The history of Lloret de Mar is undeniably linked to the idea of hospitality and the open and welcoming nature of the townspeople. Back in ancient times, in the fourth and third centuries BC, the Iberians living in the settlements of Montbarbat and Puig de Castellet had already established relations and contact with other cultures enabling them to obtain goods and pottery from Greece and Rome. Later, it was the Romans themselves who settled in what is now Lloret and who, through the trading post on Fenals beach, established commerce along the coast with neighbouring settlements such as Empúries and Barcelona. Numerous finds from this period are still in existence today: the Iberian settlements of Puig de Castellet, Montbarbat, Turó Rodó and Coll de Llop and the Roman Sepulchre.
The name Lloret -LO-REDO- appeared in written form for the first time in 966 AD. Different studies attribute the origins of this name to the Latin LAURETUM, meaning place of laurels. Shortly after, in 1001, the Counts of Barcelona, Ramon Borrell and Ermessenda, marked out the boundaries of Lloret de Mar – which until then had been part of MAÇANEDO – and gave it to Sunifred, Viscount of Girona. During this period, two unique constructions were built: the Sant Joan’s tower (on top of the hill separating the beaches of Lloret and Fenals), which acted as a watchtower and refuge; and the primitive church of Sant Romà (now known as Nostra Senyora de les Alegries), which, despite having been extensively renovated, still retains characteristic features of the Romanesque style. At that time, the town was a scattering of peasants’ houses situated mainly inland, so it is not surprising that the first parish church is so far from Lloret’s present town centre.
Gradually, though, some families began to set up home close to the sea as the Sant Joan’s tower doubtless afforded them protection and provided refuge against possible attacks from pirates, the Turks, the French or the English. The Lloretencs who lived close to the sea traded in goods made inland (firewood, wood, charcoal, etc.) and worked as fishermen and in trading up and down the coast, which, eventually, began to take on more importance. It appears that at that time links were made with towns on the Italian coast, which were to have a lasting effect on our culture, our traditions and even our names.
At the beginning of the sixteenth century in the town centre – which had become firmly established by the sea – a new parish church was built. Work was completed in 1522 and the total cost was some 3,000 pounds. The church was built in the prevailing Catalan Gothic style and it was decided that the new parish church would also have to serve as a refuge for the faithful during pirate attacks. The bell tower was filled with merlons and loopholes, and the gate – which in fact was a drawbridge – led into a very deep ditch.
In the middle of the eighteenth century, there were many Lloret sailors who went to the Americas, although not all declared this. But then in 1778, King Carles III pronounced the Free Trade Decree with the American colonies. This event not only led to a great upsurge in naval work in our town (between 1812 and 1869, 130 ships were built here), but it also saw the rise and flourishing of our merchant marine.
Based on the Lloret merchant marine, a whole import and export trade grew up, which made large parts of our population rich. Ships sailed for Santiago de Cuba, Havana, Montevideo, Buenos Aires loaded with wines, oils, textiles, salt, flour and other goods and returned to Catalonia laden with cotton, hardwoods, hides, sugar, tobacco, coffee, rum, dried beef, etc.
Many Lloretencs took an active part in the trading and invested money in the construction of ships and the purchase of trading goods. A sea captain, consequently, was much more than a transporter but was also a speculator who tried to get the most profit possible from the load he carried.
Besides this, the trans-oceanic trade of the nineteenth century also opened people’s eyes to the possibilities for wealth offered by the Americas. Many emigrants took advantage of the ease of sailing to the Americas at that time to establish themselves in the New World to seek their fortunes by dint of hard work. If things went well for them and they made their fortunes, sooner or later they returned to their native town. These were known as “Americanos” or “Indianos” – the ones who had gone to the Americas poor, made a fortune and returned to their home town with vast amounts of money which allowed them to live on the profits. When they returned, the town band would greet them, they would marry a young girl, knock down their old houses and have a majestic Neo-Classical, eclectic or Modernist mansion built, order a mausoleum to be built in the new cemetery and devote the rest of their lives to good works. So, before long, Lloret became home to large numbers of rich, young widows, elegant streets and squares, a sumptuous Modernist cemetery – with works by leading architects of the day such as: Puig i Cadafalch, A. Gallissà, Conill i Montobbio – and a number of outstanding public buildings: the Town Hall, Modernist reforms to the church, the parish schools, etc.
Between 1880 and 1920, the physical layout of Lloret de Mar underwent radical change. Despite this, the figure of the “Americano” went into decline after the 1920s and, with it, the town began a long period of stagnation, which lasted for about thirty years.
Despite the interesting tourism initiatives of the 1930s – curtailed by the Civil War – it was not until the 1950s that Lloret’s new way of life based on the tourist economy was established. At that point, a new urban transformation was set in motion: the old mansions were steadily pulled down and turned into hotels and service facilities; vineyards, woods and fields were built on and new suburbs and urbanisations emerged.
This tourist activity has led to Lloret currently having a wide range of hotels and shops, excellent sports facilities – with athletics tracks, sports centres, football pitches, etc. – and a broad variety of leisure facilities.
Lloret de Mar today, then, is a town which combines history and modernity, local traditions with cosmopolitan vision, the pride of its roots with a welcome for outsiders… and, therefore, on the threshold of the twenty-first century, we want Lloret to continue to be an open and welcoming city for everyone visiting us, for whatever reason that may be.