We had driven past Lleida a few times so I welcomed the opportunity to stop and see it – even if it was siesta time.
To climb to the top of the Lleida Hill was steep but lifts were available to take you there from the main square. The hill offers a fantastic view of the dry plains of Central Spain.
The former Gothic Cathedral of St Mary of La Sue Vella sits on top of Lleida Hill, dominating the landscape. Originally a Christian cathedral, it was rebuilt in 832 as a mosque and then reconsecrated in 1149 as Santa Maria Antiqua. It was restructured as a Cathedral with additions between 1203 and 1431. In 1707 it was deconsecrated and turned into a military citadel as a prominent part of the city’s defence, by decision of King Philip V of Spain.
As far as accommodation, Bruce had left the best to last. Castell de Cardona is a ninth century castle with a tower dating from the second century, set on a high rock above the beautiful village of Cardona. The sun was low and sending its soft light directly onto the castle-on-the-hill, so after a tour of the castle it was a quick run down to town to catch the sun’s rays.
Cardona is only 100km north of Barcelona and strategically important through history for its salt mine. The castle was built to provide defence and protection to this important commodity and has seen many struggles for power over the years. Current mining is 2km below the surface. We could hear the mining activity in the early morning.
We returned to Barcelona via Montserrat (serrated mountain). The monastery set high up on the mount is interesting, but I also love the shape of the mount, which is visible in some parts of Barcelona and around the countryside.
It was cool and misty on the mount, the beginning of autumn. Unfortunately not a good view, but this is such an amazing place, even in mist.
Inside the church, crowds were queuing to pay respect to the black Madonna. Outside there were stands to make offerings and place candles. An important place of pilgrimage, and of course with links to the Camino.