Last Updated on November 8, 2023 by Christian Heide
If you’re in Barcelona and looking for a captivating day trip, Girona should unquestionably be on your list. Just a short train ride away lies this enchanting medieval gem that has gained recent fame as one of the filming locations for the hit series “Game of Thrones.” However, Girona’s allure extends far beyond its small screen appearance.
One of its most mesmerising attractions is undoubtedly the stunning Cathedral of Girona, an architectural masterpiece that dates back to the 11th century. As you approach the city’s historic center by train, anticipation builds with each passing minute. Once there, make your way through narrow cobblestone streets and picturesque squares until you arrive at Plaça de la Catedral. Standing proudly amidst charming buildings and quaint shops, this magnificent cathedral reveals itself in all its glory – an imposing structure adorned with intricate Gothic details and towering spires that seem to touch the sky. The sight is nothing short of awe-inspiring; it transports you back centuries into a world where craftsmanship reached unparalleled heights. Soaring high above are steps leading towards heaven — quite literally if we consider that climbing them rewards visitors with panoramic views over Girona’s captivating landscape.
The Cathedral of Girona: A Marvel of Catalan Gothic Architecture
The Cathedral of Girona is a magnificent architectural masterpiece that stands as a testament to the ingenuity and craftsmanship of its builders. This breathtaking cathedral, officially known as the Cathedral of Saint Mary, is one of the most significant religious and historical landmarks in Catalonia, and it continues to captivate visitors with its rich history, artistic beauty, and spiritual significance.
The history of the Girona Cathedral dates back over a thousand years. Its origins can be traced to the Roman period when a basilica dedicated to Saint Felix stood on the site. However, the construction of the current cathedral began in the 11th century and continued over several centuries, evolving through various architectural styles. The predominant style of the Girona Cathedral is Catalan Gothic, which is known for its intricate and ornate detailing.
One of the most striking features of the Girona Cathedral is its impressive facade. The main entrance, flanked by two massive towers, is adorned with a wealth of sculptural detail that tells a story of the Christian faith. The facade’s rose window, with its intricate tracery and delicate stained glass, is a masterpiece in itself, casting a warm and ethereal light into the interior of the cathedral. Above the main entrance, a grandiose representation of the Last Judgment, intricately carved in stone, serves as a visual reminder of the consequences of one’s actions in the afterlife.
The interior of the Cathedral of Girona
The Cathedral of Girona is celebrated as one of the largest and most impressive Gothic churches in the world, known for its intricate and harmonious architectural design. The transition to Gothic architecture brought an array of innovative elements that define the cathedral’s unique character:
1. Ribbed Vaulting: One of the defining features of Gothic architecture is the use of ribbed vaulting, which is prominent in the Cathedral of Girona. The interior boasts a mesmerizing array of ribbed vaults, creating a sense of height and grandeur, and allowing for a play of light and shadow that enhances the aesthetic appeal.
2. Pointed Arches: Pointed arches, characteristic of Gothic architecture, are prevalent throughout the cathedral. These arches contribute to the verticality and the overall sense of upward movement that is a hallmark of the style.
3. Stained Glass Windows: Gothic cathedrals are renowned for their stunning stained glass windows, and the Cathedral of Girona is no exception. The windows in the cathedral are a visual treat, casting a colorful spectrum of light across the interior.
4. Flying Buttresses: The cathedral’s exterior is adorned with flying buttresses, which serve both a structural and aesthetic purpose. These architectural supports help distribute the weight of the massive walls and allow for larger, more intricate windows and decorations inside.
5. Width: The cathedral boasts a stunning verticality, with a nave extending to an impressive 22 meters, making it one of the widest churches in the world. The elevation on top adds to the sense of awe and reverence experienced by visitors.
Ermesinde of Carcassonne: One of the most powerful Catalan women in history
Ermesinde of Carcassonne, who lies in eternal rest within the Cathedral of Girona, was a woman of great historical importance. Born in 972, she was the daughter of Roger I of Carcassonne and Ermesinde of Auvergne. She married Ramon Borrell, the Count of Barcelona, in 993, forging a crucial political alliance in the medieval Catalan region. Ermesinde played a pivotal role in her husband’s rule, standing by him during turbulent times, including the campaigns against the Muslim emirate of Córdoba. After his death she became regent for her son and even for her grandson, thus she influenced Catalan politics for half of a century.
Ermesinde’s legacy extends beyond her role as a political consort. She is also remembered for her charitable acts, particularly her support for the Santa Maria de Ripoll Monastery. Her benevolence earned her a place in the annals of Catalan history as a benefactor and a devout Christian. Her final resting place in the Cathedral of Girona is a testament to her historical significance and the reverence she held in the hearts of the people of Catalonia.
The Girona Cathedral houses a remarkable collection of religious art and historical artefacts
One of the most iconic elements of the Girona Cathedral is its “Creation Tapestry,” an extraordinary work of art that dates back to the 11th century. This tapestry is a true masterpiece, both in terms of its artistic quality and its historical significance. It is one of the oldest in Europe. Depicting scenes from the Book of Genesis, it is a remarkable example of Romanesque art.
The Girona Cathedral also boasts an impressive collection of religious relics, including a 16th-century statue of the Virgin Mary, and the Holy Chalice, said to be the cup used by Jesus at the Last Supper. These relics are not only of great religious significance but also offer a glimpse into the historical and artistic heritage of the region.
The cathedral’s cloister is another architectural gem, offering visitors a peaceful retreat from the bustling city outside. The cloister is adorned with a garden, creating a tranquil and contemplative atmosphere. It is a perfect place to escape the hustle and bustle of the city and reflect on the beauty and history of the cathedral.
Girona Cathedral will undoubtedly leave a lasting impression on you
In conclusion, the Cathedral of Girona stands as a remarkable testament to the artistic and architectural achievements of Catalonia. Its rich history, stunning Gothic architecture, and the wealth of religious art and artefacts it houses make it a must-visit destination for those interested in history, culture, and spirituality. Whether you are a religious pilgrim, an art enthusiast, or a history buff, the Girona Cathedral will undoubtedly leave a lasting impression on your heart and mind. It is a true jewel of Catalonia and a monument to human creativity and devotion that continues to inspire and awe visitors from all corners of the world.
How to get to Girona from Barcelona
Let us not forget how easily accessible such breathtaking beauty can be from Barcelona! To embark on this unforgettable journey from Catalonia’s capital to Girona, simply head to Barcelona Sants Station that serves trains bound for Girona throughout the day. The fast train offered by RENFE is a wonderful option and will bring you to Girona in 40 minutes.
In case you are looking for a private tour to Girona reach out to us. The Barcelona Feeling can plan and accompany you on a full day trip to that beautiful city. Lean back and enjoy a wonderful day!