Pirates in Llançà and at the Cap de Creus
Felipe II reported to the 1581 town council of Barcelona, that the notorious
pirate Otxali, was coming from Italy to Catalan waters with sixty galleys. The
Barcelonese sent out messengers to warn the coast villages. Gaspar de
Vallgornera, abbot of the cloister of San Pere de Roda and by his office
responsible for the surrounding small towns, forbad the fishermen from Llançà
and Port de la Selva to go fishing until Otxali had withdrawn.
Llançà’s defence strategy was simple but effective. Its inhabitants
briefly warded off the first attack of the pirates scantily and thence fled then
to the near mountains. The Llançanese forces were strengthened with men from
the nearby inland villages. The governor of Girona had obliged these small towns
to send men to reinforce the local forces protecting the coast. The normal
service was to be posted for up two weeks in the mountains around a coastal
village and to return to their native villages as soon as the danger was past.
During the XVI and XVII Century the Catalans structured their defensive
positions well, nevertheless in the year 1652 thirty armed men from Llançà had
to beat off an attack of three pirate ships. Only the introduction
of the steamship ended the piracy danger. The last official mention dated the
fourth of June 1726 from Llançà: a messenger was sent to Cadaqués, to warn
the inhabitants of a suspected freebooting ship.
Was Llançà French?
quarrel around the state boundary
in the year 1646 a vehement quarrel about the French/Spanish state boundary
broke out between Catalunya and the Roussillon (France).
From the 13th of August until the 7th of November 1659 the prime
ministers of both states, cardinal Mazarin and Luis de Haro met during twenty-four
sessions in Bidasoa, to settle the impasse. The meeting place, a tent, had been
equipped with all imaginable luxury by Velazquez. Nevertheless the result of the
negotiations was rather meagre; they only agreed that the boundary must be set,
and left the details to a Spanish/French consignment. This sat in the Pyrenees
town of Céret. France sent the
bishops Pere de Marca (Languedoc) and Jacint Seroni from Orange.
Spain’s representatives were the Catalans Miquel Salva i Vallgornera
and Josep Romeu de Ferrer. In the course of the negotiations the French argued
stubbornly that the villages of Llançà and Port de la Selva, the cloister Sant
Pere de Rodes and a part of the Cap de Creus was French soil. They referred to a
former division by the king Jaume I according to which the area south to the Cap
de Creus belonged to the Roussillon. After
much debate the group’s horse-trading resulted in a decision to not decide on
the triangle in dispute and to place the border between Banyuls and the Cap de
Cervera (Cerbère). Thus was decided
the current state boundary. Controversies
around the location of this border continued up until the twentieth century.
and oil: the fortune of Llançà
time of prosperity and peace
1718 and 1720 when wheat prices were very low, wine was a scare commodity. This
motivated the inhabitants of the Empordà, to plant fallow plots with vines.
Line by line new terrain was cultivated around Llançà, up into the
mountains. In addition, the Llançanese farmed other ground too, on land
that was unsuitable for viticulture they planted olive trees.
The quality of the fruit of Llançà’s olive trees produced excellent
olive oil. An important historical
circumstance favoured this economical evolution in an exceptional way:
Catalonia had introduced the inheriting-lease as a regional right.
Poor people who could not dream until then of possessing their own
property could now cultivate their own land through annual payments. The
foundation was set for a modern Catalunya.
viticulturists cultivated vines for white wine, red wine, Garnatxa and Moscatel.
During harvest-time buyers from many nations rendezvoused in Llançà:
Spaniards, Italian, later also from French and even from Germany.
An anonymous witness of this happy time recorded the following:
“The Genovese (Italian), who try the kindness, alcohol degree and
sweetness of the wine from Llançà became immediately the most enthusiastic
customers. Their launches were anchored in the Port of Llançà, loaded the
sweet fruit and took it over the sea.” Also
French or Germans came later and bought cartloads and cartloads of all offered
sorts. And more than a few Spaniards found their way to Llançà, enlarging the
number of buyers to purchase the marvellous bunches of grapes, which made Llançà
origin of Port de Llançà
piracy did not threaten the inhabitants of the Empordà any more, the fishing
villages along the coast arose. This
was at the end of the XVII century. Until
then the fishermen of Llançà lived in the village and maintained only some
huts in the "Port" in order to stow fishing equipment. At this time fishing was an important source of income and
the first people built houses for themselves and their families near the sea.
The Port de Llançà’s growth was mostly during the following century.
In addition to the fishing industry the economy was bolstered by the
exporting of olive oil to France and Italy.
The fishermen built their homes close at each other as if to protect
their houses against the last pirates that may emerge at any time.
Between the XVIII and the beginning of the XX Century the place probably
changed very little. During this
time only about 200 people lived here. The
population only increased when tourism expanded.
Probably a great number of fellow French citizens emigrated to take part
in the foundation of Port de Llançà. Records
show that during the years 1620 to 1640 twenty-six "French" men were
buried on the cemetery of Llançà; the women were not counted. One can suppose
that at this date about 20 percent of the local inhabitants were emigrants from
France. Many French family names are evident here today: Garriga or Gros for
The port of Llançà has, as most of the fishing villages of the coast, its own chapel. It was consecrated as the "Mare de Deu", the mother of God.
| The church’s history or legend is based upon a ship getting caught in a
violent storm in the gulf of Leon. The sailors feared never reaching a secure
port again. In their hour of need
the crew and the captain swore to the mother of God that they’d construct a
chapel to her honour on the next firm ground under the feet. The firm ground
onto which they put their feet was the port of Llançà.
The inscription on the portal of the chapel shows the (probable) year of
its construction: 1691.
|Port Chapel, 1880|
The Vine Louse ends the happy times
was the most important sector of Llançà’s economy during the XIX Century.
The wines of the Empordà garnered top prices and were exported to numerous
countries of Europe. It brought an
era of extraordinary prosperity from 1830 to 1855 to Llançà as well as to the
surrounding small towns of Vilajuiga, Garriguella, Rabos and Vilamaniscle.
But the vine louse (cat. filloxera) abruptly ended the beautiful time.
Detected for the first time in America in 1854, it was imported from there to
Europe and rapidly reached Spain via France. It is a pitiful insect from the
family of the plant louse. Its most dangerous pitiful form makes bile-like motes
at the roots. To destroy a vine requires a complete evolutionary cycle of the
pest, and this occurs best in warmer climates. In this respect the southern wine
areas suffered far more than vineyards in the northern European countries.
When the vine stock is infected, it dies rapidly.
Llançà mentioned the vine louse for the first time in the year 1856 in
the chronicles of the municipality. The mayor offered to free the local
viticulturists from all taxes because the failure of the grape harvest.
First, the government required the municipality to measure the actual
damage. But, soon it was recognized
that every vineyard was equally damaged and destroyed.
October 1857 the municipality applied again for the liberation of all taxes
retroactively for six years. The wine harvest has been cancelled since six years
actually, and the wine is finally the main source of revenue of the place...
the following years no more mention of the infestation is to be found in the
chronicles. It seems that good harvests returned after treating the vine stocks
with sulphur. However, in 1879 a
viticulturist again detected filloxera in his vineyard in Rabos. The vine stocks
of the entire Empordà were again affected. Up to the middle of the nineties of
the XIX century the municipalities of the area directed again and again
petitions concerning tax reductions to the central government. By the year 1904
there are references that the wine harvests were again more or less normal.
But the wine economy of Llançà has never completely recovered from this
disaster. So it was presumably ok to many viticulturists when tourism later
reclaimed their vineyard for bungalows and blocks of apartments.
first train comes to Llançà in 1878
unknown author from Llançà described the initiation of the train route between
Barcelona and Portbou: “The
solemn opening occurred on 20th January 1878. The special train was equipped
with five marvellous first class wagons from Germany. The engine was adorned
with the Spanish coat of arms, between the national and the French flag, adorned
with flowers, laurel and olive wreaths. The railway started around half past six
o'clock in the morning from Barcelona, stopped five minutes in Granollers and
reached Girona at nine o'clock. The bishop blessed the wagons and the engine. At
the altar, built up at the railway station, the holy mass was read. The
temperature was a degree under zero, therefore the mentioned ecclesiastical
authority allowed all present that could not resist the rigorous temperature to
keep the hats on. When the
religious ceremonies ended, the authorities and other visitors were boarded in
the station restaurant. Then the convoy moved on.
In Figueres Captain Sr. Blanco joined, along with the military governor
of the city, Sr. Dolsa, as well as other authorities and visitors.
When the train arrived in Llançà, the railway station was filled with
people that greeted and applauded the train enthusiastically.
In Colera the train was welcomed by a company of the infantry regiment
"Asia no. 49" accompanied by an orchestra.
At the 23rd of the same month the line was placed in continuous in
operation. Two trains regularly travelled to and from Barcelona and Portbou,
around 5h35 and 11h30 and 5h55 and 12h40. Since
this historical event in the annals of Llançà its inhabitants enjoyed the
great advantages of this manner of transport, in popular as also in economical
mayor did not seem to share completely this opinion.
On 12th May 1888 he addressed an application to the governor with the
request of tax reductions for the village. The population of the village had
been reduced drastically since the completion of the railway track. On the one
hand, the foreigners who had helped to build the railway have left, and on the
other hand many inhabitants had emigrated because of the filloxera.
The tree of the freedom
|The custom, to plant trees at public places as a symbol of freedom dates from the times of the French Revolution. After the civil wars and military rumours of the XIX Century's the Llançanese also planted their tree of freedom at the Plaça Major. The tree still exists today and is considered a major landmark of the village. Probably it was planted in 1870.|
|Plaza Mayor, beginning of the XX Century|
The mayor (1897-89) Pere Purcallas Pau
mentions this date in the following poem: “The history of this village comes
from far away, further than the horizon, with alternation cases and failures,
allied to the monastic sovereignty of the cloister Sant Pere de Rodes. I know
you suffered tireless when one changed your name in Llansa; your own bastards of
sons dared to castellanisate it. The tree that grows at the Plaça whose bough
expand was planted in the year 1870, and anno 1872 it was supported, and still
today his leaves flutter as those of a blooming tree in the garden and if you do
not joggle it, he will become increasingly powerful, today a new branch,
tomorrow a new branch; if one cares of it with reason and love, it will live so
long as the best servants, the eternal spring opens one morning his strong arms
in order to place a dream that was also the mine once into the cradle of this
place : a dream, brimful with headway, citizen freedom and modern age.”
Llançà in the XX century
life of the village at the beginning of the XX Century returned back to
normality. The filloxera was opposed; the Llançanese developed again diligence
and saw optimistically into the future. Trees were planted; the houses and the
streets were arranged. The quality
of life improved continuously, even a municipality-own hearse was obtained. The
viticulture was again profitable, three alcohol factories were in operation, and
new fountains were installed. The few poor families (about 30) received aid from
the community for the purchase of medicines and for free medical supply or
through vouchers for the purchase of meat.
In 1907 the first public gas lamp was placed in operation.
In 1915 electricity came to Llançà.
In the same year, the firm "La Artesana" applied for permission
to make cinema projections. Special
attention was also directed toward education.
In the year 1906 an inspector judged the knowledge state and the
discipline of the pupils of Llançà as good.
The inspector, however, questioned, the hygienic circumstances and lack
of fresh air in the classrooms. The village fathers pondered on how to remedy
the classroom situation. Religious
and popular celebrations were celebrated, public balls reappeared.
The Sardana, so popular today, was mentioned only once in the documents
of the municipality: The youth of the village asked the mayor for permission for
a Sardana-competition during the fiesta major. He agreed and subsidized the
event with 25 Pesetas. In 1909 the expansion of the road to Colera was started.
In 1913 the work began for the road that connected Llançà with
Vilajuiga. Certainly not all the citizens approved of the road construction age,
especially if his plot’s dispossession was the result. Already, by 1913 the
first cars and bikes were seen on the new streets. The bike drivers were
required to illuminate their vehicle during periods of darkness. By 1923, when
an era of a hectic governmental building activity began under the dictatorship
of the general Primo de Rivera, the Llançanese were ahead of their colleagues
and had already completed their own roads.
CapCreus online, the Web-newspaper of the Costa Brava: www.cbrava.com