Monday, June 18, 2012

Roses citadel full of history

Since it wasn't overly hot this morning, we decided to take a short trip to La Ciutadella in Roses. We had passed the walls several times and weren't really sure what lay within them. What an impressive site. Inside we toured the well presented museum that outlined the history with maps, models and artefacts from neolithic times. The Greeks from Rhodes were thought to have settled the area in 8 BC and there are several remains of the Greek settlement. By 2 BC the Romans occupied the site and the remains include remnants of some baths and the fish salting area.

After the Romans the area was apparently abandoned for some time but in the 11th century there is the first mention of the Santa Maria monastery. Quite a bit of this building is still standing,  notably the impressive curved stone ceiling of the nave. It was around the monastery that a medieval town sprang up relying on a thriving fishing industry.

In the sixteenth century there was a lot of trade with Africa but this also brought raids by privateers. Fortifications around the town were built in the mid 1500s but these didn't hold back Barbarossa, who plundered the town. These fortifications still stand. One of the ways up to the ramparts is through a series of rooms that eventually takes you up to the top of the walls. As I moved through the maze, I felt as if Hercule Poirot could have popped out. It was  reminiscent of an Agatha Christie mystery. Looking out from the ramparts, we enjoyed a beautiful view over the shimmering Mediterranean. Just outside the walls a family of  black donkeys with a young foal eagerly followed the gardener with his wheelbarrow full of weeds from one of the ruins. As soon as he dumped them the donkeys happily devoured their lunch.

Eventually the fortifications were completed and a military garrison was added to the town. The remnants of the hospital, streets with the original cobblestones intact, the armoury with cannonballs and huge rusty old anchors lining the walls oddly interspersed with wild roses, are all on view. As we carried on our walk around the massive area you could see the remnants of the bread ovens that were used when the garrison was under siege, making 'siege bread'. There were several tests to the fortifications between the 1500s and 1800s with the French actually taking the city at one point. The French attacked Roses several times and at one point Austrian troops tried to take the city. The townspeople were not happy when the fortress was built and many moved outside the walls of La Cuitadella.

The archeological excavations are well done and give a very interesting view of ancient times in Roses. In Greek times the sea came halfway into the present day Citadel. Both the museum and the ruins are well worth the visit. We were lucky being almost the only people touring the huge area, but by the end of our tour it was very hot, and time to look for lunch somewhere out of the sun. We look forward to visiting and exploring further or perhaps coming to a concert in the Citadel.

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