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DIOCESE OF GERONA (GERUNDENSIS)

The Diocese of Geronia in Catalonia, Spain, suffragan of Tarragona, is bounded on the north by the Pyrenees, on the south and east by the Mediterranean, and on the west by the dioceses of Barcelona and Vich. The district is mountainous, with forests of pine, oak, and chestnut, and numerous mineral springs. Several of the towns are manufacturing centres, and the main railway from France to Barcelona runs through the province, which possesses considerable commercial importance. Its coal mines are a source of wealth, but agriculture is not in a flourishing condition. The episcopal city of Gerona is the chief town of the province of the same name, and it situated at the confluence of the Ter and the Ona. The ancient portion of the city with its once-formidable fortifications stands on the steep hill of the Capuchins, while the more modern section is in the plain and stretches beyond the river. The bastions of the walls which have withstood so many sieges are still to be seen.

Gerona is the ancient Gerunda , a city of the Ausetani. It is said that Sts. Paul and James, on their arrival in Spain, first preached Christianity there, and tradition also has it that St. Maximus, a disciple of St. James, was the first bishop of the district. It is generally held that the see was erected in 247. On 18 June, 517, a synod was convened here, and attended by the Archbishop of Tarragona and six bishops. Canons were promulgated dealing with the recitation of the Divine Office, infant baptism, and the celibacy of the clergy. The city has undergone twenty-five sieges and been captured seven times. In the time of Charlemagne it was wrested temporarily from the Moors, who were driven out finally in 1015. It was besieged by the French under Marshal Hocquisicourt in 1653, under Marshal Bellefonds in 1684, and twice in 1694 under de Noailles. In May, 1809, it was besieged by 35,000 French troops under Vergier, Augereau, and St. Cyr, and held out obstinately under the leadership of Alvarez until disease and famine compelled it to capitulate, 12 December.

The ancient cathedral, which stood on the site of the present one, was used by the Moors as a mosque, and after their final expulsion was either entirely remodelled or rebuilt. The present edifice is one of the noblest monuments of the school of the Majorcan architect, Jayme Fabre, and one of the finest specimens of Gothic architecture in Spain. It is approached by eighty-six steps. An aisle and chapels surround the choir, which opens by three arches into the nave, of which the pointed stone vault is the widest in Christendom (73 feet). Among its interior decorations is a retable which is the work of the Valencian silversmith Peter Bernec. It is divided into three tiers of statuettes and reliefs, framed in canopied niches of cast and hammered silver. A gold and silver altar-frontal was carried off by the French in 1809. The cathedral contains the tombs of Raymond Bérenger and his wife. The Collegiate Church of San Feliu is also architecturally noteworthy. Its style is fourteenth-century Gothic, the façade dating from the eighteenth, and it is one of the few Spanish churches which possesses a genuine spire. It contains, besides the sepulchre of its patron and the tomb of the valiant Alvarez, a chapel dedicated to St. Narcissus, who according to tradition was one of the early bishops of the see. The Benedictine church of San Pedro de los Gallos is in Romanesque style of an early date. The present bishop Francisco Pol y Baralt was born at Arenys de Mar in the Diocese of Gerona, 9 June, 1854. The diocese contains 373 parishes, 780 priests, 325,000 Catholics. The Capuchins have a monastery at Olot, and among the cloisters for women in the diocese are those of the Franciscan, the Augustinian, and the Capuchin nuns.


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