Manresa, located in the geographic centre of Catalonia, is an industrial area with textile, metallurgical, and glass industries. The houses of Manresa are arranged around the basilica of Santa Maria de la Seo. Saint Ignatius of Loyola stopped to pray in the town on his way back from Montserrat in 1522. He also read in solitude in a cave near the town for a year, which contributed to the formulation of his Spiritual Exercises. As such, the town is a place of pilgrimage for Catholics. It is believed the comarcal name “Bages” comes from a corruption of the Latin “Bacchus” due to the extensive production of wine in the area. The wine was grown mainly in terraced vineyards, and many of these old terraces can be seen today. Wine ceased to be the main product of the area as a consequence of phylloxera, but is still a very important part of the Manresa/Bages economy. During the Napoleonic invasion, the volunteer troops of Manresa (sometent in Catalan) defeated the French troops in the Bruch Pass (June 1808), but the retreating French burned and demolished much of the town. After the expulsion of Napoleon’s troops, Manresans rebuilt the town using the rubble.
In the 12th century Manresa was said to have contained 500 Jewish families, most of whom lived in a narrow lane called “Grau dels Jueus,” near the town hall; their cemetery, still called “Fossana dels Jueus,” was outside the city. In the 13th and 14th centuries the Jews there were engaged in manufacturing, trading, money-lending, and in the cultivation of their vineyards and estates. The hostility of the Christians towards the Jews was manifested in Manresa. In 1325 the Christian inhabitants of the town tried to prevent the Jews from baking their Passover bread, so that the latter were obliged to appeal to the King for protection. The Jews in Manresa did not escape the general persecution of 1391, and many of them professed to accept Christianity. After 1414 comparatively few Jews remained in the town, and in 1492 they sold their property for whatever they could get, and left the country. At the beginning of the 15th century Manresa had 30000 inhabitants; three centuries later it contained barely one-fifth of that number.
La Seu is the principal monument of Manresa. The 14th-century basilica of Santa Maria de la Seu stands on a rock above the oldest bridge. The church we can see today was designed by Berenguer de Montagut who also designed Santa Maria del Mar in Barcelona. The architectural style is characteristic of Catalan Gothic. The work began in 1325, but the church was not finished until the end of the 15th century. The municipal museum is housed in the cloisters of the 17th-century church of Sant Ignasi.
How to get there from Barcelona.
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