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La Bisbal d'Emporda

La Bisbal dEmporda bridge over the River Daro with water Spring rains on the Costa Brava have come, and what are often dry riverbeds now have water, the most noteworthy being the River Daro at La Bisbal d'Emporda where its old stone footbridge into the old town has a chance to show its purpose.

The villages around La Bisbal d'Emporda are some of the gems of Costa Brava, small stone-built medieval villages of narrow streets, cobblestones and vaulted central squares like Monells, Peratallada, Corca, Mandremany, Vulpellac, and Fonteta. La Bisbal itself is often overlooked.

La Bisbal dEmporda Bishops Palace For tourists, it is easy to take the main road through La Bisbal or to take the ring-road around outside and to see it as just a line of pottery and ceramics shops on the way to the coast. But, in fact, the central older town of La Bisbal, that is not visible by car has a lot of charm and history. Being the main town for Baix Emporda and a seat of the Bishop of Girona, it hides a classic continental market town with squares and passageways and its own original Jewish Call.

La Bisbal dEmporda main square The name La Bisbal means "the bishop" and comes about because the town was ceded to the Bishops of Girona from the 11th Century. La Bisbal and the surrounding villages were important both religiously and politically, with the neighbouring Baronia de Cruïlles being one of the important controlling families in the area, with their influence eventually taking in Peratallada and out to Begur and Esclanya, and with some family members becoming bishop of La Bisbal.

La Bisbal bisbalenc The history of medieval Catalonia is a little confusing, because unlike the burgeoning kingdoms in the north of Spain, that eventually became the kingdoms of Asturias, Leon, and then Castille, in Catalonia there were continuing tensions between the counts and ruling families. Overtime the Counts of Barcelona established primacy over the other counts of Catalonia, including the counts of Empuries who somewhat confusingly alternated in name between Hugh and Ponç. But at the same time, the Bishops of Girona sought influence over the Basilica in Castello d'Empuries (Catalan wikipedia link gives more details). The struggles between the various Counts in Catalonia seems to be one reason Catalonia as a territory never became a kingdom with regular power struggles sometimes leading to full on conflict (eg Aragonese Crusade or the Catalan Civil War in the 15th century) often with the help of the French.

La Bisbal dEmporda hidden corners Over the centuries, the Emporda region has seen regular flow of Spanish-French conflicts and intrigues, the last being during the Napoleonic Penisular Wars when La Bisbal was the site of a battle when the very Spanish sounding Henry O'Donnell took La Bisbal from the French (the Imperial army was commanded by the very French sounding Jacques MacDonald). As an indirect link, the Hotel at Castell d'Emporda has what they say is the largest scale model of the Battle of Waterloo, for those interested in Napoleon's time.

La Bisbal dEmporda new vaults More recently La Bisbal is best known for its ceramics and terracotta - hence the shops along the main road and the presence of the chimneys through the town. The town has both a terracotta museum and a school for ceramics for what became the most important industry for the town.

In current times, except for market day when the streets throng with local people, La Bisbal can feel quite quiet, undiscovered and undisturbed but there are lots of nooks and crannies to explore. If there were a few more cafe terraces it would be perfect as a place to sit and enjoy the history.

Neighbouring walks: La Bisbal, Vulpellac, Castell d'Emporda, FontetaCanapost, Poblet Iberic and Ullastret - Palau-sator and Peratallada - Santa Susanna de Peralta and Sant Climent de Peralta - Llofriu, St Llop and Torrent - Mont-ras to Fitor and on to Fonteta and Vulpellac - Canapost to the medieval fair at Peratallada

 

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