Tarragona — The sights
We set off for Tarragona early in the morning. We took the Rodalies commuter train from El Masnou to the main train station in Barcelona. There we bought tickets to Tarragona, about 5 € one-way. There is a train about every 20 minutes. The one we took required a change not far from our destination. We arrived before 9 am and with the sun shining we knew it would be a hot day of around 30ºC (upper-80s F).
The Roman amphitheater is a short distance from the Tarragona train station. In fact the train tracks are only a few meters from the amphitheater. If you look closely at the notch of the theater, you can see a pole used for the catenary power lines for the train.
We had to huff and puff walking up a hill that overlooks the amphitheater. Although much of the original work has been used as a source for building materials for the past two millennia, you can still see that it was an outdoor theater that could seat several thousand spectators. We decided that we could take plenty of pictures without paying the entrance fee.
The amphitheater has the characteristic elliptical shape of this type of construction, with tiers of seating for the audience and an arena. Here gladiators fought each other or wild animals and sometimes fights between animals of the same or different species were held. Below the arena there was a series of underground passageways used by the auxiliary services needed for the performances.
Roman Wall and Roman Circus
Roman Wall and Tower
Just above the amphitheater was part of the roman wall that surrounded the ancient city of Tarraco. The wall is 10 meters high and is preserved over a distance of more than a kilometer — about a quarter of the original length. On this corner a medieval tower was built and it was used as a prison during the XIX century.
Just inside the wall at this point was the roman circus. We decided to pay the entrance fee, and I got a reduced “retiree” rate of 2,50 €. The ruins were more extensive than what we expected. The circus is essentially a 1500 foot narrow oval used for chariot and horse races. There were also staff located throughout the site that were knowledgeable and happy to explain things.
Some of the underground galleries remain and I surprised how long they are. In the post from yesterday, Ruben appears in one of these galleries. There is even a gallery that connects the circus with the amphitheater, but it was closed the day we were there.
In the following picture you can see the Roman wall and the tower from the previous shot on the left, and part of the circus on the right. Currently there are buildings that occupy the circus and we were told that in time they would be razed and the circus recovered.
Roman Wall and Roman Circus
National Archeology Museum of Tarragona
As soon as we left the circus area, we entered the Museu Nacional Arqueològic de Tarragona. Being the capital of the largest Spanish province, Tarraco was a very rich town, and the museum has an extensive collection. Lucky for us, the entrance was free that day.
The collections displayed in the museum are predominantly Roman. The historical and monumental importance of the city of Tarraco and the urban archeological difficulties created by the site, have meant that the museum has focused on this historical period.
I enjoyed seeing the numerous mosaics on display, some for their geometric designs and others for their depiction of wildlife.
Many mosaics were excavated in the wealthy urban dwellings in the area known as the Pedrera del Port. An impressive mosaic showing different species from the sea was discovered in 1955 in the remains of a nearby Roman villa.
The mosaic is 6.25 m long by 4.5 m wide. The field of the mosaic is a rectangle with 47 different types of marine life. Most are fish, but there are also crustaceans, cephalopods and mammals.
Another section of the museum featured jewelry and decorations. I found a few items that I thought were interesting.
The figure in the following photo looks to have two legs, one of them misshapen, but the limb on the right is not a leg.
I also found the two “cock rings” in the next picture interesting as well. It seems that the Romans had an interest in eroticism and fecundity.
The last major item we visited was the cathedral. It was built over the original site of a Roman temple. The cathedral is undergoing extensive renovation. I thought it was quite large for the size of Tarragona. They didn’t allow any photography so I have no pictures of the “treasury” or gilded altarpiece.
Cathedral from the Roman Circus
There was a picture of me in front of the recent cleaned front doors of the cathedral in yesterday’s post.