Alghero History

The territory where the current city of Alghero stands was chosen as a housing site more than 3,500 years ago, as evidenced by the many more or less famous archaeological sites. What were the reasons that pushed these ancient men to settle in this area?

Alghero-Lungomare-ValenciaIn order to understand the Catalan atmosphere that is still lived in the lively streets of the city of Alghero one must go back to the events of ancient medieval history and its troubled wars of subjugation. The sources date back to 1353 famous battle in the Gulf of Porto Conte, between the Genoese and the Catalans, which led to the conquest of Alghero by the Catalonia .
The small town fortress was founded by the Doria family in the 12th century and since then it has become the subject of contention among the major European powers.
Its exceptional position in the center of the Mediterranean had made it strategically interesting both economically and politically. Soon the city became one of the most coveted sea ports of the Mediterranean .
In fact, the commercial route most followed by the skilled Genoese sailors, as in the Phoenician times, started from northern Africa and reached the Strait of Gibraltar, passing near the island of Sardinia .
The city was completely conquered and subjugated in 1354, by the Aragonese king Peter IV the Ceremonious, who had the ancient local inhabitants driven out and wanted to repopulate the place with Majorcan Jews and Catalan colonists.
The Jews until 1501 settled in the northern part of the town of Alghero which also included the synagogue.
From this date onwards, the departure of Jewish families of different religious faith began, although some managed to retain their residence thanks to a forced conversion to Catholicism. The Carcassona family distinguished themselves for this reason, also managing to become very influential in the city.
Currently the ancient Jewish Quarter is one of the most visited places in the city, marked by interesting descriptive panels that tell the story of the splendid palaces and wealthy families who lived there. Even the Catalan settlers who arrived in the town fortress, together with the Jews, were skilled craftsmen, wealthy merchants and expert peasants. To facilitate their transfer to the new headquarters, the sovereigns granted him numerous royal privileges and granted him convenient tax incentives. It was these skilled Catalan businessmen who transformed the small fishing village into a rich agricultural and mercantile city.
The language used from that moment on, for internal communication and for commerce, was Catalan , forcing foreigners to learn it to integrate with the locals.
In some written sources dating back to the Catalan period there is already talk of the difficult fishing of coral in the Alghero riviera and of its exclusive commercial monopoly. It is said that the kings managed to protect its exclusivity by preventing the external coral fishermen, especially the Corsicans and Genoese, from staying in the city.
The intensity of fishing was also attested by the port registers, compiled in 1428 and 1493, which also monitored naval movement, noting every single landing place of foreign boats in the city port.

With the union of the Kingdom of Spain, through the marriage of Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabella of Castile, the official language of the whole kingdom became Castilian. The new language joined the Catalan already in use and was officially used mainly for the preparation of real documents.
For modern historiography, the 16th century was a period of extreme intellectual liveliness, extraordinary cultural innovations and profound urban transformations.
The demographic increase that characterized the century pushed, from then on, the city administrators to concentrate the construction in the areas inside the walls, raising the ancient and decorated Catalan palaces. The Cathedral of Santa Maria, still open to visitors, was built thanks to the art of architects attentive to the refined Renaissance and mannerist conceptions typical of the century.
In 1503 Pope Julius II designated Alghero as Episcopal See and the Spanish rulers began demolishing the old medieval walls.
The ancient layout of the Genoese walls was repeatedly drawn in the fourteenth-century maps, now preserved in the archives, testifying to the presence of a small wall alternating with as many as 26 square towers.
The Spanish kings preserved a small part of it, but celebrated their power by raising new towers, which were fewer in number, but taller, rounder and more powerful than in the past.
Today, although there are only a few traces of the ancient triangular ravelins and the numerous sixteenth-century underpasses, we can still admire those towers, which have remained intact and majestic despite the passage of time. Today’s frequent musical and cultural events enhance its beauty.

In the eighteenth century, contact with the Catalans was interrupted, who however left an important and distinctive bilingualism among the population. From 1708 it passed to a brief Austrian influence.

Starting from 1720 in the city of Alghero , as in all of Sardinia, there was the dominant presence of the Savoy regime.

The House of Savoy enhanced coral fishing and agriculture. It also launched a new industrial policy, encouraging the emergence of numerous small companies. The patriotic events of Mazzini and Garibaldi followed which led to the unification of Italy.

Alghero expanded more and more, so much that most of its walls were demolished in the early twentieth century to meet the numerous building requests.

During the Second World War, especially following the bombings of 1943, numerous empty spaces opened in the ancient heart of the city which favored the birth of new squares, whose names recall those tragic war events such as the current “Piazza dello Sventramento “.

After the war, a great social and demographic development followed which led Alghero to be today one of the most beautiful and tourist-oriented towns in Italy.