Montblanc
Distance from L’Hospitalet de l’Infant: 60 km
Type of activity: cultural, sight-seeing
Time required: half day
 
Montblanc

 On your way to Poblet and to the other Cistercian abbeys you may want to stop at the charming mediaeval town of Montblanc. The town lies directly on the N240, approximately 45 km from Tarragona in the direction of Lleida. Founded in the 12th century, Montblanc has preserved its quaint mediaeval character mostly intact. The picturesque center around the Plaça Major with its arcades forms a tight network of alleyways and narrow streets. Surprisingly well preserved are also the city walls, including several towers.
 
Montblanc was founded in 1163 by king Alfonso I the Warrior of Aragón (1073-1134). With the treaty of Olorón in 1287 five towns were granted the privilege to have their own jurisdiction, these were Montblanc, Barcelona, Huesca, Lérida, and Cervera. On several occasions between 1307 and 1414 court sessions of the Crown of Aragon were held in Montblanc. In 1392 king Joan I (1350-1396) established the duchy of Montblanc, a title that was to be displayed by his successors to the throne. During the Catalan uprising in the 17th century that culminated in the War of the Segadors in 1640, Montblanc was sacked and burned, after which it lost its economic and political influence. During the Spanish Succession War (1701-1714), all privileges were lost, and the Carlist Wars (1833-1849) led to the final demise of the town.
 
Montblanc owes its name not to a snowy mountain, as one might be tempted to guess, but instead to the hill situated above the old town, known as Pla de Santa Bárbara. On this hill there were no fields or gardens because the soil was considered barren, meaning “blanc” in ancient Catalan.
 
Montblanc
 
The mediaeval town is surrounded by large fortified walls, built at the time of Peter III of Aragón (1239-1285). Their perimeter measures 1500 m. Of the original 28 towers 17 remain in good state. The town’s cathedral, called Catedral de la Montaña, is an impressive structure representative of Catalan Gothic style. It was begun in 1352 and was never completed. The main gate is Baroque and dates to 1653.