During the 14th and 15th centuries, Tortosa was a commercial enclave of the highest order. This splendour can be seen in buildings such as the Cathedral, the noble palaces, the Episcopal Palace, the walled enclosure or the llotja (the exchange). In the 16th century Tortosa was one of the most important cities in Catalonia politically, economically and demographically. It is from this period that the Royal Colleges date, the most important Renaissance complex in Catalonia.
The monumental complex consists of three buildings. The most important thing is the College of Sant Jaume i Sant Maties, from 1564, which started out to educate young Muslim converts. It is a large two-story building organised around a central courtyard – the only Renaissance courtyard in Catalonia - noted for its rich sculptural ornamentation with a strong Italian influence.
The other building is the College of Sant Jordi i Sant Domènec, from 1578. It was originally a Dominican convent, but Francoist shelling (1937-1939) left only the simple Renaissance portal of two buildings standing.
Completing the complex is the Church of Sant Domènec, from 1585. It is a church with a single nave, in Gothic style, with side chapels. Currently the central nave is dominated by the storage-archive from the now disappeared town hall. Since 2008, it has hosted the Renaissance Interpretation Centre.
Take some time to admire the courtyard of the College of Sant Jaume i Sant Maties, which includes carved busts and coats of arms of the Royal couples of the Crown of Aragon, and try to imagine how Tortosa was in the 16th century.