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Zaragoza, also called Saragossa in English, is the capital city of the Zaragoza provincemarker and of the autonomous community and former Kingdommarker of Aragonmarker, Spainmarker. It is situated on the river Ebro and its tributaries, the Huerva and Gállego, near the centre of the region, in a valley with a variety of landscapes, ranging from desert (Los Monegros) to thick forest, meadows and mountains.

The population of the city of Zaragoza in 2008 was 682,283, ranking fifth in Spain. The population of the metropolitan area was estimated in 2006 at 783,763 inhabitants. The municipality is home to more than 50 percent of the Aragonese population. The city lies at an altitude of 199 metres above sea level, and constitutes a crossroads between Madridmarker, Barcelonamarker, Valenciamarker, Bilbaomarker and Toulousemarker (France) — all of which are located about 300 kilometres (200 miles) from Zaragoza.

Zaragoza hosted Expo 2008marker in the summer of 2008, a World's Fair on water and sustainable development. It will host another fair in 2014, the upcoming "Flowers Expo", and it is a candidate to be European Capital of Culture in 2016.

The city is famous for its folklore, a renowned local gastronomy, its trilogy of landmarks (the Basílica del Pilarmarker, La Seo Cathedralmarker and the The Aljafería Palacemarker.)Together with La Seo and the Aljaferia, several other buildings form part of the Mudéjar Architecture of Aragon which is a UNESCOmarker World Heritage Site. The Fiestas del Pilar are among the most celebrated festivals in Spain.


Early history

Roman theatre of Cesaraugusta, in Zaragoza.

The city used to be called Salduba, Saldyva or Salduie, a Punic name of a Carthaginian military post built on the remains of a Celtiberian village. When the Romans invaded the area it fell under the colonia of Caesaraugusta, founded under Augustus in Hispania Citerior. Later it was captured by the Goths (5th century).

Arab Saraqusta

In 714 The Arabs took control of the city, renaming it Saraqusta (سرقسطة). It later became part of the Emirate of Cordoba, It grew to become the biggest Arab controlled city of Northern Spain. In 777 Charlemagne attempted to take the city but he was forced to withdraw when faced by the organized defense of the city and the Basque attacks in the rear (Chanson de Roland).

Taifa of Zaragoza

The Roman walls of Zaragoza.

From 1018 to 1118 Zaragoza was one of the taifa kingdoms, independent Muslim states which emerged in the eleventh century following the destruction of the Cordoban Caliphate. During the first three decades of this period, 1018–1038, the city was ruled by the Banu Tujib. In 1038 they were replaced by the Banu Hud, who had to deal with a complicated alliance with El Cid of Valencia and his Castilian masters against the Almoravids, who managed to bring the Taifas Emirates under their control. After the death of El Cid his kingdom was overrun by Almoravids and by 1100 Almoravids had managed to cross the Ebro into Barbastromarker, which brought Aragon into direct contact with them. The Banu Hud stubbornly resisted the Almoravids and ruled until they were eventually defeated by them in May 1110. The last sultan of the Banu Hud, Abd-al-Malik Imad ad-Dawla, the last king of Zaragoza, forced to abandon his capital, allied himself with the Christian Aragonese under Alfonso the Battler and from that time the Muslims of Zaragoza became military regulars within the Aragonese forces.

Aragonese era

In 1118 the Aragonese conquered the city from the Almoravids and made it the capital of the Kingdom of Aragonmarker. After Alfonso's death without heirs in 1134, Zaragoza was swiftly occupied by Alfonso VII of León and Castile, who vacated it in 1137 only on condition it be held by Ramon Berenguer IV of Barcelona as a fief of Castile.

Zaragoza was the scene of two controversial martyrdoms related with the Spanish Inquisition: those of Saint Dominguito del Val, a choirboy in the basilica, and Pedro de Arbués, head official of the inquisition. While the reality of the existence of Saint Dominguito del Val is questioned, his "murder" at the hands of "jealous Jews" was used as an excuse to murder or convert the Jewish population of Zaragoza.

St. Vincent was concerned that the converts were not being properly educated as Christians, but such an explicit focus on the religiosity of the converts was as rare in his sermons as it was elsewhere during this period. Much more often, he stressed not the integration of the convert but the segregation of the Jew, and this in explicitly sexual terms.

Of course, St. Vincent was very much concerned with sexual offenses of any kind, and he was convinced that sexual appetites were becoming increasingly deviant in his day. Nowadays, he complained, Christian men "want to taste everything: Muslims and Jews, animals, men with men; there is no limit."

He was especially concerned about what he perceived to be an explosion of sex between Christians and Jews.

In 1415, he told a Zaragozan audience that "many Christian men believe their wife's children to be their own, when they are actually by Muslim and Jewish [fathers]." If the citizens did not put a stop to such interfaith adultery, he warned, God would do so through plague. His sermon provoked a sexual panic.

Christian patrols searched the streets, on the lookout for predatory Jews or Muslims in search of Christian women. One Muslim was seized, found with "iron tools for . . . forcing open doors in order to obtain Christian women for Muslim men". Another was arrested after witnesses claimed to have seen him fleeing a Christian woman's room by the flat rooftops one night. So many charges were brought that the responsible judicial official was accused of fomenting a riot against the Muslims and the Jews.

According to St. Vincent, the problem was one of ambiguous identities. Jews and Muslims were living among Christians, dressing like Christians, even adopting Christian names, so that "by their appearance they are taken and reputed by many to be Christians."

The solution he advocated was one of heightened marking and segregation. So powerful was his reasoning that it convinced the Pope, the kings of Castile and of Aragon, and innumerable town councils and municipal officers to attempt the most extensive efforts at segregation in the Middle Ages.

Zaragoza suffered two famous sieges during the Peninsular War against Napoleonic army: a first from June to August 1808; and a second from December 1808 to February 1809 (see Agustina de Aragón, Siege of Saragossa ), surrendering only after some 50,000 defenders had died.

Modern history

Despite a decline in the outlying rural economy, Zaragoza has continued to grow. During the second half of the 20th century, its population boomed as a number of factories opened in the region.

In 1979 the Hotel Corona de Aragón fire killed at least 80. ETA has been blamed, but officially the fire is still regarded as accidental.


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Zaragoza climate chart (Airport)
Zaragoza has a continentalized, semi-arid climate, as it lies on a wide basin entirely surrounded by mountains. The average rainfall is a scanty 310 mm with abundant sunny days, and the rainfall centers in spring. There is drought in summer. The temperatures are high in summer reaching up to 40°C (102°F).

In winter the temperatures are low (usually 0 to 10°C) either because of the fog (about 20 days from November to January) or a cold and dry wind blowing from the NW, the Cierzo (related to other northerly winds such as the Mistral in the SE of France) on clear days.


Torre del Agua
Luis Buñuel Metropolitan Water Park, at the Expo.

In addition to the advantageous geographic situation, a General Motors Opel factory was opened in 1982 in Figueruelasmarker, a small village nearby. The progressive decline of the agrarian economy turned Opel into one of the main pillars of the regional economy, along with: Balay, which manufactures household appliances; CAF (Construcciones y Auxiliar de Ferrocarriles S.A.), which builds railway engines for both the national and international markets; SAICA and Torraspapel in the stationery sector; and various other local companies, such as Pikolin and Lacasa, that are gradually making their ways into the international market.

The city's economy benefited from projects like the Expo 2008marker (the official World's Fair, with the theme of water and sustainable development, held between 14 June and 14 September 2008), Plataforma Logística de Zaragoza (PLAZA), Parque Tecnológico de Reciclado (PTR), as well as being on the route of the AVE high-speed rail route since December 2003, which consolidates the city role as a communications hub.

Pavilion of Expo 2008
Zaragoza is home to a Spanish Air Force base, which was (until 1994) shared with the U.S. Air Force. In English, the base was known as Zaragoza Air Basemarker. The Spanish Air Force maintained an F/A-18 Hornet wing at the base. No American flying wings (with the exception of a few KC-135's) were permanently based there, but it served as a training base for American fighter squadrons across Europe. It is also the main headquarters for the Spanish Land Army, hosting the Academia General Militar, a number of brigades at San Gregorio, and other garrisons.


is linked by legend to the beginnings of Christianity in Spain. According to legend, the Virgin Mary appeared miraculously to Saint James the Great in the first century, standing on a pillar. This legend is commemorated by a famous Catholic basilica called Nuestra Señora del Pilarmarker ("Our Lady of the Pillar").

The event, called "Las Fiestas del Pilar", is celebrated on 12 October, which is a major festival day in Zaragoza. Since it coincided in 1492 with the discovery of the Americas by Christopher Columbus, that day is also celebrated as El Día de la Hispanidad (Columbus Day, literally Hispanic Day) by Spanish-speaking people worldwide.

"El Pilar" lasts for nine days, with all kinds of acts: from the massively attended Pregon (opening speech) to the final fireworks display over the Ebro, there are bands, dances, procession of gigantes y cabezudos (carnival figures made of papier mache), concerts, exhibitions, the famous "vaquillas" bulls and the bull festival. Some of the most important features are the Ofrenda de Flores (Flower offering) to the virgin on the 12th, when an enormous cloak is made of the flowers


The University of Zaragoza is headquartered in the city. As one of the oldest universities of Spain and a major research and development center, this public university awards all the highest academic degrees in dozens of fields.There is also a private university, Universidad San Jorge, which is located in Villanueva de Gállegomarker, 14 km to the north.


Third Millenium Bridge
The city is connected by motorway with Madridmarker, Barcelonamarker, Valenciamarker, Bilbaomarker and Toulousemarker — all of which are located about 300 kilometres (200 miles) from Zaragoza.

The Zaragoza Airportmarker is a small commercial airport. It also is the home of the Spanish Air Force 15th Group, as well as being utilized by NASAmarker as a contingency landing site for the Space Shuttle in the case of a Transoceanic Abort Landing (TAL).

Zaragoza is also connected to the Spanish High Speed railway (Renfe's AVE), by the Madrid-Barcelona high-speed rail line. Madrid is reachable in 1 hour 15 minutes, and Barcelona in approximately 1 hour 30 minutes. The central station is "Intermodal Zaragoza Delicias Station" where they operate railway lines and buses. In addition to long distance railway lines or high speed railway, Zaragoza has a network of cercanías.

The city has a network of buses which is controlled by TUZSA. (Urban Transport Company of Zaragoza). The network consists of 28 regular lines, 4 line-up, 4 launchers, special line 1, 8 special lines on the occasion of Expo 2008 and 7 lines at night.

Zaragoza Delicias Station


Zaragoza's football team, Real Zaragoza, plays in the Primera División.. One of the most remarkable events in the team's recent history is the winning of the former UEFA Cup Winners' Cup in 1995. The team has also won the Spanish National Cup "Copa del Rey" six times: 1965, 1966, 1986, 1994, 2001 and 2004 and a Inter-Cities Fairs Cup .

Zaragoza's handball team, CAI BM Aragón, plays in the Liga ASOBAL.

Their local basketball team, CAI ZARAGOZA, is now on the ACB league. They play at the Príncipe Felipe with a capacity of 11,000 and their head coach is Curro Segura.

Zaragoza was strongly associated with Jacamarker in its failed bid for the 2014 Winter Olympics.

A permanent feature built for Expo 2008marker is the pump-powered artificial whitewater course "El Canal de Aguas Bravas."

Places of interest

Santa María Magdalena church
Near the basilicamarker on the banks of the Ebro are located the city hall, the Lonja (old currency exchange), La Seo (literally "the See" in the Aragonese language) or Cathedral of San Salvadormarker, a magnificent church built over the main mosque (partially preserved in the 11th-century north wall of the Parroquieta), with Romanesque apses from 12th century; inside, the imposing hallenkirche from the 15th to 16th centuries, the Baroque tower, and finally, with its famous Museum of Tapestries near the Roman ruins of forum and port city wall.

Near this area is a tapas zone called El Tubo and a nightclub district called El Casco Viejo. Other nightclub districts are La Zona, El Rollo and "el ambiente" (the scene).

Some distance from the centre of the old city is an extensive Moorishmarker castle or palace called the Aljaferíamarker, the most important Moorish buildings in northern Spain and the setting for Giuseppe Verdi's opera Il trovatore (The Troubadour). The Aragonese parliament currently sits in the building.

Zaragoza Museum
The churches of San Pablo, Santa María Magdalena and San Gil were built in 14th century, but the towers may be old minarets dating from the 11th century; San Miguel (14th century); Santiago (San Ildefonso) and the Fecetas monastery are Baroque with Mudéjar ceilings of the 17th century. All the churches are Mudéjar monuments that comprise a World Heritage Site

San Fernando de Torrero church
Other important sights are the stately houses and magnificent palaces in the city, mainly of the 16th century: palaces of the count of Morata or Luna (Audiencia), Deán, Torrero (colegio de Arquitectos), Don Lope or Real Maestranza, count of Sástago, count of Argillo (today the Pablo Gargallo museum), archbishop, etc.

The most important Zaragoza museums are the Museum of Fine Arts, with paintings by early Aragonese artists, 15th century, and by El Greco, Ribera and Goya, and the Camon Aznar Museum, with paintings ranging from Rubens, Rembrandt, Van Dyck, Velazquez and Goya to Renoir, Manet and Sorolla.

On 14 June 2008, the site of Expo 2008marker opened its doors to the public. The exhibition ran until 14 September.


Other sights

File:View from top of El Pilar.jpg|Puente de PiedraFile:Iglesia de Santiago (Zaragoza).jpg|San Idelfonso churchFile:Zaragoza - San Pablo - Torre y tejados.jpg|San Pablo churchFile:San Miguel de los Navarros de Zaragoza.jpg|San Miguel de los Navarros churchFile:Iglesia Basílica de Santa Engracia, Zaragoza 01.JPG|Santa Engracia MonasteryFile:Iglesia de San Nicolás de Bari.jpg|San Nicolás de Bari churchFile:Zaragoza - San Gil Abad - Torre y fachada lateral 02.jpg|San Gil Abad churchFile:Zaragoza - Iglesia de Santo Tomás de Aquino.JPG|Santo Tomás de Aquino churchFile:Zaragoza - Convento de San Agustín.jpg|San Agustín ConventFile:Iglesia de Santa Isabel de Portugal (Zaragoza).jpg|Church of Santa Isabel de PortugalFile:Zaragoza - Casa Solans 01.JPG|Casa SolansFile:Portada Palacio de los Luna.jpg|Doorway at the Palacio de los LunaFile:Arco del Deán.jpg|Arch of DeánFile:Zaragoza - Museo Pablo Gargallo.jpg|Arguillo PalaceFile:Detalle de la fachada del Casino mercantil (Zaragoza).jpg|Casino mercantilFile:Plaza de Toros de la Misericordia de Zaragoza.jpg|Bullring of ZaragozaFile:Mercado central de Zaragoza.jpg|Old Central Market of ZaragozaFile:Los gigantes de Zaragoza.jpg|The Giants of ZaragozaFile:Parque Grande.jpg|Primo de Rivera ParkFile:Papiroflexia Commons 021.jpg|Statue of Alfonso the Battler in Primo de Rivera Park

International relations

Twin towns — Sister cities

The following are Sister cities of Zaragoza:
Basílica del Pilar, at dusk

See also


  1. Ayuntamiento de Zaragoza. Estadísticas
  2. "Napoleon's Total War"
  3. Ayuntamiento de Zaragoza. Hermanamientos y Protocolos de Colaboración
  4. The City of Bethlehem has signed a twinning agreements with the following cities Bethlehem Municipality.
  5. Twinning Cities: International Relations. Municipality of Tirana. Retrieved on 2008-01-25.

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