The first organized population of the enclave of present-day Girona appeared around 82 BC when Pompey built a fortification to protect the strategic area. It was named Gerunda, which over time became Girona.
Unlike almost all Roman cities or towns, Girona was not designed based on the Roman-Latin grid but, instead, on a completely irregular distribution according to military needs. It was a strategic city that grew with a defensive layout, key to its subsequent development as a thriving Roman entity.
After the adoption of Christianity, Girona was the scene of profound changes and intrigues regarding the different currents within the religious power and of continuous assaults of the barbarian tribes. However, it maintained a certain stability despite the collapse of the Western Roman Empire.
Finally, in the 5th century, the Visigoths took over the city, maintaining control until the year 711. The Muslim invasion completely displaced them in the year 715.
The Muslim, Carolingian and Catalan period
Although the Muslims transformed the city within the aegis of the Caliphate, and there was some socioeconomic flourishing, Girona was never of strategic importance to the Muslims, who quickly handed it over to Charlemagne. This historic event marks the beginning of what would be the future Catalonia, in which Girona came to have high-level strategic importance.
This situation changed when the Muslims tried to recover the city. This resulted in its fortification and increased political and military influence, consolidating the strength of the Catalan kingdom and especially its independence.
In the 13th century, Girona reached the maximum splendour of the Middle Ages thanks to the prosperity of the Jewish community and the economic revival. However, as the Spanish reconquest intensified, the Jews were converted and expelled at the beginning of the 14th century.
During the following three centuries, Girona experienced a pronounced demographic and economic growth that forced it to expand its natural limits, extending the defensive walls and further fortifying its defences. This came after constant attacks by neighbouring kingdoms and the various military conflicts that sought to seize control of this strategic city.
The 19th century, the civil war and the future
At the beginning of the 19th century, Girona faced the worst attack known to date in its history, when Napoleonic troops invaded Spain in 1808.
From that moment on, the city was the scene of bloody combat that lasted for seven months. It capitulated after massive human losses and significant destruction.
After France’s defeat in 1813 and its subsequent expulsion from Spain, Girona began a difficult path of reconstruction that experienced a boost thanks to the Ensanche policy. This allowed it to further expand its physical limits and increase heavy industry and its commercial sector.
By the year 1889, the last Muslim defensive walls had collapsed and Girona expanded in an ambitious modernization plan that still preserved a good part of its historical and cultural heritage, especially that pertaining to the old medieval Jewish quarter.
With the arrival of the 20th century, the socioeconomic momentum worsened as a result of the economic depression that emerged in 1929 and the subsequent political instability that devastated all of Spain, reaching its highest point in 1931 with the establishment of the second republic.
As in the rest of Europe, Spain was mired in a bloody struggle between fascists and communists, which began after the end of the First World War and worsened after the collapse of Wall Street.
The uprising of the Francoist troops in Melilla unleashed the bloody Spanish Civil War in 1936. Girona quickly fell into the hands of the insurgents and continued like this until the Francoist triumph in 1939.
Under Franco's command, Catalan autonomy was seriously diminished, affecting all its cities. Girona was no exception. However, ambitious infrastructure works were undertaken that somewhat improved the economic situation.
Not until the arrival of democracy and its subsequent entry into the European Union in 1986 did Girona experience a boost and socioeconomic flourishing, especially in the industrial and tourist sectors. This would make it one of the most important cities in Catalonia after Barcelona.
In 1990, Felipe de Borbón was named heir to the Crown of Aragon, which was considered a significant indication of the political influence that the city was once again experiencing.
Girona is among the Spanish cities that have best preserved their historical heritage. Thus, it is one of the top heritage tourist destinations in Europe, surpassed only by Bruges.
With the arrival of the new century, Girona experienced a significant amount of tourism and academic development. It reached its highest level in 2016 when it received the coveted European Award in recognition of its efforts to exalt the pan-European ideal, becoming, together with Santiago de Compostela, the second Spanish city to get it.