Jewish History of Valencia

Though there is a long history of Jews in Valencia, dating back over 1000 years (at the time of the reconquest of Valencia from the Muslims in 1238 A.D. there were about 2000 Jews living here), very few remains exist here that show this long relationship.  On July 9th,  1391 a large group of youths attacked the Jewish Quarter (see maps) and killed over 250 people, ransacking their homes and raping the women of each household. Though over 90 people were eventually arrested this event essentially ended the Jewish presence in Valencia, with the exception of visiting businessmen. The land where the main synagogue of Valencia once stood became reconsecrated as the Church of San Cristobal (on Calle Poeta Bodria) just a few years after the attacks. The Jewish cemetery now is the location, incredibly, of Valencia’s largest department store (see picture below) El Corte de Ingles.

The Jewish community didn’t re-emerge here until the 1970’s.

The area where the Jewish quarter once was has only intriguing echos of its Jewish history.  The Calle de los Gallinas (Chicken Street) is where the old Jewish kosher market used to be….but now it’s a dead end.  Calle Luis Vives is named after the famed theologian whose family was killed for refusing to convert to Christianity and who later fled to Belgium.

The Jewish Quarter of Valencia is most understood by the violence of its absence. In the centre of the Jewish Quarter is a large modern residential complex dating from the 1960’s.  No effort was made during that time to document the archaeological remains that no doubt were unearthed beneath it during its construction.  It is notably the largest modern residential complex within the old city. This is an indication of the relative limbo the area was thrust into after the removal of the Jewish community, especially after the expulsion of 1492.

A walk around the former Jewish Quarter (centred around Calle del Mar) is certainly evocative and astonishing in its own way.  If you are interested, I can give you a tour (please see my tour page for this service and contact me using the ‘contact me’ tab of this website)

further resources about Jewish History in Valencia can be found here: http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/14628-valencia

and here: http://www.travel-watch.com/jewsofvalencia.htm

and here:  http://culturalvalencia.blogspot.com.es/2012/10/visit-to-medieval-jews-district-of.html

 

 

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Decorative drainpipes of Valencia

Walking the streets of Valencia there are limitless details that whisper and astound the visitor. Keep on the lookout for the decorative faces which protrude from many of the drainpipes on the historic buildings of the city. Their character and beauty transport you through time. See how many different ones you can find.  As always, enjoy this magnificent city to its fullest!

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The Valencian Library

This truly is a hidden gem.  Located on the edge of the city, surrounded by farmland, is this enormous structure. First built in 1381 as a Cisterian monestary it was later a prison, a school and finally, after extensive reconstruction in 1995, a library. Even Valencians I spoke to didn’t know what this was, but to see the beautifully restored courtyard is well worth the visit. If you are around near sunset, the bats flying around the farm fields will entertain you too!

 

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A literal translation of Metro Valencia

Someone brilliant made this….which adds a delightful layer of meaning to public transport in Valencia.   Enjoy

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Arabic Traces in Valencia

…..Though Arabic rule ended in Valencia in 1238 A.D. nearly 800 years ago, that period left a deep cultural impression here- most notably in much of the vocabulary of modern Spanish, but also in the local place-names around Valencia such as the town of Alboraya and lake Albufera.

…..In fact, it was the Arabs who built and maintained the extensive irrigation system which enriched the Valencian basin and is still in use today.   A connected cultural aspect of that huge public works project, which has remained a vital component of the Valencian agricultural economy, is the Water Tribunal, the oldest institution of justice in Europe, which still meets every Thursday in the Plaza of the Virgin to resolve water disputes, just as it has done every week for the last 1000 years!

…..Scattered around the city are hints of Arabic influence.  For example, the entire layout of the old city was first constructed by the Arabs, which can especially be seen in the winding streets of El Carmen.  In many places it is still possible to view sections of the original defensive walls that were built in the era of Arabic rule from 714-1238 A.D.:  at the Gallery of Tossal, at the Museum of Illustration and Modernity, and at other odd places, in the lobby of a local university and in the basement of a restaurant!

…..Other sites around the city showcase archaeological findings from the Arabic Era:  an Arabic-styled courtyard at the Cultural Centre of El Carmen and most impressively an Arabic Governor’s house at the Almoina Museum next to the Plaza of the Virgin.  In fact, the entire Cathedral was built after the reconquest on what was Valencia’s mosque (mesquita in Spanish).

…..In addition, Arabic style has also affected elements of Valencian architecture which are still enthusiastically used today, in the shapes of many windows and doors, in the star-shaped fountains which can be seen throughout the city, and also in the extensive use of patterned tiles in residences, churches, restaurants, lobbies and even on roofs- that entire industry was developed during the Arabic period to a high level of complexity.

…..Some Arabic funerary sculpture can also be seen (and read!) at the Museum of Fine Arts, which has a small collection of Arabic carvings which are over 900 years old!

…..One curious echo of Arabic rule is the Arabic-styled Bath-House, actually built during the Christian period around 1300 by a wealthy knight who simply enjoyed this aspect of Arabic culture.  Amazingly, these baths remained in public use (presumably men-only) for the next 600 years before being declared a public monument and turned into a museum.

…..Other small items from the Arabic time-period can be seen at the Visigoth Crypt, at the National Museum of Ceramics and at the Museum of Valencian History.

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Festival of Saint Vicente

…..The only festival in Valencia which takes place at Malvarosa Beach, the Festival of Saint Vincente has some curious and yet hugely fun traditions which thousands of Valencians participate in every year.   Every July 25th over 100,000 people gather at the beach at night for a party of music, bonfires, BBQ’s, dancing and drinking which culminates at midnight when, as is the custom, everyone runs into the sea and jumps over seven waves…..for luck.

…..It is a truly unforgettable experience to watch, or be part of, 100,000 people running from a beach into the sea at midnight at the same time and having them all try to madly jump over approaching waves.   The party doesn’t stop until sunrise.

(more pics in 2016!)

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Festival Alternativa

…..Once a year, in early June, a section of the Turia Riverpark is transformed into the Festival Alternativa, a three day event showcasing world-cuisines, alternative construction methods, charitable foundations of the developing world, craftspeople and their wares, and lots of live music acts.   This friendly festival is very welcoming-and indeed, for the wallflower, the people-watching here is second-to-none.   The Festival Alternativa is an attempt at promoting radical living and attending the event is a pleasure for its ability to gently challenge conformity:  You may see some naked people walking around here  🙂

…..Essentially a hippy festival, it is in fact so much more.  The highlight of the festival happens on the Saturday evening where thousands gather under the Bridge of Flowers for the most earth-pounding Batucada drumming display imaginable.   As hundreds of drummers explode in frenzied unison with captivating rhythms as you dance into the wee hours of the night, you will know that you have participated in something special.  The Festival Alternativa is one of the most special events of the year- the batucada drumming event is one of the most incredible events you will ever see.   Put it on your list and come for the party of the year!

(More pictures to follow in 2016!)

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