Legends written in stone

Witches, falcons, demons and the executed are some of the petrified characters from Girona’s myths

Nobody knows the moment legends become part of a city’s oral and written tradition, and Girona is no different in this regard. The city has its own stories from the distant past, as well as other more recent ones. However, this route is limited to the city’s “stone legends”, which begin at Plaça de Sant Feliu, at the Cul de la Lleona (the Lioness’ Backside, on carrer Calderers). Tradition has it that visitors should place a kiss on the bottom of the statue of the lioness if they hope to one day return to the city.

From here, you can go to the collegiate church of Sant Feliu, where a stone body of Sant Narcís rests. He was the protagonist, and the cause, of the legend of the flies: in 1285, the troops of the French King Philippe the Bold sacked and assaulted the church, even though the city had surrendered without a fight. However, giant flies came pouring out of the body of Sant Narcís, the city’s patron saint, and spread deadly diseases among the French troops and their horses. That is why images of flies can be found all around the city and have become one of its local icons.

Ramon Berenguer

We keep on going up and reach the cathedral, where the body of Ramon Berenguer, also called the Cap d’Estopes, rests. It is said that his twin brother, Berenguer Ramon, murdered him during a hunt and then hid his body. But his hawk remained close to the spot where he had been buried, until a farmer heard it and brought Ramon’s body to Girona. During the funeral, the hawk burst into the cathedral, and at that moment the choir involuntarily repeated: “Cain killed Abel”. A sculpted hawk, located at the door of San Miquel, on the way to the cathedral’s treasury and cloister, reminds us of this story.

Already in the city now, there are other stone corners that, merely by contemplating them, evoke the strangest stories. On the corner between the Plaça del Vi and Ciutadans street, there is a tiny head of a demon, called ’En Banyeta’ by the locals. Then, at the entrance to the Saló de plens (plenary hall) of the city hall, there is a door lintel with Girona’s coat of arms on it: in the centre, it features another head biting its own tongue, and has the tree of the knowledge of good and evil on it. The figure has long been associated with the professional secrecy of local councillors, a warning not to gossip about the city’s affairs. Meanwhile, on the vaults of La Rambla, there is a figure with a hat, which is half-man and half-snail, and is playing a kind of flute. Another plays the bagpipes, and a third head shows a venerable, long-bearded man with vampire wings.

The human gargoyle

It is known by all the children in Girona. According to the legend, a woman who was known for practising witchcraft, used to throw stones at the people taking part in religious processions, and so the bishop turned her into stone. The witch is the only human gargoyle on Girona’s cathedral, doomed to look down, and stay forever with its back against the sky.

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