There are several municipalities outside of Barcelona worth taking the time to visit. While many of these areas might not be found on the map of interest, they have plenty to offer in terms of history, culture, and sights to see. About sixty-five kilometers outside of Barcelona, Manresa is an example of one of these nearby cities just waiting to be discovered. With a rich history of faith and Catalan independence embedded in the culture, it’s worth putting the town on your list of places to see near Barcelona.
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History of Manresa
In the 12th century, Manresa was home to a few hundred Jewish families, most of whom lived on a narrow street called Grau dels Jueus. They mostly worked in manufacturing, trading, money-lending, and cultivating vineyards and estates. However, the rabid anti-Semitism of their Catholic neighbors forced almost every Jewish family to sell their estates and depart while others converted to Catholicism in order to stay.
During the Napoleonic Invasion, the French army captured and demolished the city, destroying everything but the churches. The people of Manresa rebuilt their town out of the rubble left behind.
In 1892, Manresa had the honor of hosting a convention which passed the Bases de Manresa, a document declaring the self-government of Catalonia which included a constitution, the composition of the Catalan Parliament which was to be democratically elected by the people, and the status of Catalan as the sole official language.
The City of Manresa
Today, more than 75,000 people live in Manresa. Its economy currently revolves around textile manufacturing, metallurgy, and glass making. In the countryside, vineyards still function in wine production and wine tourism. Like the rest of Barcelona, the municipality prides itself on nature with its parks suitable for leisure, sports, and environmental purposes.
The Sèquia is the most renowned park in Manresa and locals love to hike and bike along the streams and paths. The city’s town hall dates back to the 19th century and was remodeled in the 2000s. Famous residents include the world-renowned physicist Juan Ignacio Cirac Sasturain, cartoonist Manel Fontdevila, retired footballer Jordi Lardín, and the current mayor of Valencia, Joan Ribó.
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What to Visit in Manresa
The most notable place to visit in Manresa is the Santa María de Manresa, also known as La Seu. The Romanesque-Gothic church dates back to the late 9th century, although the building has undergone expansion, renovation, and restoration to this day. Some of its features include the crypt (built in 1578), the Chapel of the Holiest (built in 1657), a bell tower (built in 1592), and artwork from the 13th to 15th century.
The municipal museum is located within the 17th-century Church of Sant Ignasi.
Finally, there is the Cave of Saint Ignatius, a sanctuary where its namesake is said to have locked himself inside and prayed for an entire year. A declared Local Cultural Heritage site, it’s a Baroque/Neo-classical style church. The cave itself is a grotto facing Montserrat that stands over the Church, Jesuit Residence, and Centre for Spirituality. Every year, pilgrims come to pray at the entrance to the cave which is a mini chapel to honor Saint Ignatius.
How to Get to Manresa
To get to Manresa from Barcelona, you can go by train or bus for the 50 to 70-minute ride. By car, take the C-58 and C-16 north. You can also take the R5 train from L’Hospitalet Av. Carrilet to Manresa with a traveling time of just over an hour.
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*Main photo by Miquel Fabré via Visualhunt