Astorga, Spain

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Astorga is a town in the province of León, northern Spain. It lies southwest of the provincial capital of León, and is the head of the council (comarca) of La Maragatería. The river Tuerto flows through it. As of 2009, its population was about 12,100 people.

Astorga lies in the area of the Maragatos, a small ethnic and cultural community with distinctive customs and architecture. The town lies along the French route of the Way of St. James (Spanish: Camino de Santiago). Saint Turibius of Astorga was bishop of the city in the 5th century.

Contents

History

Astorga was originally a Celtic settlement which later become one of the Roman strongholds in the region they called Asturica. The Roman city was founded in 14 BC, being entitled by Emperor Octavian as Asturica Augusta. Ruins of Roman baths are still visible today.

Asturica was the main city in north-west Spain during the Roman Empire. Plinius called the city Urbs magnifica ("magnificent city"). The Via Platea went from Asturica (Astorga) to Emerita (Mérida). One of the first three bishoprics in Spain was founded in Astorga, so the title of Bishop of Astorga is one of the oldest religious charges of Europe.

After the campaigns of Alfonso I of Asturias (739-757) against the Moors, the city was abandoned, being in the largely empty buffer zone between Moors and Christians known at the time as "The Desert of the Duero", and was part of the Repoblación ("repopulation") effort carried out a century later during the reign of Ordoño I of Asturias (850-866). Astorga suffered from decadence until the 11th century, when the city became one of the main points in the French route for the pilgrims to Saint James's tomb in Compostela. Construction of the cathedral began in the 15th century and finished in the late 18th century.

During the Peninsular War, Astorga was besieged by the French Napoleonic troops. Astorga was the farthest town in the Iberian Peninsula in which the Emperor Napoleon resided.

Main sights

  • Catedral de Santa María de Astorga
  • 19th century Episcopal Palace (Palacio Espiscopal), designed by Antoni Gaudí.
  • Town Hall, begun in 1683. It is a Baroque edifice with three towers in its façade, the middle one including the bells.
  • Roman archaeological remains, including those of the original military camp, the sewers, two baths (late 1st and 3rd century AD), remains of the forum and several mosaics.
  • Remains of the ancient walls.

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