Our route takes us across Catalonia to Barcelona, its chief city.
Bellpuig Over the town looms the Castle of Anglesola, a powerful family which ruled this territory during late-medieval times. A son of the Anglesola family became Viceroy of Sicily, and is buried in the church inside the castle.
You'll notice a town further along, named Anglesola after the leading family of the district.
Tarrega We are traveling along the Urgel Palin, a monotonous countryside watered by the River Cervera. The land here is good for raising garden vegetables, but not especially noteworthy to view. We'll come to steeper foothills before too long.
The major landmark of the town is the Palace of the marquises of Floresta (Gothic) which has large, beautiful windows. There are many attractive little corners in the town.
Cervera (The road bypasses this town through a tunnel, so no point in mentioning any specific landmark.) Believe it or not,this little town was once the chief university center of Catalonia. The story goes back to the Spanish Bourbon King Philip V. Like other Spanish kings, he had his problems with the independently-minded Catalonians. The University of Barcelona and the University of Lerida were "hotbeds" of Catalonian unrest. His solution: dissolve these universities, and establish a university at a remote town: Cervera. The university here opened in 1714. But Spanish students will be Spanish students! Students here became just as independent-minded. A famous episode happened in 1760, Joseph Baretti tried to enter the university-town, but had failed to ask "permission" of the students. He was hissed at as he entered the city gate, and met with a shower of stones.
The university moved back to Barcelona in 1841.
(COURIER: Somewhere along here, start your introduction to Barcelona, reviewing the schedule of activities.)
Igualada In this town is the Church of Santa Maria, with a statue of the "Christ of Iguadala," which in 1590 sweated blood in front of the congregation. Also in the church is the Standard of the Somaten of Igualada, who defeated the French at the River Bruch in 1808.
Montserrat We catch a glimpse of the mountains of Montserrat. These rocky pinnacles and their jagged outline have always reminded the Spanish of a sawtooth; hence, "Montserrat," sawtooth mountains. The Shrine of Montserrat is the most venerated place in Catalonia, the shrine of the region. The shrine houses a statue of the Virgin (carved wood),said to have been found in a thicket on the mountain. The statue was probably a pagan effigy originally, but with the conversion of the region to Christianity, it was given a new representation. The huge abbey stands on the top of one of the pinnacles; the building was begun in 1410 by Pope Benedict XIII. Visitors today reach the abbey by cablecar, and there are popular walks on top of the mountain, with superb views. Richard Wagner used Montserrat as a setting for his opera, Parsifal. The "sawtooth" mountains have always suggested mystery and the supernatural, and awed all who visited them.
Olesa de Montserrat (If visible from the road.) A Passion Play is held in this town, inspired by the nearby Shrine of Montserrat.
Martorell The river we are following is the Llobregat, and the old bridge is the Pont del Diable (Bridge of the Devil), an ancient construction restored in 1768 by King Carlos III; unfortunately, it was almost destroyed during the Civil War, which raged furiously around Barcelona, which was the Republican headquarters.
The River Llobregat has flooded from time to time, destroying bridges and washing houses away. The river drains rainwater from the mountains of Catalonia, and originates up to the north, near the French border. It runs into the sea just south of Barcelona.
We're now on the outskirts of Barcelona.
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