Dear Valencia: We would love to return to you, for a much longer time, at a future date…if you will have us. What a great city! Being a port on the Mediterranean, Valencia was once the largest and most important city in Spain. It was founded by the Romans in 138 BC and conquered by the Moors in 714 AD, who introduced their language, customs, culture, and architecture. Five hundred years later, the Christian king James I of Aragon reconquered the land.
First up in the photos is the magnificent city gate, Torres de Quart, a tower that was part of the old town walls, which are long gone. Why are there holes all over the facade, you may ask? Believe it or not, they have been there since the Napoleonic invasion in the early 19th century…they are where the cannonballs hit the tower! We both remembered that we had been to a city in Spain with a tower like this one, but simply didn’t remember which city it was! We were glad to come upon it once again. The second and third photos are of its sister gate, Torres de Serranos, which looks newer, but in fact is older than the poor besieged one. Following that is the Torre de Micalet, an octagonal bell tower with a spiral staircase.
The next two photos are floors in the Silk Museum, housed in a building that dates to the mid-1700s. We had to wear booties over our shoes in order to walk on them! What treasures…aren’t they so pretty? After that, the three photos of the gorgeous building with stained glass and even a dome is the Mercat Central…the Central Market. As usual, up for sale were fish, cheeses, meat, fruits, vegetables, flowers…all the usual market commodities. The exterior and interior of the church that follows the market’s dome is the Royal Parish of Saints Johns, and it is in fact adjacent to the market. It is being lovingly restored to its Baroque splendor, which is why the half dome over the main altar is currently one color. Viewing the rest of the church, we are sure it will be an eye-opener when completed!
The four photos after the church are of the magnificent La Lonja, originally Valencia’s silk commodity and exchange building. Construction began 10 years before Columbus began his journey into the history books, in 1482, and it is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The outside of the building was built to resemble a castle, and the other photos are of its incredible ceiling and the columned traders’ room, where deals for silk were made and money exchanged. Valencia was part of the Silk Road, and caterpillars with mulberry leaves were brought to Valencia from China to initiate its silk business. They learned to make velvet silk, and about half of the city population was employed doing so.
The next four photos are of the ceiling of the Church of San Nicolas, often referred to as the Valencian Sistine Chapel. Just run your eyes over the detailed work…it is quite lush and really beautiful. Following those photos, we end Part 1 of Valencia with some interesting buildings we saw as we walked the city. Many of them are now on narrow streets that are practically alleys, so the view up is quite steep. But they were too pretty to ignore and just walk by! Part 2, with some of the newer attractions, will follow.