Tuesday, 17 June 2014

A "Muralla" in Girona

The Força Vella in Girona

Looking through the various PowerPoint presentations that were given to me by Carlos Curto Mila - in Barcelona - it is very encouraging to see that geologists in great cities like Barcelona, Amsterdam and London, among many others, are doing their very best to promote 'urban geology'.

Growing up in central London, where I relied on the Geology Museum and very occasional visits to the surrounding countryside - to satisfy my passion for geology - I appreciate this initiative. Later on, when applying "stone matching" skills within the building restoration industry, I relied heavily on the work of such pioneering geologists as Dr. Eric Robinson.

Girona and Figueres
As a geologist, I have always preferred petrology more than palaeontology but, in the muralla of Girona, there are some very interesting fossils - nummulites. I was very curious about these when I first saw them in the Barcelona Geology Museum, because we don't have them here in England, and it was a great surprise to see the whole city wall packed with them.

Staying in Girona mainly for its close proximity to the airport and Figueres, to see the Theatre-Museum Dalí on the second leg of my journey, I was aware that, along with its cathedral, the city wall is considered to be Girona's main tourist attraction and - for a geologist - it is full of interest.

A walk around the city wall and the Força Vella
Apart from providing the opportunity to take a good close look at the nummulitic limestone, a walk along the wall provides commanding views of the surrounding hills, where the differential erosion of conglomerates, sandstones, and marls forms distinctive dip and scarp topography. 

Occasionally, flanking the ridge of limestone that overlooks the city, large outcrops of rock are visible and, where publicly accessible, can be used to study the geology in situ.

At the Força Vella and the Torre Gironella, the remains of the old Roman fortress and walls show various styles and techniques of masonry - with large squared blocks of sandstone used in the foundations and limestone for coursed rubble walling - and its construction history can be unravelled by looking closely at the stones. Occupying the highest point of the ridge, and with the original walls enclosing the site on which the cathedral is now built, the Romans certainly knew how to take advantage of the topography when founding this city.

The cathedral in Girona

The cathedral itself is fortress like, with only the Baroque style west front showing any kind of elaborate decoration, but is it well worth a visit and I particularly liked the enormous sphere of nummulitic limestone that stands outside the entrance. Having walked for many miles during my 3 days in Barcelona, I got used to walking on various stone surfaces; in Girona, however, make sure that you wear walking boots, because the ubiquitous cobbles are very hard on your feet...