Lleida, Catalonia, Spain

Lleida is a city in the west of Catalonia, Spain. It is the capital city of the province of Lleida, as well as the largest city in the province and it had 137,387 inhabitants as of 2010, including the contiguous municipalities of Raimat and Sucs. The metro area has about 250,000 inhabitants. It is also the capital city of the Segrià comarca. Lleida is one of the oldest towns in Catalonia, with recorded settlements dating back to the Bronze Age period. Until the Roman conquest of the Iberian Peninsula, the area served as a settlement for an Iberian people, the Ilergetes. The town became a municipality, named Ilerda, under the reign of Augustus. It was reconquered in 1149, after being many centuries under the rule of the Moors, who had conquered the town in the 8th century. In 1297, the University of Lleida was founded, becoming the third oldest in the whole Spain. During the following centuries, the town was damaged by several wars such as the Reapers’ War in the 17th century and the Spanish Civil War in the 20th century. Since then, the city has been in a constant urban, commercial and demographic growth.

La Seu Vella

The Cathedral of St. Mary of La Seu Vella (Spanish: Catedral de Santa Maria de la Seu Vella, English: St. Mary of the Old See) is the former cathedral church of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Lleida, in Lleida, Catalonia, Spain, located on top of Lleida hill. In 1707, the Gothic cathedral was turned into a military citadel by decision of King Philip V of Spain. The new cathedral, known as the Seu Nova (English: New See) and located downhill at Carrer Major, was consecrated in 1781. Nevertheless, the Seu Vella is the defining monument of Lleida, the symbol of the city, being visible from its hilltop site anywhere in the city.

The cathedral is designed in a transitional style between Romanesque and Gothic. It lacks almost any influence of Islamic architecture. The floor plan is of a basilica in a Latin cross with a nave and two aisles. The tower is octagonal with a central space of five apses. The interior was decorated in painted murals and sculpture, much of which is still preserved, but much of which has been despoiled during the War of Spanish Succession. The octagonal tower is 12.65 metres (41.5 ft) in diameter at its base, but 9.62 metres (31.6 ft) at the top. Its maximum height is 60 metres (200 ft) and it contains 238 steps. A bell named Mònica announces the quarter-hours and oneSilvestra announces the hours. The bells are of the international Gothic style of the 15th century. The cloister is unusually placed in front of the main entrance of the church, and is notable for both its rare opened gallery with views over the city and for its extraordinary size. In fact, this cloister has been regarded as one of the largest cloisters in Europe. This cloister has 17 ornate Gothic windows, each them different. Among them, we could point out the Muslim window of “the palmtrees” and the central one of the westernmost wing, with a complex decoration witch includes both a King David’s Star and a Christian cross.

Other sights in Lleida

  • Seu Nova, the baroque Cathedral used since Bourbon rule. It was burnt during the Spanish Civil War by the anarchists commanded by Durruti.
  • Institut d’Estudis Ilerdencs, used to be a hospital (Antic Hospital de Santa Maria) built in a Gothic style, but nowadays it is an historical museum and research centre open to visitors, with historically significant objects and art from the Iberian, Roman,Arab, medieval and modern times, as well as an exhibition area usually showcasing contemporary local artists.
  • La Paeria, the city council and also, a historical site with remains and pieces of art from Roman times, to the Moorish rule, to Mediaeval and Modern times, including old prison cells.
  • Gardeny. It is a hill hosting a fortress built between the 12th and 13th centuries. Used by the Knights Templar in the Middle Ages after the area (a fifth of the town) had been granted to them by king Ramon Berenguer IV.
  • The gardens known as Camps Elisis, already used by the Romans. It has the fountain of the mermaid.
  • La Mitjana, a park with wilderness areas. There stands too a dam on the river Segre.
  • Les Basses d’Alpicat, a park. It’s currently closed, awaiting reforms.
  • Church of Sant Llorenç, a 12th century romanesque church with 15th century gothic additions. The interior is well preserved.
  • The Bishop of Lleida’s Palace on Rambla d’Aragó also serves as an art museum showing pieces included in the styles spanning from Romanesque to Baroque.
  • El Roser, a 13th century convent built by the Dominican Order. It hosted a fine arts academy of the same name and is currently controversially reformed into a parador (a luxury hotel using a historical location).
  • Lleida Public Library, on Rambla d’Aragó, hosted in the building previously known as La Maternitat, a mid-19th century orphanage.
  • Museum of Lleida, opened in 2008, and owned by the Diocese of Lleida focusing on the town’s history. Some of the artifacts it contains, which come from areas not belonging to the province of Lleida’s territory and jurisdiction, have been object of contention with the neighbouring dioceses and the government autonomous community of Aragon.
  • Sala Cristòfol, a museum devoted to the works of artist Leandre Cristòfol.
  • Sala Mercat del Pla, an art gallery.
  • Museu d’Art Jaume Morera, an art museum.
  • Centre d’Art de la Panera, a small contemporary art institution.
  • Museu de l’Aigua.
  • Auditori Enric Granados, Lleida’s foremost concert hall. Next to its basement, and publicly displayed are visible ancient ruins.
  • La Llotja de Lleida, a concert hall, theatre, opera and congress hall opened in 2010.

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