Bitem is a town of about 1,250 inhabitants and is a district of Tortosa. It is located in the Baix Ebre (Lower Ebro) region on the left bank of the River Ebro, at an altitude of 19 meters above sea level and about 5 kilometres from the town of Tortosa.
From the city of Tortosa, capital of the region, set between the lofty castle-fortress and the river, we head north up the river. On our right are the mountains and on our left the river. We cross the fertile fields of l'Horta de Pimpi, and pass the rustic chapel of the Three Kings, finally reaching Bitem.
The original settlement of the town was sited on the same side of the river as now, where there was a rocky jetty. Between the mountains and the river were the fields, in the middle of which was the village. The land stretched to Tivenys in the north, and south to the Horta de Pimpi.
The exact origin of the name is unknown, but has been popularly said that it comes from the contraction of Beni-tem, the name of a family of Arab inhabitants of Tortosa in the time of their occupation. It is possible also that the origin is an adaptation of a previous word, or even the Roman word Ibera.
On October 17, 1154, the Count of Barcelona, Ramon Berenguer IV, gave Jofre, the first Bishop of Tortosa after the reconquest, the ownership of Bitem. According to documentary evidence, and also traditionally, it is believed that Bitem was the official residence of the Moorish kings after they had been expelled.
Major Festival: third week of September, in honour of the Virgen de la Oliva.
Fairs: Clementine fair, last weekend of October before All Saints Day.
Association of Women Punta Rodona. Founded in 2003. Annually organizes the Feast of Santa Agueda, meals for members, a traditional feast of different cuts of pork, cultural trips, courses, conferences and workshops in different fields.
Association of retired people and pensioners. Founded in 1983. Organizes cultural trips, fellowship dinners, culinary festivals, contests and games.
Neighbourhood Association Santa Rosa.
Neighbourhood Association Barranco del Torrent./p>
Association of Parents of Bitem. Founded in1987. Organizes extracurricular activities and support for all school activities.
Hunters Association The Rocassa. Founded in 1974. Organizes social outings throughout the year and manages the hunting reserve of the same name.
Society Unió Recreativa. Founded in 1947. Organizes cultural activities for all members, and together with the parish, the Fira de la Clementina.
UE-Bitem Remolins. Founded in 1984. Has football teams in many different categories. Each year it organizes the Mariano Toha trophy and this year the first summer school for children of the village.
CEIP Bitem – primary school
Nursery school Barrufet
Casal "Unió Recreativa"
Sports area (pool, multi-sports area and football field)
Casal de Santa Rosa
Point of public access to the internet for the district
Mas de Bisbe
This episcopal residence is built in the architectural style of medieval buildings of West Catalonia. It has a double fortified courtyard gallery system, aligned with the river, and a large hall, which is being restored and partially rebuilt. There is a lovely side chapel adjacent, and it is hoped to restore the twelfth-century rose window, which is a unique feature.
Although currently the gardens and orchard extend to the river, in ancient times the water reached to the chapel where the Bishop would land after sailing up the river from the city of Tortosa. Today there is still the dock door, with stone steps allowing access.
The church of the Mas de Bisbe was dedicated to the Virgin Mary, and was known as the Church of Santa Maria de Bitem, a place of pilgrimage for the inhabitants of the community. The feast day is celebrated on September 8 and there were many processions and pilgrimages from Tortosa to it, for reasons of faith or to pray for the end of droughts.
On May 4 1702, Silvestre García Escalona, a native of Almonacid de Toledo, was appointed Bishop of Tortosa, possibly as he was a confidant of the new Bourbon dynasty. In 1713 Bishop Toledano, wiped out the old and venerable image of Our Lady of Bitem and replaced it by the patron of his people, the Virgin of the Olive, declaring that this would be the patron of this place forever and thereby displacing the previous Santa Maria of Bitem.
Masada d'en Gassol
In 1810, Napoleon the Third’s army, commanded by General Suchet, besieged Tortosa after a rapid descent from Zaragoza. Surrounding the city, the French to the north of it settled in Bitem and the Torre d'en Navarro. The wounded from the battle of Tortosa were taken there for the treatment of their wounds.
Navarro was a canon of the Cathedral and acquired the tower from its former owners, the religious order of Jesuits, who had a house there. After a few years the tower became the property of Canon's nephew, Fernando Navarro, a prominent Tortosan intellectual and consummate traveller, who was also a deputy in the Cortes of Cadiz in 1812.
In 1900 Isidro Gassol, from Barcelona, bought the tower. He had returned from Cuba two years earlier, in 1898, when Spain lost its overseas colonies of Cuba and the Philippines to the United States. The strong entrepreneurial spirit of those who had previously shipped to the New World had taken hold of him and he put it into practice in our town. With the house he had bought 200 hectares, on which he developed a modernization project that had developed in Cuba. He devised an irrigation system by exploiting the flow of the river to irrigate the entire orchard. He planted cereals, vegetables and citrus trees, along with fresh fruit trees. He also built houses for the labourers, designed in two areas with a central plaza, a flourmill and a distillation plant. The culmination of the project was the building of a house of 800 square meters with two floors, with large outdoor terraces and arcades and extensive gardens with abundant palm trees.
He named the mansion as Colonia Gassol, although the village was known and is still known as the Masada or the Masada Bitem.
In 1907 King Alfonso XIII opened the left irrigation canal of the Ebro. The royal party came from the foundling hospital of Tivenys and visited the Masada. The king presented a medal to Don Isidro Gassol for agricultural merit. Gassol, at that time was a Senator in Madrid. When Mr. Gassol died, the estate was put up for sale by plot, which were bought by people who owned less land, many of whom were old workers on the estate.
This fourteenth century Gothic tower is located by the path of "Lligall of Bitem". It was built between 1149 and the 1466.
Masia de Marquis d'Alos
Farmhouse situated on the former estate of the owner in the Barri Santa Rosa. Built between 1466 and the 1648 in XVI century Renaissance style.
Fifteenth-century Gothic cross located on the outskirts of the village towards Tivenys. Dated between1149 and 1466.
Mas de Miravall
Situated in the camino of Miravall, near to the pump house for the community irrigation channels in the central fields. Built between 1860 and 1939 in neo-Arabic style.
Species Platanus x hispanica, commonly known as the banana. Located midway between Colonial Gassol and Barrio Santa Rosa, on the right of the road, in the Hort de Carmelo. It has been declared a monumental tree of Catalonia.
A river island which since 1992 has been part of the Pla d'Espais d'Natural Interest (PEIN) and since 1995 has been a Wildlife Nature Reserve.
Iberian site of Les Planetes and Barrugat Roman villa
Discovered in 1910 during the excavation of the left irrigation canal of the Ebro.
Baix Ebre wind farm
The first phase of the current wind farm was built within the municipality of Bitem by the company Terra Nova. Recently expanded in a second phase, with the construction of 36 new wind turbines, many of them in the same area, and built by the company ECOVENT.
In 2008 the municipal council of the Environment obtained and marked out two new footpaths. The first one is from the Mas de Lledó to the top of Montaspre. The second follows a route that goes from the Mas de Lledó to the limestone cave of the Vall de Rubí. Both are signposted and have information panels that describe the flora and fauna, and the route.
Arnau de Jardi
Bishop of Tortosa (1272 to 1306). Between 1274 and 1279 together with Domenech Besalú Ramon de Terol, revised the "Llibre de les costums de Tortosa". In tribute to the Bishop, the main street of Bitem is dedicated to him.
Born in Barcelona. He emigrated to Cuba where he amassed a large fortune. He married a Cuban born in Barcelona. He returned to Barcelona to become a great businessman and was part of the Liberal-Dynastico Party, for which he became elected as Member of Parliament and Senator. He bought the estate of the Masada where he built a second home for his family.
Clementina de Bítem - e-mail