Origins and history
The Ultonia Regiment: Girona's last defense in the Napoleonic Sieges
You might be surprised to learn that the origin of the name of the Ultonia Hotels is closely tied to Girona’s past. If we look back into the history of our city, one of the most epic episodes is the defense of Girona during the Napoleonic sieges. In these challenging years of 1808 and 1809, amidst the Spanish War of Independence, the Ultonia Regiment emerged as a true symbol of resistance and bravery.
This emotional link was the reason the name Ultonia was first adopted to name after the Cinema-Teatre Ultonia in 1943 and later on the Hotel Ultonia in 1962.
Ulster, from the Latin Ultonia
The Ultonia Infantry Regiment, rooted to the Latin word “Ulster”, was basically composed of Irish volunteers under the command of General Enrique O’Donnell. The volunteers comprising the regiment were easily recognizable with their light blue helmets adorned with golden buttons, white trousers, and tall boots that conveyed a sense of discipline amidst the chaos of warfare. More squads were also formed with Irish volunteers under the name Regiment Hibernia, always with the harp embroidered on their jackets.
All of them perform a crucial role in Girona’s defense during the invading sieges carried out by the Napoleonic troops, led by Marshal Auguste de Marmont.
The Sieges of Girona
For months, the besiegers unsuccessfully attempted to breach the defenses and undermine the morale of the defenders. The perseverance and determination of the Irish soldiers of the Ultonia Regiment in their role in the city’s defense did not go unnoticed. The streets of Girona turned into battlefields where each stone and alley were fiercely contested. Even today, visitors to the city can walk along the old route of Girona’s walls or visit the respective towers and bastions that aided in the defense, providing a magnificent panoramic view of the rest of this beautiful city. The end of the siege finally occurred in December 1808 but the peace would be short-lived.
In June 1809, the French returned to subject the city to a second siege. During this second siege, the Ultonia Regiment once again stood out for its bravery. Despite the persistent lack of resources and accumulated exhaustion, the Irish soldiers did not yield to adversity. The siege ended in December 1809 with the signing of the capitulation by local commanders, putting an end to the French attempts to take a city that was already completely devastated.
As a historical curiosity, hotel visitors parking their vehicles in the underground parking lot can contemplate a fragment of the Santa Creu bastion that was part of the old wall where the local soldiers entrenched themselves.
The resolute defense of the Ultonia Regiment during the Napoleonic sieges left an indelible legacy in the city’s history. Their sacrifice and courage became a symbol of the struggle for freedom and resistance against foreign oppression. In recognition of their role, monuments were erected, and commemorative ceremonies were held in honor of the regiment and all those who participated in the city’s defense. Today, the name Ultonia designates a street in the city, and the Napoleonic sieges endure in the collective imagination thanks to the reenactments carried out each year in the city.