History of Torroella de Montgrí

History of Torroella de Montgrí (Spain, Catalonia)

The remains of the settlement in the municipality of Torroella go back to the Paleolithic with a settlement of hunter-gatherers (in Cau del Duc) and the Neolithic based at least on the cultivation of cereals (Cau de les Dents, Cau dels Ossos, Cau del Tossal Gros, Cau d’en Calvet, Fonollera, Puig Mascaró). Also, remains of the Roman era were found in places like Cave de la Gruta, Torre Gran, Santa Maria del Mar, Santa Maria del Palau and Xarlan vineyard.

We do not have historical data on the enclave of Torroella (Torrocella) until a record from 888 that also mentions the town of Ullà (Olianus) and Bellcaire d’Empordà. The whole southern part of the Montgrí massif seems to have been occupied during the Roman era, with several villas, with historical continuity between the 1st century BC until the 7th century AD (Villa del Camp de la Gruta). The speculation that the nucleus of Torroella derives from one of these villas, despite the lack of archaeological or documentary evidence to guarantee the occupation of the site, is not unbelievable.

In medieval times, the original centre included the space around what is today the Palau lo Mirador, belonging to the family Robert (count of Torroella by order of Alfonso XIII) and the church of Sant Genís, at the time it was a smaller temple lost by the fire at the end of the 13th century and the subsequent reforms and modifications. In 1272, the town passes under royal power in a swap between Count Dalmau VI of Rocabertí and Peter the Great, thus passing to royal power.

During the medieval period, the town population increased progressively (in 1332 the Batlle General de Catalunya granted the license of the second bread oven) and played an important role in the unification of the Catalan counties. The beginning of the construction of the emblematic castle of Montgrí is an example of this conflict as well as its sudden finalization. There is indirect evidence which confirms that other towns collaborated voluntarily or by force in the maintenance of the walls of Torroella (Gualta, Fontanilles litigation between 1361-1371, litigation of 1413).

In 1364 King Peter the Ceremonious sold the barony and the town of Torroella to the Count of Empúries but it returned to the possession of the king in 1373, the year in which the reconstruction of the bridge over the River Ter was authorized. At this time, royal attention centred on the town as the temporary hunting residence of King John I was created. The old town expanded during the Middle Ages to the south, following a grid shape urban plot surrounded by walls with only four portals: Santa Caterina (north), Mar (west), Ter or Sant Josep (south) and Ullà (west). Only the one of Santa Caterina has survived inside a square tower. Apart from the portals, the walls had six circular towers (including the Tower of the Witches in the northwest corner) and four square towers (among them the one mentioned by the Portal of Santa Caterina in the north).

This configuration remained stable until the beginning of the 18th century, but during the 19th century new doors were opened and several sections of walls were destroyed in a swing of modernity postulated by J. Pericôt. In 1396 the Convent of Saint Augustine was founded.

In 1599, already in the modern time, the University of Torroella acquired the ownership of the Muntanya Gran that they bought from the king of Aragon (Philip II), economically ruined by expensive military ventures. In turn, the university began its split into plots to lease it for cultivation, above all, for vineyards. On the other hand, a few years later the Church of Sant Genís (1609) was consecrated, coinciding with the expulsion of the Moors, a few years before the convent of Santa Maria de Gràcia d’Empúries was founded.

The battle of Torroella happened on May 27, 1694, during the Nine Years’ War, when the French troops led by the Duke of Noailles stormed the Terço castellany, crossed the Ter and a few days later took Palamós (Dam of Palamós). After the invasions of the Kingdom of France (Reapers’ War, Nine Years War, War of the Spanish Succession) in the 18nth century, the population of the town returns and begins the works for an extensive agricultural occupation on the Ter plain. The wetlands of the Bellcaire Lake (1721-1743) are seated, the Ter southwards course is channelled (early 19th century), configuring the current Gola del Ter away from l’Estartit. However, the 19th century represents a reduction in the agricultural occupation of the Montgrí Massif due to the plague of the phylloxera that passed through Torroella between 1880 and 1881, or due to the competition with oil brought from Italy.

The town of l’Estartit added administratively to Torroella, has requested administrative independence from Torroella in recent years, it got denied, but not without controversy. The etymological origin of L’Estartit probably comes from the contraction of Es Ter Petit (it’s small Ter), and still today there is a small water channel that leads to the sea near the beach of the Griells.

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