Friday 21 June – Monday 24 June Valencia
We returned to Valencia again this year to the same camping area Valencia Camper Park. It is a great Aires as it is close to the train station into Valencia and they sell you the train pass as well as provide a map of the town and any advice. We wanted to return to Valencia as the last time we only spent a short period of time here and it was on a Monday when many of the places were closed.
Valencia is the third-largest city in Spain after Madrid and Barcelona. It was founded as a Roman colony in 138 BC and situated on the banks of the Turia, on the east coast of the Iberian Peninsula, fronting the Gulf of Valencia on the Mediterranean Sea.
We decide to go on another Free walking Tour of the city meeting at the Plaza de Virgen. When we arrived at the Plaza there were displays of procession carriages (Rocas) for Corpus Christi Valencia parade. They are huge, beautifully decorated carriages built as mobile stages for the performance of Els Misteris, the Mysteries of Christ plays, acted out during the procession. There are 11 of the wooden structures built in the form of ancient boats and have carved sculptures representing biblical figures and Saints. They were originally built between 1373 and 1392.
The day of celebration occurs on Sunday, sixty days after Easter. The festival began in 1263, but it wasn’t until 1355 when the first procession took place. The feast of Corpus Christi in Valencia, known as the Festa Grossa, is a festival with a huge cultural symbolism, where Catholic, festive and cultural customs come together to form a colourful and deeply rooted example of traditions.
Also, in the Plaza de Virgen, the municipal band were playing some traditional Valencian music and an exhibition of local dancers dressed in traditional costumes, dancing Valencian dances to Valencian music. It was a real party atmosphere.
The Plaza de la Virgen sits on the site that once was the forum of Roman Valencia. It is totally pedestrianised and is surrounded by impressive buildings and home to lots of pigeons. In the centre of the square is a fabulous fountain which represents the eight irrigation canals which are sprayed by the waters of the Turia River and depicts Neptune.
On one side of the plaza is the very impressive Basilica of the Virgen de los Desamparados, built between 1652 and 1667 upon the ruins of the Roman forum. Everything inside revolves around the statue of the Virgin. The central nave is covered by an oval shaped dome, with frescos.
On the same side and linked to the Basilica by an arch is the Metropolitan Cathedral–Basilica of the Assumption of Our Lady of Valencia. It was built on the site of a Roman temple in the 13th century. The Puerta de los Apostoles is one of the doors that gives access to the cathedral. On the façade are the 12 apostles, hence its name.
At the entry to the Puerta de los Apostles is where the Water Tribunal meets every Thursday at 12 o’clock noon, when the bells of the Miguelete (the tower of cathedral) sound. The Court is a customary court and has been operating since 1813. It is formed by a representative of each of the Communities of Irrigators that are part, eight in total, called Trustees, and among them one is elected president. They meet before and after the administrative session in the Dressing House to discuss various issues, mainly the distribution of water. The trial takes place quickly, orally and entirely in Valencian.
Torres de Serranos is one of the twelve gates that formed part of the ancient city walls. It was constructed at the end of the 14th century with a defensive function. The towers are decorated with gothic designs on the borders. A moat runs around the entire structure. This gate was the entry point for the royal road connecting Valencia with the mountains around Teruel and eventually to Saragossa. They say the name the name was derived from the inhabitants who were called Serrans (mountain people) by the Valencians. From 1586 until 1887 the towers were used as a prison for nobles.
Palace of the Generalitat is a rectangular building which goes back to 1418 and was originally the tax office for the Crown. It was enlarged between 1481 and 1520. As it was a day of festivities the doors were open, so we went inside. The courtyard is stunning with large sculptures and the timber roof and staircase are magnificent. We were able to see the small council chamber and another less formal room with paintings.
Mercardo Central is the largest market with fresh produce in Europe and is located in one of the most emblematic modernist buildings in the city which began construction in 1914 and was not fully completed until 1928. Its structure consists of iron columns, tiles and stained glass. The beauty of the building stands out especially on account of the light that enters through the roof at various points, and through coloured window panels.
The building has more than 1200 stalls with fresh fruit and vegetables, especially oranges, meat, cheese, spices, nuts fish and seafood. There is also an area where you can have tapas, assorted dishes and sandwiches.
As a lover of food this is the place to be. As you walk through the stalls the colour, aromas, smells of the fresh produce is heavenly. It is full of Mediterranean life where you can buy traditional products.
This bought us to the end of our tour.
We then visited:
Torres de Quart are twin gothic style defensive towers that were built in the 1400s as part of Valencia’s city wall. The façade is covered in holes from the bombardments suffered during Napoleon’s siege of the city in 1808. The building has been used as a woman’s prison and a military prison.
Metropolitan Cathedral–Basilica of the Assumption of Our Lady of Valencia to see the Holy Grail. It is in a special chapel created in the former chapter house. Many pilgrims today make their way to the chapel to pray in the presence of this holy chalice, claimed to be the cup used by Jesus at the Last Supper. Both Pope St John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI have celebrated Mass using the Santo Caliz, a cup of dark reddish-brown agate, which recent archaeological studies have claimed dates from 100-50 BC.
We entered the cathedral and almost missed the non-descript room which is off to the side where the Holy Grail is located. Within this humble chapel, encased in glass just beyond the altar, was the object we went in search of, a single cup resting on an illuminated pedestal. It is far more elaborate than I imagined. It has two massive gold handles and a base inlaid with pearls, emeralds and rubies. Wow! It was nothing like the simple thing (the cup of a carpenter) in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade or Monty Python’s The Holy Grail. The actual relic is merely the piece at the top, a cup hewn from agate and polished with myrrh. The handles and base were added many centuries later.
After this we looked around the cathedral and just as we were leaving a service began. The Cathedral itself is an impressive structure that spans a variety of architecture styles and the interior is elaborate and striking .
We left Valencia and headed expectantly to Barcelona which we visited previously in 2008.