran through a deep ditch. In 1541, the jurors of the University of Lloret commissioned the decoration of the main altar to the painters Pere Serafí (“El Grec”) and Jaume Fontanet.

The 17th century is characterized by the misfortunes and hardships that plagued Lloret: wars, pests, storms, famine … The Lloretencs decided to move the image of Santa Cristina from the hermitage to the parochial church, in order to be able to address their prayers better and with the hope that through it they would achieve greater influence. The 18th century is characterized by conflicts and drop in number of the population. With the War of Succession, at the beginning of the century, Lloret had to contribute with men, muleteers, lodging, wood, money, but the people of Llorens began to feel annoyed because the troops who stayed there committed a great deal of abuse and injustice. In order to try to curb the abuses of the soldiers, in 1711, the Council determined that a gift would be made to the Count of Harcourt (located in Hostalric) including wine and a basket of fish. The committee that carried the present was meant to inform him of the abuse committed by his soldiers in the territories of Lloret and Blanes.

Between 1764 and 1772, the new hermitage of Santa Cristina was built. The first document that mentions the hermitage, property of the Obreria, is from the year 1422. To obtain funds for the construction, Obreria sold jewels, silver candleholders, forests were cut that were owned by Santa Cristina and all kinds of collections were organized. Even the rector, in agreement with the bishopric, gave permission to fish on Sundays on the condition that the benefits were donated to the works. But the most important revenues came from sailors and ship owners.

At that time, there were already many Lloretan sailors who went to America in a more or less declared way. But, in 1778, King Carlos III promulgated the Free Trade Decree with the American colonies. This fact was a great boost for Lloret’s seafaring activity because, as of that time, Lloret’s ships could navigate freely towards America. According to the census of Floridablanca, in 1787 there were already 590 people enrolled who were engaged in work related to the sea, a surprising figure if it is considered that, at that time, the population of Lloret was 2573 people.

In the year 1788 the fishermen of Lloret refused to pay tithes for fishing to the Chapter of the Cathedral. The Town Hall, the neighborhood and the Cerdans (people from La Cerdanya who spent the winter working on the coast) supported the fishermen and there was a strong confrontation between the authorities representing the canons and the people defending the fishermen. There were many people who called “Do not pay, do not pay … the Town Hall doesn’t want it.” In the midst of confusion and screaming they began throwing stones and oranges to injure the authorities and insulted them by calling them thieves and treacherous. Several citizens were prosecuted and convicted and, since seven of the eight men prosecuted were called Josep, this mutiny became known as the “Revolt of the Joseps.”

Contemporary Age

In 1790 there was a new dispute between the Chapter of the Cathedral and the people of Lloret. Most likely, the “Revolt of the Joseps” served as an argument to convince King Carlos III and the Supreme Council of Finance that the civil and criminal jurisdiction of the Lloret district was to be incorporated into the Crown. Finally, the town won this lawsuit that lasted 17 years and cost 40,000 pounds. Thereafter, justice was not administered by a mayor appointed by the canons, but by a mayor appointed by the king.

At the beginning of the 19th century the Lloret’s naval activity increased progressively. Between 1812 and 1869, 130 ships were built (mostly brigantins and sailing boats from 150 to 250 tonnes); However, the golden age of trade and transoceanic navigation was, specifically, between the years 1830 and 1860. As a result, at this time there was a certain increase in the population; Thus, by 1820 there were 2,300 inhabitants in Lloret; Ten years later 2,902 people and, in 1840, 3,024.

The ships took four or five months to go to Havana and return. If they were going to Montevideo, the trip lasted almost half a year. The most frequented places were the area of Mar del Plata and that of the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico. Some, however, went even as far as North America and the coast of Chile and the Philippines. The business consisted of exporting wines, oil, fabrics, salt, flour and other merchandise, and importing cotton, fine woods, skins, sugar, tobacco, coffee, rum, oil, tasajo (salted and dried meat), etc. not forgetting, the importance of the traffic of slaves.

Legends of Lloret de Mar

Although there are many, the most representative legends and traditions are those that point to the most common roots, such as the name of the town, the traditional dance of almorratxs, the hermitage of Santa Cristina and that of Alegries.

The origin of the name of Lloret and its sign

According to Greek mythology, Apollo, the god of light, released the lands near Parnassus from the threat of the Python snake/dragon. Very proud of his triumph, Apollo laughed at Eros, the god of love, because he practiced the use of the bow, the favorite weapon of Apollo. After an argument between the two gods, Eros wanted to punish Apollo for the offense he caused him and shot two arrows: the first, destined to arise passion and love, directly touched the heart of Apollo and the second, destined to reject love, touched the heart of the beautiful Daphne nymph.

From then on, the god Apollo was madly in love with Daphne’s beauty and began to pursue her in order to win her; But, every time he approached, the beautiful nymph run desperately and hid in order to dodge Apollo.

Finally, the god changed his strategy and decided to persuade her with sweet and tender words. Little by little he approached her; But when he was getting close, Daphne ran away again. Apollo decided to pursue her wherever she was and, when he was about to catch her, she prayed to her mother, goddess Gaia (Land), to swallow her because she could not stand the presence of the god Apollo. It was through this that the goddess Gaia heard Daphne’s plea and started swallowing her, right at the moment when Apollo managed to catch her. And in the same place where Daphne disappeared, a magnificent laurel rose out to with the god Apollo hugged in grief and sadness and said: “Because you can not be my wife you will be my favorite tree and your evergreen leaves, will crown people’s heads as a sign of victory.” From this laurel, many others grew, in the same area, and in this place a village was born. In honor of this plant, they called it Lloret.

The Ball de la Plaça or the Dance of Almorratxes

According to tradition, at times when the Catalan coast was often attacked by Muslims and Barbers, a young and rich Arab arrived in Lloret, who fell in love with one of the Christian maidens from the town. The young man used different strategies to convince the girl to marry him; but the girl, because of the religious differences, rejected him every time. Finally, on a dance day, the Arab showed up dressed in his best attire and before the crowd he turned to the maiden and offered her a glass vase (almorratxa) full of fragrant water. The girl, outraged by his daringness, took the vase and bounced it to the ground, where it broke to pieces. They say that the Muslim, embarrassed, returned to Africa, and that the girl, upset and sad, went in to a convent.

The Rossell farmhouse and Lady Rossell

The ruins of the Mas Rossell de Cavallers can still be seen and the legend of the Lady, which is also typical of other places, is told in Lloret when it comes to giving a lesson to scavengers. First it must be said that the hermitage of the Virgen de las Alegrias was the first parochial church of Lloret, consecrated in 1079, where the legendary lady of Rosell used to go to the mass mounted on a gallant mare.

It is said that the first to see her ran to warn the rector saying: “Set light, set light, father Creixell, the Lady Rosell is coming”

The noble lady was a widow, and since the death of her husband, she was overcome with such a strong longing that she had lost appetite and only ate the bone marrow of the rams that she had had slaughtered every day in great numbers. This taste, so expensive, eventually ruined the lady, who was forced to dispense with her servants, her whims and the luxuries of her home. Covered with a black woolen scarf, she went around the farmhouses telling about her misfortunes, in a hope to find a soul that would pity her. One day one farm lady gave her a slice of bread with walnuts. The lady, who regained her appetite through the reverse of her fortunes, had delighted with this rich food. Remembering her wastefulness and her love for extravagant and expensive food, she exclaimed in melancholy: “If only I knew that bread and walnuts were so good. I would still be the Lady of Rossell”.

The origin of the hermitage of Santa Cristina

The first written record of the hermitage dates from the year 1354, it is an authorization to officially store the alms collected for the reconstruction of the hermitage of Santa Cristina, which implies an earlier foundation. A few years later, in 1376, news of another episcopal authorization by Bertran de Montrodon was recorded again, for the same purpose.

The present temple was built at the end of the 18th century. The works were carried out between 1764 and 1772 following a project by Joan Baptista Oliver, master of construction. The present temple was consecrated in 1781.

The legend says that a young shepherd of the Mas Passapera, a mansion that was located near the road of Blanes, while grazing bulls, found among the trees and shrubs of the forest an image of Santa Cristina, in the same place where the Hermitage of Santa Cristina is now located. Surprised, he told his master about it, and the master assured of the fact, immediately informed the rector. Soon the news spread out, and they interpreted the finding as a miraculous appearance. The clergy and the villagers of the area moved the image to the parish church – which was then in Alegries – in a solemn procession and placed it in a prominent situ.

One day, perhaps the following one, they noticed with surprise that the image was not in its place nor anywhere in the old church, despite searching for it all over.

They couldn’t explain the disappearance. Theft was excluded as the image was made of wood and it did not have any gold or silver or anything of value that could excite the greed of anybody. But soon their doubt was gone: someone found the image again, but not where they placed it, but on the same hill, by the sea, where it had been found for the first time in a way so inexplicable as its disappearance from the old church.

The devotees from Lloret interpreted this fact as a divine design and signal that Santa Cristina wanted to remain and to be worshiped in that sailors corner forever, hence, a modest chapel was erected there.

The procession by sea to Santa Cristina

The origin of the procession should be related to the founding act of the hermitage of Santa Cristina. The historical fact is that in 1778 the devotees of Lloret asked the, then bishop of Girona, Tomàs de Lorenzana, to be allowed to continue with the celebration of the procession to Santa Cristina that the bishop had forbidden shortly before. The petition led by Josep Surís i Esqueu, surgeon and councilor, and Francisco Conill, shopkeeper, made a request highlighting the antiquity of the festival and what it meant for the villagers of Lloret de Mar, pleading that the celebration was allowed. In the aforementioned petition, they cite that the procession was by sea, and the people of Lloret felt great adoration for the saint, patron saint and protector of the sailors.

According to the tradition, every year, on the day of Santa Cristina, the people of Lloret came in procession, on the ground, to celebrate the Mass in the hermitage dedicated to Santa Cristina, which is located about three kilometers from the village. The procession, however, became unfeasible for many devotees because it went through very difficult paths and because it crossed three streams (Rieufret, Sa Riera d’en Passapera and Sa Riera d’en Carrabana), the passage therefore became very difficult during the rainy season. In view of these disadvantages and to make a pilgrimage to the saint easier, the representatives of the people came to the relevant authorities in search of the corresponding permission to make the route by sea (not the procession itself, since it is interrupted in the beach of Lloret and resumes when you reach Santa Cristina beach). This authorization, as explained, had to overcome many difficulties and finally, it was necessary to go to Rome to obtain authorization.

The Mass of Traginer or the Consecration of the hermitage of Les Alegries

Originally, it was celebrated every year, on January 7. In fact, the consecration happened on January 8, 1079, but nowadays the celebration was moved to the last Sunday of April. Currently, the fiesta of Traginer is celebrated on the 7th of January. At the beginning of the 18th century, the Sanctuary of Les Alegries was no longer a parochial church of Sant Romà for at least two hundred years. It is said that one day, already when it was getting dark, a muleteer (or traginer in catalan) from Lloret, called Andreu, was returning from work with his cart. In those narrow and damaged by water roads there were very deep ruts, because of it the bags on the cart dragged on the ground scrubbing the ground, the hubs of the wheels kept bouncing from side to side against the edges of the rut. The poor animal advanced with difficulty placing his legs wherever he could. Then the muleteer cut the glimpse of the Romanesque chapel of the Virgen de las Alegres, with a cypress tree next to it, already in the glows of twilight.

When the man passed by the cypress near the hermitage from where the entire façade was perfectly visible, he suddenly noticed a beam of light emerging from the church and a sweet melody, that sounded in the vastness of the fields, reached his ears, full of choral voices, majestic sounds of a multitude of voices that sang together. Tafoig, mass at this hour?” exclaimed the muleteer. He tied the animal into a fig tree and approached the sanctuary slowly. He entered the hermitage through the thick curtain made of purple velvet, lifting his hood and making the sign of the Christians, and the smell of incense and burning candles reached his nostrils. The church was packed with women and maidens, who with white hoods on sang gently. Four rows of candles burnt at each side of the virgin. Our man was astonished. He didn’t recognise any of the woman not by the looks nor the voices. He stood in a corner that remained somewhat dark, without the slightest movement or sound, he watched the ritual ceremonies.

An altar boy made a collection. He moved among the seats squeezing between the legs of the faithful who dropped their donations to the metallic sound of the tray. When the turn of our good man came, he threw a coin on the tray. The altar boy moved on, and the muleteer added his dark presence to the edge of this mystical crowd, which little by little, without making any noise with their feet, was moving on to deep the flame of their candles and to kiss the alb of the priest.

The ceremony was over. The priest walked down from the altar, the flames of the candles, one after the other, went out and turned into greasy and smoky blemishes in the depths of darkness, but the listeners remained motionless in their place, whispering devoutly, moment by moment it was getting a little darker. Andreu decided to move, he got up from his knees, and, as in a dream, evolved in some kind of strange emotion that pressed him, he took his cart and continued the path to the village. His wife, as soon as she heard the animal and the cart, shouted at him: “Allah, do not say you are not hungry. The soup is now cold as the water from the well. Where were you?”. The man, explained what happened as best as he could. “What do you mean now? You sure you did not dream it, sleeping on the cart?” But the man insisted and this very devout family of the Mother of God went to tell the rector what happened. With the rector, praying, they went up to the Sanctuary with more fear than joy.

The door was closed with the lock on; the polished slabs of the floor, as clean as if they just washed them, did not show any, not the slightest, footmark; on the altar everything was in order, except the candles, that were still warm and missing the knots on their wicks, also on the table next to the door of the sacristy, on top of the napkins used in the ceremony, the yellow metal tray appeared with the coin that the good muleteer had donated. The deep corners of the vaults were still filled with that fog that incense mist leaves inside the temples after important ceremonies.

No one ever doubted the truth of the word of the lucky witness. Everyone agreed that the souls of all those good people of Lloret of past centuries, who had been buried around the parochial church, perhaps lacking in satisfaction of something, came together to offer God the Holy Mass, and that it was necessary to help them. And this is why every year the day after the Feast of the Adoration of the Kings, a mass in the intention of the dead is celebrated solemnly in the hermitage of the Virgen de las Alegries.


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