Stories from Medieval Valencia

Stories from Medieval Valencia. We tell you 5 stories from Medieval Valencia that will make you look at the city with different eyes.

1. Market Square and La Lonja de la Seda (Silk Exchange)

In Medieval Valencia, one of the most terrifying places was the Plaza del Mercado, as it was there that the executioner carried out punishments and executions. The authorities used this locale as it was one of the busiest parts of the city: the bigger the crowd, the more exemplary the punishment.

On the façade of the Silk Exchange, just where the gallows were located, grotesque gargoyles stare down from the ramparts, their faces representative of sin and vice. In Medieval Valencia, most of the populace were uneducated, so these sculptures were intended to be deterrents to potential sinners.

The executioner, also known as Botxí or Morro de Vaques, was a civil servant of the municipality. His trade was little respected and poorly considered.

In the alley Calle Angosta de la Compañía, behind the Lonja, there is a house with a walled-up door. In it lived the last public executioner of Valencia.

2. Church of San Juan del Hospital

The church combines the romantic, Valencian Gothic and Baroque styles and was the first church built in Valencia after Jaume I took the city in 1238. The church was donated to the Order of Knights Hospitaller of St. John, in appreciation for their service during the reconquest of Valencia.

The oldest church in Valencia still retains its medieval appearance. This really is a jewel of Medieval Valencia, which you absolutely must see.

Inside the church of San Juan del Hospital, in addition to its beautiful architecture, you should not miss a wall of crosses painted in red from the Crusades of the thirteenth century and the remains of paintings of Romanesque tradition.

In the South Courtyard is the only urban medieval cemetery that is preserved in the city. Here rest many of the families that accompanied King Jaume I in the conquest of the city of Valencia. There is a funeral chapel, the only one of its kind in Europe, called the Chapel of King Don Jaume I, where it is said that King Jaume I attended mass. Advancing through the courtyard you can see the outline of the Roman walls that supported the steps of the “Circus de Valentia”, built in the 3rd century CE.

3. The Holy Grail

One of the greatest mysteries in the history of Christianity in Medieval Valencia is that of the Holy Grail. Could it be that the cup that Jesus used at the Last Supper, is now in the Cathedral of Valencia?

It is said that the cup was used by the apostles until Saint Peter moved this relic to the city of Rome. During the persecution of Christianity, a Spanish deacon sent the chalice to his parents in Huesca at the request of Pope Sixtus II. The grail finally arrived in Valencia in 1424, where it is still kept in the Cathedral of Valencia.

It is believed that the relic is the upper part, an Alexandrian polished agate cup. Later, other elements were added, such as the handles and the golden base.

During his visit to Valencia on November 8, 1982, Pope John Paul II, kissed the Holy Grail reverently.

4. The Legend of Rat Penat

One of the legends of Medieval Valencia tells of the origin of the ‘rat penat’ (bat), which appears in the Valencian coat-of-arms.

The bat is the emblematic animal of Valencia. According to legend, the night before the Christian king, Jaume I planned to conquer the city of Valencia, he and his troops camped outisde the city walls. The Moorish army had planned a surprise attack while their adversaries slept, however, loud noises awoke the king and he roused the army to counter the Moorish attack. A bat had been fluttering about the weapons, causing them to fall and awaken the king.

King Jaume I placed the ‘Rat Penat’ on the highest part of the shield of Valencia and on his war helmet. The legacy is still evident today and the bat is the symbol of other institutions and bodies, such as the Municipality and Valencia FC.

5. The Relic of St Vincent

Inside the Cathedral of Valencia is the uncorrupted arm of Saint Vincent the Martyr. That’s correct: the arm of the patron saint of the city of Valencia, rests in the Cathedral.

San Vicente, a native of Zaragoza, was persecuted for his religious beliefs by the Roman Governor Publio Daciano, who captured him and subjected him to horrific torture. In the year 304, after sustaining grievous injuries, San Vicente died.

His body was thrown into the sea but the waves brought it back to shore again and again. Since 1970, his uncorrupted arm has been venerated in the Cathedral of Valencia.

Read more about the fascinating History of Medieval Valencia.

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