Valencia Photos of the Month: Horchaterías in Plaza de Santa Catalina

 

Plaza Santa Catalina in 1837, 1860, 1895 and 2013. Horchatería Santa Catalina is on the left, across the church entrance and El Siglo is on the right just before the church entrance. 

Plaza de Santa Catalina (named after the Santa Catalina church), off Plaza de la Reina, located in the heart of Valencia since forever, is home to two of Valencia’s long-standing and iconic stores, all-but across the tiny pedestrian street from one another and selling the same product – horchata.

Horchata (orxata in Valencian) is the local beverage of the ages. The drink is made of tiger nuts, water and sugar; you can get substandard versions made from almonds or rice elsewhere, but Valencia is the home of the product. When the Muslims owned/ ran/ inhabited the city from the 8th-13th centuries, they perfected the drink, made from chufas (tiger nuts) in nearby Alboraia, outside the city area. It looks as if made from milk, but dairy-avoiders have no need to shy away from the drink. It is served ice-cold and has fartons (don’t poke fun of the name), long pastry delights dipped in for extra fun.

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Right across from the entrance to the Santa Catalina church is Horchateria de Santa Catalina, which is decorated in the traditional tile design of the area. After several hundred years and multiple royal visits, they know what they are serving. Horchata, fartons, various pastries, churros and coffees are all available, and you can get your sugar on for just a few euros. It’s one of Valencia’s quiet icons, with a handy location to everywhere in the old town.

 

Across the tiny street is Horchatería El Siglo, who have been serving up horchata since 1836. The same products as across the street, though with a simpler setting, and some argue, better quality horchata. They also have a nice outdoor setting area. Again, for a few euros you can have all you want and chill with the locals. Or could, because as of 31 December 2014, thanks to a law changing rents in Spain, disaster has struck El Siglo. While the rent increases, put up to current market rates, have been coming for the last twenty years, they have now come into force. While many of the 9000 local family-owned stores in Valencia, the classic older stores of the city, managed to negotiate rents (going up thousands of euros a month!), some, like El Siglo have instead decided to close their doors and have the owners retire. Rents have been frozen, some for up to half a century, in Spain for the aid of businesses, and that helpful time has come to an end. After all this time, a law has closed El Siglo and we’ll be seeing some ugly generic Starbucks in there, even though they are everywhere like a plague. Thousands of stores around Spain will now disappear thanks to this law change. You will be seeing more franchises and generic stores over the beautiful lace stores, shoe stores, doll repairers (yes), antique shops, tailors, cafes, basket weavers, horchaterías et al, businesses handed down through generations. And that really sucks. The time for the rent freezes came to an end, and some argue it had to happen, however the face of Spain is being changed quickly, thanks to corporations who can afford the new rents.

 RIP El Siglo

All the Great Reasons to Love VALENCIA

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Prepare to feel chilled, entertained and obsessed with

VALENCIA

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In the old town, you can be in  the present day and Valencia’s history at the same time

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The train station looks like this

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SOURCE: wikipedia

If you need something to eat, the market is right here

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Valencia has its own drink, Agua de Valencia – cava (champagne), orange juice, vodka, and gin. Steady yourself

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SOURCE: piccavey.com

But they also have horchata, made of tiger nuts

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The beaches are amazing whether you’re looking to swim …

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… or just looking for a stroll

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There are not enough adjectives to describe the City of Arts and Sciences…

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…or the accompanying aquarium…

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 The paella was invented and refined in Valencia

SOURCE: wikipedia

Want a coffee? Enjoy the view

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You could get this guy’s job

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It’s easy to get the mood of Valencia

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Even simple streets are beautiful

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Shop with the locals

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Churros cannot be missed

SOURCE: wikipedia

Transport is easy

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Valencia’s such a green city

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Wine? There is plenty from the region to try 

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SOURCE: liannakristine.tumblr.com

But if you had a big night, beer for breakfast is fine

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SOURCE: www.reddit.com

The views are unmissable from the cathedral bell tower

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Beauty is everywhere

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Las Fallas in March is essential, when crazy things are built…

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… and then burned!

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Valencians love their fireworks

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Old is mixed with new

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If it ever rains, it’s exciting news

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SOURCE: http://schmetterlingsgefluester.tumblr.com

Need to go to the post office?

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And check out the town hall behind you…

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Sunrise is gorgeous

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SOURCE: kawaiilal.tumblr.com

Just wandering past the cathedral is amazing

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Valencia is great place to have an affair

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SOURCE: seven-seven-7.tumblr.com

or even fall in love

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SOURCE: http://m0rtality.tumblr.com/

Coming to Valencia? Remember to party at the city gates

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Even Valencia’s flag is cool

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You never know what you’ll see in the Turia riverbed (Thanks, Graham!)

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They love to light up the streets during fiestas

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Sometimes, you need to slow down and just breath in Valencia

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Join then of thousands of others and learn why Valencia has a 7km park in an old riverbed – The Flood That Changed Valencia Forever

Need to know more? Check out the Valencia Photo of the Month series, all about weird and wonderful sights in Valencia

Want to read about Valencia and Spain? Try Blood in the Valencian Soil and Vengeance in the Valencian Water

Also try The Top Ten things I Re-Discovered about Valencia

All gifs and photos are author’s own unless otherwise stated 

Valencia Photos of the Month: Ancient Moorish Tower of Plaça de l’Àngel

While the Romans founded Valentia is 138BC, the Moors took over the city in 714, and the city remained a small area by the riverside. But in the early 11th century, Valencia city was proclaimed the taifa of Valencia, the city kingdom of the area, after the fall of the Caliphate of Cordoba in 1010. Abd al-Aziz ibn Amir took over the city and from the beginning of his reign in 1021, Valencia needed a secure wall around the city, which was expanding quickly with people moving north from al-Andaluz. The stone wall was built with seven gateways, and circular towers for lookout and protection, but only some parts of this great wall still remain. 

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Between the main gate, Bab al-Qantara, (now the site of Valencia Torres de Serranos gate) and gate number two, the west gate named Bab al-Hanax (my last post HERE shows photos of the remaining wall) was on Calle Salines. (Also between these gates was Portal de la Valldigna, the doorway to the Christian pocket of the city) Between these two gates was the Torre del Angel (Angel tower). El Cid took over the city in 1099, but it wasn’t until 1356 that the new city walls needed to be built, expanding the city when Christian reign took over the city. Only parts of the original towers and slices of the ancient stronghold remained standing as the city doubled in size.

Plaza del Angel, (called Plaça de l’Àngel in Valencian), a tiny square off the main road away from Torre de Serranos, managed to hide and protect one of the Moorish towers for centuries. In 1701, a hotel was built around the Torre de Angel, using the still intact tower as part of its establishment. It appeared in travel guides for the city from 1849. The Parador /Hostal del Angel was featured in an article in 1930, about the family and building (article is below in the slideshow). The hostal actually had its entrance in Plaza Navarro, but was the main building in the tiny Plaza del Angel along its back. Both the Moorish tower and wall were protected inside the hostal.

When the great Valencia flood of 1957 destroyed the hostal, the area was left unattended, until development saw a new apartment building go up in the ruins of the hostal grounds, making Plaza del Angel the small triangular plaza it is today. The hostal grounds became a park, leaving the tower and wall safe from demolition. But the park was neglected and then pulled away, and today the old hostal grounds and surrounding Moorish treasures are fenced off and kept away from a public. Getting a good photo of the Torre de Angel can be quite a challenge. However, the Valencian government committed to preserving the tower and surrounding wall. A quick search finds that the promised works on the Moorish towers in the Barrio del Carmen have not made any progress, missed all restoration details since 2006, and now other agencies are being called in to investigate the delays. So in Valencian terms, this issue probably won’t be sorted for another 100 years. Let’s hope the towers outlast the bureaucracy.

Also saved from the same part for the Moorish wall is another smaller tower technically now called the Calle Mare Vella tower, though this street provides no glimpse of the structure. It sits against 1970’s apartment blocks and can be seen easily from outside the car park area (?!) on Calle Borras and Calle Adoberies.

Plaza del Angel/Plaça de l’Àngel is one of the sites featured in all books in the Secret of Spain book series. Both these books and this site use both the Spanish and Valencian spellings, depending on time period featured, as Valencia was banned under the Franco dictatorship. The plaza itself is labelled in both languages in the city, though newer maps only have Valencian spellings. There are other great Moorish secrets tucked away in Valencia, which I will do in a separate post.

All historical photos via Valencian Historia Grafica and recent photos author’s own, or via Google

Valencia Photos of the Month: Portal de la Valldigna

Portal Valldigna Valencia
Portal Valldigna Valencia

Portal Valldigna (Valldigna Gate) is a portal/gateway built in 1400 to separate the Christian and Moorish areas of the city. It is located in the oldest part of Valencia’s old town, in the Barrio del Carmen, in the Ciutat Vella. The gateway never had a door, and simply separated the nearby buildings, and leaned against the ancient Arab wall around the city. The local abbot had his home over the doorway, and gave the Portal Valldigna after the  Monasterio de Santa María de la Valldigna, an amazing monastery built in 1298 outside the city area.

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Father Jofre defending a madman, by Joaquin Sorolla (1887) – Source

The portal, seen here in this painting by one of Valencia’s finest artists, shows the portal in the background as Joan Gilabert Jofré, known as Father Jofré, saves a madman from being stoned in 1409. After spending time seeing how Muslims cared for the mentally ill, Father Jofré went on the start the world’s first mental institution in the world, sanctioned by Pope Benedict XIII and King Martín I of Aragon. It was built nearby and named after Valencia’s patron saint Nuestra Señora de los Desamparados.

In 1474, a book named Obres e trobes en lahors de la Verge María was printed with paintings of the Portal Valldigna, showing an inscription in Valencian, es obres or trobes Davall scrites quals them lahors tracten of the sacratíssima Verge Maria (in praise of the Virgin Mary). In 1589 a new plaque was put above the portal depicts King Jaime II of Aragon at the founding of Valldigna monastery.

Speed forward to the 1940’s and the portal was in a state of disrepair and the city planned to demolish it along with the historical buildings surrounding it. In 1944, the Valencia Director of Fine Arts stepped in to have the Portal Valldigna named a historical monument and saved it from its fate. The portal and above building was fully renovated in 1965, making sure the original Arab and Christian stones were saved. A new plaque was put over the entrance into the ‘old cities’ with the shields of both the city of Valencia and the Valldigna monastery. The Valencia inscription next to it reads : Dona Nostra Son of Bona, Pregueu per nós, Valldigna Portal (Good Women of Our Son, Pray for us, Valldigna Portal).

 

Today, Portal Valldigna is a good spot to stop by and see a pocket of Valencia’s ancient history, away from the crowds. It is easy to find if you are already visiting some of Valencia’s more well-known sites. If you are new to Valencia, just head up Carrer Concordía off Carrer Serrano, and follow the road right, and you will be on Carrer Portal Valldigna. Or, head down Carrer Cavallers (Calle Caballeros if your map is in Spanish) and head down either tiny Carrer Landrer, or even narrower Carrer Salinas, which, while not the prettiest street in the city, has a section of the ancient Arab wall, just standing alone between two buildings. A landmark often missed by many.

Historical photos by Valencia Historia Grafica

Valencia Photos of the Month: La Lonja

La Lonja de la Seda de Valencia (Silk Exchange, or Silk Llotja in Valencian) is one of Valencia’s greatest marvels. Set in the Plaza Mercado, next to other great buildings (which I’ll have to blog in a separate post due to their awesomeness), the La Lonja is a great representation of Valencia in its golden age. Designed in a Gothic style by Pere Compte, construction started in late 1482,  after 20 homes were demolished to make way for the building. Its Sala de Contractació, (Trading Hall or Hall of Columns), was completed in just fifteen years. However, the complex building, named a UNESCO site in 1996, wasn’t completed in 1548.

Since 1341, Valencia had been trading all major products from the Llotja de l’Oli (Oil Lonja) on a nearby site, but as the city boomed, it was time to upgrade the trading hall. Silk was becoming a major product in Valencia, and the city had big plans. Opting for the style of trading halls in Barcelona, Mallorca and Zaragoza, Valencia set to building La Lonja, comfortable that sales in the market would recover costs due to Valencia being Europe’s biggest port. The Trading Hall was built in the traditional style of a tall building held up columns. La Lonja’s main room is 36m by 21m, with 24 columns holding the spectacular ceiling 17.4m high. Despite other major works going on in Valencia, multiple sculptors and artists were employed to make this vital building a success. The quality and speed of the build cemented La Lonja as the symbol of Valencia’s golden era. The spiral columns were to represent palm trees, and the ceilings painted bright blue with golden stars, and around the building is a latin inspiration – Inclita domus sum annis aedificata quindecim. Gustate et videte concives quoniam bona est negotiatio, quae non agit dolum in lingua, quae jurat proximo et non deficit, quae pecuniam non dedit ad usuram eius. Mercator sic agens divitiis redundabit, et tandem vita fructur aeterna. (A rough translation says that the famous building requires no particular religion or nationality in those who wish to sell their wares. Merchants can enjoy wealth and eternal life). 

At the same time as the Trading Hall build, La Torre was also built, a third higher than the rest of the building. The bottom floor of the tower became a chapel designed by Juan Guas and the second and third floors were for prisons where merchants were held if they missed payments to La Lonja. The glorious staircase leading up to these cells is off-limits, but is beautiful example of the architecture of the building. The tower underwent a good quality restoration by Josep Antoni Aixa Ferrer between 1885 and 1902, to bring the simple roof details more into line with the rest of the building.

Once these aspects were completed in 1498, the Patio de los Naranjos was started. The courtyard was filled with orange and cypress trees, native to the area, with an eight-pointed star fountain, Moroccan style. The courtyard walls are covered with gargoyles, humorously representing figures of the time. The courtyard held many of the city’s most important fiestas and meetings, including royalty and ceremonies. The courtyard is accessed through the beautiful Chambers of Trade doorway.

But the La Lonja needed more beauty. Pere Compte died in 1506, and Joan Corbera carried on his work with an additional building off the courtyard, to be named the  Consulado del Mar (Consulate of the Sea). Started in 1238, the court held meetings on matters relating to maritime trade and commercial matters. They were given a large space within La Lonja and the room beholds a golden detailed ceiling. All of these rooms have been well maintained and all accessible for visitors. The cellars have also been recently restored and can be visited (and would have made great prison cells, not sure why they wasted the good views on the prisoners in the tower!).

The main door to the La Lonja, the portal sins (since the ‘original sins’ are carved around it) is not always accessible. When I first moved to Valencia, it was the main entry to the building, but now the building can be accessed from the back entry only, in Plaza de la Companyia (where you can see the plaque to El Palleter) and only costs a few euros for entry. The exterior is fully covered in gargoyles and carvings representing the kingdom of Valencia, and also has many Renaissance designs over the original Gothic details. Each doorway and window is heavily detailed and designed for a glorious all over effect. La Lonja became known at the Silk Llotja because the product was so essential to the city (around 25,000 people were working at around 3000 looms in Valencia at their height), though all items were traded here along with the silk. Sadly, the bottom fell out of Valencia silk industry in 1800, and the city lost its golden age forever. The building now exists as a tourist attraction after trading ended 30 years ago, but has been kept in perfect condition.

Spain named the building as a Property of National Interest in 1931, survived relatively unscathed in the civil war, and La Lonja became a world heritage site because “the site is of outstanding universal value as it is a wholly exceptional example of a secular building in late Gothic style, which dramatically illustrates the power and wealth of one of the great Mediterranean mercantile cities.” Valencia deserves great praise for maintaining such a priceless gem.

Click on each photo to start slideshow or see year of each shot.

Historical photos via Valencia Historia Grafica

Valencia Photos of the Month: Palacio Ripalda

After doing a well-known landmark in the last installment, this week is an iconic Valencian scene that was wiped from the earth in a moment of a politician’s stupidity. Not sure which one? Palacio Ripalda, which would sit on the north side of the Turia over the Pont del Real bridge, had the castle not met its demise.

In 1889, María Josefa de la Peña Paulín, the Countess of Ripalda, commissioned a palace from architect Joaquín María Arnau Miramon, on Paseo de la Alameda, over the river from the central city of Valencia. The design copied French chateaus, unseen in Valencia, and construction was complete in 1891. The castle mimicked the rise and fall of the family who had her built.

The tale starts with the story of  José Joaquín Ramón Sánchez Agulló de Bellmont y Ripalda, Count of Ripalda, a member of a rich ancient family who had owned many properties through the Valencian province. As typical in Spain and its feudal system, the family had a noble title and was super rich for centuries, and lorded over property here, there and everywhere. The family had streets, suburbs, walkways and lands named after them wherever they owned property. The Count was a fine arts lover and was president of the Royal Academy of San Carlos from 1860 until 1868. He also worked for the Real Sociedad Económica de Amigos del País (Royal Economic Society of Friends of the Country).  In 1863 when the International Red Cross was founded in Geneva, Ripalda was Spain’s representative and was also a conservative MP in Valencia. He went to be the president of the Red Cross in Spain, and generally lived a happy, rich lifestyle.

In 1876, Count Ripalda died, his French-Spanish aristocracy wife, Countess Maria Josefa inherited his fortune and property. She set to building the Passatge Ripalda (off Calle San Vicente), an alleyway of shops in a new European style. Apartments were built around the passage, giving it an arcade feel and led out onto Plaza Pelota (now Calle Moratín). She also commissioned a grand hotel, home to Valencia’s first elevator. But the big project came when the Countess decided to build a grand family home on the farmlands on the edge of Valencia city, next to the Jardines del Real (Royal Gardens) and along Paseo de la Alameda, the road against the edge of the river. After multiple drawings and changes with her architect, Joaquín María Arnau Miramón (who also did Passatge Ripalda, and was said to have an ‘intense professional relationship’ with the Countess, make of that what you will), the project went over budget but was completed to the Countess’ whims. The Countess didn’t live long after her castle was completed, but had enough time to fill the place with fine furnishings and artworks, all of which disappeared over time.

The castle belonged to the next Countess, but when Valencia became the capital of Spain during the civil war, Palacio Ripalda became the headquarters for the Ministry of Commerce. The last Countess died not long after the war was over and with no children, the castle was handed to her nephews, not part of the ancient Ripalda lineage. The royal title has since been renewed when relatives were appointed the Countess and Marquess name.

Palacio Ripalda fell into a state of disrepair, and while the outside facade remained in relatively good condition, the interior was said to have suffered, though this is in dispute. As time went on, and Valencia entered its construction boom of the 1960’s, the castle and its gardens started to get in the way of a new era of the city.

In 1967, as the castle sat unoccupied, Valencian mayor Adolfo Rincón de Arellano wanted to demolish and redesign the trade fair grounds next to the castle as the city expanded. It was quickly decided the castle too had to go. Despite complaints from locals and the press weighing in to save the landmark, with the help of politicians and businessmen getting together for their own gain, the castle was swiftly torn down in the name of progress. Legends started to swirl that the castle would be moved to Florida, where the stones had been sent, to rise up again, though it was more fancy than reality. The castle was torn down 100 years after another idiot spot in Valencia’s history – the tearing down the city walls, which would have made Valencia a (even more) unique location. Time obviously doesn’t stop politicians from making bad decisions.

After the demise of the castle, an apartment building was built, called the Pagoda, which isn’t exactly pleasing to the eye (though the apartments inside are nice and simple enough, I suppose). The Monforte gardens remain behind the complex, a little ode to the palace that once belonged to the regal Ripalda family.

Historical photos courtesy of Valencia Historia Grafica 

Valencia Photos of the Month: The Valencian Gate Series – Torres de Quart and ‘El Palleter’

Torres de Quart, the Quart towers, or Portal (gate/door) Quart, (spelled Quart in valenciano, Cuart in español) is one of four grande portals, part of the thirteen gates which circled Valencia city when it was walled between the 14th to 19th centuries. Torres de Quart was named after Calle de Quart, the street which led out towards Castilla in inland Spain. Each of the thirteen gates around the city had its own function, flanked by the four grande portals – Torres de Serranos, the king of the gates (still standing, but I’ll save that one for another day) leading people over the river from the north,  Puerta del Mar which faced the sea in the east, San Vicente in the south (where the bullring now stands), and Torres de Quart was the western main entry to the city, and Valencia’s protector from enemies. And protect Valencia it did.

Built between 1441 and 1460 in a gothic military style, to imitate the Arc de Triomphe in Naples (and later becoming the model for the smaller Portal de Nou on the Turia) after the design held out a huge invasion in the Italian city. Built in strong lime masonry, it has long been nicknamed the lime gate or door to the city, and its curved body helps to protect from anyone scaling its body. The gate sits along the main ring road around the old city of Valencia, where the wall once stood, on Calle de Guillem de Castro, and needs to be constantly maintained due to the car pollution that runs right past this beautiful structure. It is one of only two gates left standing after the great screw-up of 1865 when the city wall was pulled down, due to its unique history and excellent design which resulted in longevity. Because Calle de Quart runs all the way to the heart of the city, by the cathedral, the gate has seen its share of battles.

When the French attempted to invade Valencia during the War of Independence, Valencia was ready to defend itself. On May 23, 1808, as Madrid and other cities had already fallen to the French, a man named Vicente Doménech (nicknamed The Palleter) started a revolution. Valencia decided to take up arms and defend their own city in defense of Spain itself. In Plaza Panses (now Plaza Compañia, behind the mighty La Lonja), as people gathered to read the papers and buy bread, Doménech cried “Yo, Vicent Doménech, un pobre palleter, li declare la guerra a Napoleó. ¡Vixca Ferran VII i mort als traïdors!” (I, Vicent Doménech, poor baker though I may be, hereby declare war on Napoleon. Long live Ferdinand VII, and death to traitors!) 

The French sent around 9,000 soldiers to ‘reclaim’ Valencia, but weren’t ready for the revolution behind the Valencian walls. With 20,000 men in the city, and another 7,000 outside the walls, when battle commenced on June 26, Valencia was able to defend themselves. The first battle took place four miles south from the city gates, and the Spanish were quick to defeat the invaders. The French attacked again on June 27, at the San José gate entrance and at the monstrous Torres de Quart on the west side of the city, which still has the cannonball-hole battle scars today, as she defended her city against the French. After a quick retreat, the French came back on June 28, and attacked Torres de Quart a second time, along with the smaller San José and San Lucia portals on the west side of the city, and were again defeated by the city’s walled and gated defenses lined with soldiers ready to fire. This caused a full retreat as the French moved west back towards Madrid with no success, and the Valencia region never succumbed to the French invasion in Spain. Valencia lost around 300 men, with around 800 more injured, and marked a turning point in the French onslaught. Vicente Doménech,  the leader of the crusade to Valencian independence against the French, was killed before the 28 June victory, although his final fate is disputed, and has a statue in his honour next to Torres de Quart (see photos).

Like her still-standing sister, Torres de Serranos, Torres de Quart also served as a prison, with its arch-way back filled in to house prisoners, most often female prisoners, from 1585 until 1887. Torres de Quart also saw a number of battles in the then-Spanish capital during the Spanish Civil War (see photos), but received very little damage. The gate underwent restoration in the 1950’s, and again in 1976 – 1982, when the top battlements were revived, as damage from the 1808 siege was still evident. The Torres de Quart received over 130 major wounds from the French and most remain. The early 1980’s also saw side stairs replaced for better access and 2007 saw another overhaul for tourists to enter the towers.

Torres de Quart was named a National Monument of Spanish historical heritage in 1931, and is regularly maintained to preserve her beauty. With its strong body still standing tall, anyone can enter the gate for free, Tuesday to Sunday, and is an absolute must-see. While many tourists flock up Torres de Serranos (with good reason), Torres de Quart is just as beautiful and far less crowded.

  Historical photos (collected by Juan Antonio Soler Aces) Click on the images to open slideshow.

Modern photographs –

Vicent Doménech ‘El Palleter’ –

El Palleter’s great speech was immortalised by the incredible Valencian artist Joaquín Sorolla y Bastida. (Artwork from Wikipedia). Behind the statue is the only surviving piece of the Valencian Wall, impressive yet tiny.