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Local History and Customs, Costa Blanca, Spain


Cueva de Benidoleig - On the road beteween Pedreguer and Benidoleig. Cuevas De Las Calaveras



History of Calpe - by Andrés Ortolá Tomás

This is a great site (Spanish) with hundreds of old photos of Calpe. For those of you who can read Spanish it is a mine of useful information on the History of Calpe. It gives a very good picture of what life was like in the past in the Marina Alta

Las pesquerias de toix:  A very rough translation of Andres Ortola Thomas's work on the cliff fishermen on the Costa Blanca

Costa Blanca


 Snow Wells,"Neveras" Snow wells found all over the area

Quote from Bob Stansfield: Mounstain Walks on the Costa Blanca 1995
"These are deep cylindrical ice pits constructed on the northern slopes of the high mountains for the purpose of making ice from snow. They are normally about 15m deep and 10m in diameter. The larger ones had supporting stone beams and a wooden roof which was tiled. Smaller ones were corbelled, built up in steps from bricks and stones to make a dome. They were mainly used during the 17th and 18th Centuries and fell into decay with the introduction of refrigeration by electricity.

In winter the pits were filled with snow, sometimes in sacks, and sometimes layered in straw. During the summer, men with mules spent the night in the nevera cutting the ice into blocks, insulating it with straw, and transporting it by mule down the hazardous trails to the villages before the sun rose."





History of Denia - Potted version from Denia's Tourist site

Muslim Denia - Channel 4 Time Team 2000

To see the full video click here only if you are in UK or if you can hide your ISP provider

Denia History - Description of a visit to Denia c1926, from a book "The Spanish Ports"




Borgia Palace - A must visit for anybody coming to the area. Palau Ducal dels Borja - home to the notorious Borgia family

Gata de Gorgos



First train arriving in Gata - circa 1914




A visit in 1936 - Letters written at the beginning of the Civil War,- en espanol pictures of Gata, Pedreguer, Carmen Lagos and Emilio Signes   




- Unfortunately (from an historian's point of view), a lot of these photos are not dated - perhaps you can help me date them. Click here for photos


Walking on History - Sylvia Matheson Talk given in 1996

Memories of Javea - Billy Cook. Javea Memories, 1970's and 80's

Joaquín Sorolla y Bastida - Artist painting in the Javea area, late 19th and early 20th century. “It is madness, it is a dream, it is like living on the sea on board a large ship, you were wrong not to come here“. This is how the artist described Jávea in a letter to his wife in 1896.His complete works can be seen here. The Museo de Bellas Artes in Valencia has a pretty good collection of his work

Javea History - Prehistory to present day

Photographs of Javea from around 1920

Museo Soler Blasco  Some interesting articles on history here in Valenciano, great pics too if you don't understand

Marina Alta


Sunrise over Montgo

Leprosy in the Marina Alta - Report made by Dr George Thin in 1892  Fontilles (spanish)

Bernia Castle:  History from Marina Alta Walks( when you get to site, click on historical interest).

Montgo: History from Marina Alta Walks( when you get to site, click on historical interest). 

La Cova Ampla, Montgo: as above

Caball Vert – (Valenciano for Green Horse - Caballo Verde in Castillian), Val de Laguart: as above

Marina Alta Walks

Windmills Marina Alta, Windmills Javea, Molins

Walking routes in the Marina Alta - great site with photos and well described walking routes

Tarbena Click here to read an article by Malcolm Smith, written in the Costa Blanca News in March 2007, about Tarbena  with particular reference to its history and Geronimo Pinet (the proprietor of Casa Pinet).

Moraira Teulada



Historical  Information on the buildings in Moraira and Teulada







History of Oliva - Interesting historical information on this small rather beautiful town,  this site is Spanish.



Whatever Lights your Falla - Loud drums, even louder fireworks, parades, music and setting fire to things. From the outside, this is how many of us view the uniquely-Valencia Fallas fiesta which comes to a noisy culmination on March 19 every year. Yet, have you often wondered what it is all about and had nobody to ask? Have you ever been tempted to stop a fallera in the street, mid-procession, and bombard her with questions? ThinkSPAIN/today reporter Samantha Kett did precisely that. Noelia Llidó Llopis, 25, has been picked as fallera del foc this year for her individual falla, in Oliva’s Parc de l’Estació, and was happy to shed a bit of light on the apparent madness for us uninformed expatriates.






History of Orba - A short detailed summary

Val D'Ebo

Interesting photos, history, flora and general information on this area can be found by clicking on the picture. Site written in Valenciano




Valencia City Travel Guide - a comprehensive online guide to sights, tourist attractions, accommodation, travel, nightlife, culture, restaurants and shopping

Hello Valencia

To take a walk through the streets of Valencia is to walk along through centuries of history. To walk through the halls of an open museum where, with each footstep, a building, a monument, a plaza, provides us with testimony of past and future époques. With the intention of showing you the symbolic corners of the city, the Valencia City Hall web invites you to stroll through a series of itineraries that will make it possible for you to come to know the history and the heritage of a city in which the oldest of monuments live wisely together with the recent and avant-garde architecture.

Las Fallas - History of Las Fallas

Fallas  A great site for Fallas and the current programme leading up to March 19th

Valencia Terra i Mar - Short history of the whole Valencia region - great website for other information on our area

Santiago Calatrava - A succession of stunning buildings is redefining Valencia – and one of the city's favourite sons is masterminding the transformation, the architect Santiago Calatrava..This is an interesting article from the "Independent",of 5/7/08

For more pictures of this area of Valencia, click here


Valencia's Muslim Heritage - Interesting article on what Valencia and the area inherited from the Moors





The Castle and the old town of Xativa are well worth visiting...try and approach the town from the South for the amazing views of the castle perched on the hill side. Castillosnet.......Spanish website but lots of info and pictures of Xativa and links to most of the other castles in our area




Mount Montgó is the witness of the origins of Dénia, with the discovery of Iberian settlements in its slopes, such as l’Alt de Benimaquía, the Pic de l’Aguila and the Coll de Pous.During the Roman Empire the city of Dianium became a civitas stipendiaria(a city conquered against its will by the Romans and therefore obliged to pay certain perpetual taxes in punishment for rebellion); later on it became a municipium. Archaeological remains prove that the city passed a period of great wealth and splendour, with a magnificent port where both trade and the Empire’s fleet met.The Muslim Daniya lived periods of great splendour and it became a Taifa Kingdom in the 11th century. The Taifa Kingdom of Dénia was one of the most important in Spain and it ruled over the lands of the Marina Alta district all the way down to present day Alacant (Alicante), parts of Murcia and also the Balearic Islands. With the Christian conquest, Dénia remained a “stronghold” becoming the head of a county and later on of the marquisate of Dénia. The most famous was the 5th Marquis of Dénia, the Duke of Lerma who became a favourite of King Phillip III of Spain.In the 19th century, Dénia lived a thriving and splendorous age due to dry raisin trade. Dry raisins, as Dénia’s economical motor, are behind the great urban development of that age and they also created a cultural atmosphere and a consolidated bourgeois society. The toy industry of Dénia became an important asset at the beginning of the 20th century and the dry raisin production was eventually changed by citric fruits. Top of page



DENIA - 1926

 It was Denia that showed us primitive Spain. One hot glassy morning in June, we awoke to see land out of our portholes, and the ship at anchor in a wide roadstead surrounded by an amphitheatre of bare red Spanish mountains. And, on shore, a sleepy little Spanish town with a great castle on a hill above it, and huge winged feluccas sailing out through the break-water for us. It was Denia, founded in the sixth century before Christ by the Phonecian Greeks of Marseilles. Here they built an exact replica of the Temple of Diana at Ephesus, which gave the place its name. Ragged teeth of ruined battlements on shore told of seven centuries of Moorish occupation. The castle on the hill dated from Roman times, and be-came a great fortification in the seventeenth century when it withstood siege after siege during the wars of the Spanish Succession. Here was all the history of the civilized world written in that one little town. What has Denia not seen? And history of the present was being written in those feluccas coming out to us, for they are the identical ones that Sorolla painted and made known to the world through his blazing canvases. They came alongside, loaded to the guards with crates of white Spanish onions. There was much shouting between the bridge and the genial and stubby-bearded pirates on board. The huge yards were lowered on deck by triple block tackles that ran up the forward-slanting masts. Mooring lines were heaved. Ragged and muscular rascals, with nothing on them but a pair of trousers and a kerchief about the fore-head, secured them and then swung up in both hands the porous white drinking jugs that pour a stream at large through a spout. Expert were they at it; not a nose hit, always a bearded mouth to catch the stream! And so to work. A felucca about ten feet long came drifting out. The occupant was without doubt a more ragged pirate than any yet seen, but he bore letters for the captain and him I approached with the question, "A terre? Quanta costa?" We agreed on one peso per person and were sailed ashore. Old Spain, at last; a sleepy boulevard of dusty tamarind trees, leading to a small town with the usual picturesque market in full blast. "Oh, this is nothing; you should see Granada and Seville !" said the World Traveller of our party, and headed back for the ship. Perhaps; for those who have not eyes to see, but we preferred Spain to Granada and Seville. And it was here, in all its unchanged primitiveness. My artist better half, who has the merit of al-ways knowing exactly what she wants, made a dive into the first crockery shop. Here was everything that is the daily life of Spain, rows and rows of glass wine jugs, from big fellows for country vintages to little ones for cordials, white pottery ollas, porous water jugs of graceful shapes and all sizes, immense floppy straw hats, basketry, copper cooking utensils, all that goes to make a Spanish kitchen on the farm. We bought plunder without end, until I began to hold tight to my pesos. But the bill added up to only one peso, ninety centavos,--about thirty-seven cents ! We visited the cathedral, and were chased out of there by an indignant priest, who pointed out a large sign warning the world that ladies with short skirts and bare arms would be summarily ejected. Now -we knew why the senoritas, pull on those long black lace sleeves above their gloves, and why they slip into a priceless drapery of more black lace over their modern skirts before venturing to go near the padre ! But there was compensation, for outside the cathedral was something much more interesting, one single marble stone of the Temple of Diana, now built into the steps of the church. That slender stone bridge to the past recalled to us a Denia that once had fifty thousand inhabitants, and that did its full share in spreading Greek culture and art and philosophy around the shores of Our Sea. It was only one of a chain of such towns—bordering the shores of Spain, the Riviera, Italy north and south of Latium (where the warlike farmers lived) Sicily, and Egypt. The Phoenicians could have the rest of North Africa if they liked. They never stirred out of their ships except to build a town like Carthage. and never made any lasting impression on the hinterland. Greece could afford to wait. We come out of this dream to wander at will in the shade of the Spanish houses of Denia. Romance greets us over a Spanish fan, hazel eyes, half hid under a drooping mantilla. And many tall and beautiful girls with gray eyes walking like queens, barelegged, barefooted, no veil, but a stunning kerchief. Whence came they? Direct descendants of the Visigoths of Alaric, if I may venture an opinion! Malaga has only one thing that Denia has not, and that is a smart cafe, divided in two, and one side bearing the stern inscription, "Caballeros unaccompanied by senoritas may not enter here." For all that, a married man can; and, in the ladies' side, we saw those same senoritas flirting with vigor with the handsome officers seated outside the glass panes at the cafe tables. There is no such place in Denia—too small—nor a single drinking glass outside of the hotel. The spouting wine jug rules here. This hotel, however, is a very good one, kept by a Frenchman from Cette. We had there a typical Spanish table d'hote : chicken with peppers and tomatoes, okra soup, onions disguised in some fashion, pomegranates, a smooth and wholly delightful Spanish wine. And here an extraordinary thing happened; an Englishman at a near-by table actually had the hardihood to come over and introduce him-self. Knowing well the British horror of ever by any chance making advances to barbarians, I nearly collapsed. It seemed that he had mistaken me for a man he was expecting from Valencia about fruit. But, the insular ice once having been broken, he went on to invite. us to see the town with him. We met the Collins family, manager of all the vast English jam and apricot industry of which Denia is the port. A place of big concrete floors, where raisins and apricots are sorted and packed, of jam machinery where the fresh fruit is boiled down and tinned, of donkey trains without number coming in from the inierior, their basket panniers laden with fresh apricots. We Rent to tea at the Collins villa. called up the governor of the castle, and where duly escorted up there to see it. The vast fortifications cover acres, now canonises; but from Roman times it has been a place of martial affairs. It was taken, at last, by the combined Spanish and British fleets. It had been held for over a year's siege by a French garrison (1813). When there were only three of them left, the doughty three got tired of loading and firing one gun after another and surrendered with the honors of war—all on their side, I should say ! Fancy those three men marching out to stack arms before the marines of two entire fleets ! Top of Page


Just along the coast from Benidorm on Spain's Costa Blanca, the port of Denia was a bustling Arab town from 711 to 1242. Today, its castle is the only visible reminder of the Muslim Arab presence, which dominated Spain for 500 years after the initial invasion by Arabs and Berbers from North Africa in 711. Yet under the buildings of the modern town are extensive remains of the earlier Islamic town, which consisted of a main fortified centre and an adjoining suburb.

Excavations were already under way by Spanish archaeological teams at two principal sites in the town, which were being cleared for new building developments. The Team was able to focus on three main digs. One involved the excavation of burials from a Muslim cemetery. A second centred around an area where large quantities of medieval Islamic pottery had been found. And a third sought evidence of a bridge or (as turned out to be the case) causeway linking the suburb to the main town across what would then have been a stretch of water.

The burials had all been carried out in traditional Islamic fashion, with the bodies aligned towards Mecca and laid out on their sides. Islamic practice requires that a grave should be no wider than 'a span [the distance between the outstretched thumb and small finger] and four fingers'; hence the Arabic saying that you take only a span and four fingers with you after death. By using an osteo-archaeologist, expert in determining information from skeletal remains, the Team was able to discover the likely age and gender of many of the burials. Among much else, it was revealed that they included a mixed population of people with both Caucasoid and Negroid features.

A wide range of pottery finds confirmed the advanced status of Muslim crafts and culture during this period, with pottery of a quality that would not be found in the rest of Europe for another 200 or more years. Perhaps the most exciting finds, meanwhile, were the remains of a kiln and large quantities of kiln furniture. The finds underlined the importance of Denia as one of only three sites in Europe where both locally made pottery and the kilns in which it was made have been discovered. Phil was also particularly excited by the discovery of a row of shops dating from around 1000 AD, which was immediately dubbed a 'millennium shopping centre'.

The name Denia is actually derived from its earlier Roman place name, which arose from the presence of a temple dedicated to Diana. It was likely to have been an important port and trading centre, then, long before the Muslim invasion. During the Muslim era it became very important, handling trade from throughout the Mediterranean and even the far east. Many of the foods which are now commonplace in Europe were first introduced via trading centres such as Denia. The spread of Muslim science, medicine, arts and other knowledge, then far in advance of the rest of Europe, would also have been aided by the wide range of contacts made in places such as this.

At its height, the Muslim presence covered most of the Iberian peninsula, with the exception of the northern coastal regions. With it came, most famously, the architectural splendours best represented by Alhambra and Granada. Christians and Jews, as 'people of the book', were tolerated by their Islamic overlords, although they were taxed more heavily than Muslims. The Christian reconquest, however, which reached Denia in 1242, showed less tolerance: any practice of the Muslim faith was eventually outlawed and brutally suppressed. The Muslim presence in Spain finally ended with the fall of Granada in 1492.

Channel 4 Time Team 2000    TOP OF PAGE





In the middle of the 18th century, the fallas were just one part of the events held to celebrate St Joseph's Day (19 March). During the morning of 18 March, rag dolls called peleles were strung across city streets from window to window, or small platforms were set up against walls displaying one or two figures (ninots) that referred to an event or to certain individuals that were particularly deserving of public derision. Throughout the day, children and young people collected objects to be burnt on bonfires called fallas. All were burnt the evening before St. Joseph's Day in the midst of much celebration.

The next day, devout Valencians and carpenters attended their local churches in honour of their patron saint. Families also celebrated the saint's day for anyone called José (also known as Pepe) with cakes, fritters and anisette. It was a time of widespread, neighbourly festivities.

The first documentation we have concerning the fallas is an official letter sent to the mayor of the city of Valencia prohibiting the placing of monuments (especially of a theatrical nature) in narrow streets close to facades. This measure adopted by the city's police for the purpose of fire prevention led the inhabitants to set up their fallas only in wide streets or at crossroads and in squares and, unexpectedly, led in the long term to an important transformation. Although the fallas continued to have a horizontal, theatrical structure made up of two parts (a platform and a scene arranged on it), they started to be placed on wheels so that they could be moved to the centre of a street or square. As they were no longer placed against a wall, the design changed to make it possible to view them from all sides. This created much greater freedom of construction and invited the inclusion of messages all round them.

For a long time, the term falla was used indistinctly for the torches, bonfires, rag dolls and platforms, but gradually the term came to be restricted to the satirical pyres that exposed vices or prejudices to public scorn. These fallas gave rise to great expectation and the local inhabitants came en masse to view them. The structure was usually prismatic and erected on a square, wooden base decorated with painted frames and canvases or panels to conceal the combustible materials underneath. The figures included in the scenes were usually dressed with old clothes. As with the popular theatrical performances of the miracles of St. Vincent, these satirical fallas usually came with verses that were hung on nearby walls or on the pedestals and that related to the subject of the falla. By the middle of the 19th century, these verses started to be printed and bound, giving rise to the booklet called the llibret. This made it possible to develop the subject much further.

The special characteristic of the satirical fallas is that they represent a reprehensible social action or attitude. They have a specific subject and aim to criticise or ridicule. They are more than mere bonfires or pyres because they show scenes referring to people, events or collective behaviour that their makers - the falleros - consider should be criticised or corrected. The two most popular subjects for falleros in the 1850s were eroticism and social criticism.

In 1858, the falleros in the Plaza del Teatro were officially prohibited from erecting a moving falla with a direct allusion to social inequality with verses written by Josep María Bonilla, but they went ahead all the same the following year. The press gave the name of "erotic falla" or "anti-conjugal tendency" to the many fallas that alluded to racy or risqué subjects with verses using double-entendres that reflected a hedonistic, lewd mentality. Bernat i Baldiví wrote llibrets on such subjects but the best-known is that written by Blai Bellver for the falla in the Plaza de la Trinidad in Xativa in 1866. This was called "The Cross of Marriage" and was severely condemned by the Archbishop.

Throughout the 19th century, the Town Council and the authorities in general tended to disapprove of these fallas. Their policy of repression, which aimed to modernise and civilise the city's customs by eradicating popular celebrations such as the Carnival and the Fallas, was applied with rigour during the 1860s when heavy taxes were levied on permits for setting up fallas or playing music. This led to a reaction in defence of local traditions and, in 1887, the magazine La Traca awarded prizes to the best fallas. The initiative was continued by an association called Lo Rat Penat. This explicit support from civil society provoked competitiveness amongst the different neighbours' committees, stimulating fervour for the fallas and encouraging artistic creation. Criticism did not disappear from the subjects of the fallas (in some cases, it was politically radical) but a new trend arose favouring formal structural and aesthetic concerns.

Eventually, though rather reluctantly, the City Council of Valencia took over from Lo Rat Penat and awarded the first municipal awards for the fallas at the end of the festivities - one for 100 pesetas, and another for 50 pesetas. The social climate was not only in favour of this initiative but demanded it. A wide range of organisations was involved - cultural, recreational, civic, sporting, political and for workers - and all of these helped to promote the fallas during the first decade of the century. In return, the fallas increasingly devoted their attention to exalting local values, resulting in a growing association between the festivities and Valencia as their centre. From the start of the 20th century, the fallas no longer maintained the dual structure of platform and scene. A new concept took over in which the figures were no longer the most important part. The fallas now basically comprised three different elements - a low base with various platforms for the different scenes, a central body holding up the monument and a top.

The latter usually comprised a large, allegorical figure, condensing the topic of the whole falla and summarising the scenes below it. 

The falla did not only contain a scene set against a background but content was expressed in the whole of the sculpture and had to be deciphered by walking all round the falla looking at it from top to bottom. Fallas had become lavish, majestic and imposing - large enough to be seen from a distance. The competitiveness introduced by the awards meant that the artists strove to produce monumental, elaborate creations.

In 1927, the Valencia Atracción association for the promotion of tourism organised the first Falla Train to bring emigrants from Valencia living in other Spanish provinces back to their home town for the festivities. This was so successful that Valencia society became even more devoted to its fallas and the number of monuments constructed grew and grew. The festivities soon came to require better organisation. The General Association for the Valencia Fallas and the Central Fallas Committee were created to represent the commissions and to organise the celebrations.

An article published in 1935 by Y. Llopis Piquer and entitled "How the fallas are prepared" describes the production of a falla in detail.

"The most important elements are: cardboard, plaster and wax, without forgetting the wood of the frames and the metal mesh covered with sacking for the large figures."

Using these simple materials, the Valencia artists emulate the large, long-lasting creations of sculptors, showing their skill in the production of grandiose monuments. 

The most difficult and complex task is the construction of moulds for the heads. These are based on clay models which are then cast in plaster and subsequently in wax to give heads that are then completed by adding a moustache, a squint or a sneering expression to give a non-human touch and turn them into the characters featured in the falla.

The bodies are easier to build. The cardboard is pressed while wet onto plaster moulds and then shaped, an essential skill for any up-and-coming falla artist. And a further clay mould is made resulting in yet another human incarnation which will then be completed with physical distortions and material additions. This is the basic method used for turning out the multiple characters of the fallas.

The most difficult part is to paint the wax. There are few artists who are capable of injecting life into the figures by the use of colour but, by dint of experience and perseverance, miracles take place. What still remains to be done? The bodies are then placed on a wooden strut which serves to attach lightweight materials such as straw, cloth, sawdust and wax. The figures are finally erected on the actual day of the plantá when the fallas are placed in their final locations and the frames and mouldings are hammered on. Once in the streets, the figures blend with city life and, in the night-time darkness, observers can be forgiven for not being able to distinguish between what is real and what is fantastic.

Texts: Antonio Ariño


 The Fallas festivities are the expression of a unique kind of art using large wooden structures covered with painted papier-mâché. Recently, however, other materials are also coming into use.

 This festival is also a satirical and ironic vision of local, provincial, national and even international problems and themes.

 The Fallas criticise almost everything and everyone imaginable, although they do so with tongue in cheek. Over 370 full-scale fallas and 368 children's fallas are mounted throughout the city, and some of these reach extravagant heights, although they do not usually exceed 20 metres.

 Each falla elects their own Fallas Queen from among the Fallas maidens who form the court of honour of that particular Falla. Towards the end of the year, they present one of these lovely ladies - not necessarily their Fallas Queen - to the competition from which the judges will chose the thirteen Valencian women who will make up the court of honour of the main Fallas Queen of the entire city of Valencia. Children's fallas follow the same process.

 For many years, the Fallas Queen of Valencia was chosen by the Mayor, who was the honorary president of the Central Fallas Committee called the "Junta Central Fallera", responsible for coordinating all of the Fallas commissions. For this reason, the election of the Queen would often correspond to women belonging to the most representative families of the city. Thus the Fallas Queen roster contained many illustrious surnames such as Franco, Suarez, Fernández de Córdoba, and others.

 In 1961 this process changed when Lolita Alfonso Sánchez, an orphan from the House of Goodwill, became the Valencia Children's Fallas Queen. This marked a new starting point for the selection of Fallas Queens among Valencians.

 Today, the election of the Fallas Queens of Valencia is governed by democratic vote among the candidates being presented.

 The nominees public presentation, which follows their proclamation by the Mayor in the Chamber of the City Hall, is a solemn event in which all Fallas commissions and much of Valencia society take part. The ceremony was held for many years in the "Teatro Principal" (main theatre) of the town, but today the Palau de la Música (or the Music Auditorium) has taken over as the annual venue because of its larger capacity.

 Fallas is the culmination of the work and efforts of an entire year. The whole city mobilizes itself and contributes to the Fallas, which also enjoy the institutional support of the City Council. The authorities set up their own falla and help to give the festivity an exceptionally attractive air.

 It is no exaggeration to say that almost every street corner has its own falla and fallas commission. During the festivities, Valencian women wear their best traditional clothes and parade through the streets in colourful pageantry under their fallas standards to the sound of regional music.

 At midday, each falla stages its own sound fireworks display, harmonizing the booming sounds of rockets with the smell of gunpowder.

 At night there are spectacular fireworks displays that brighten up the nighttime sky.

 In the Fallas casales (places where fallas celebrators gather) there is no time for sleep. It is fiesta time for five whole days.

 The flower offering to the patron saint of Valencia, Our Lady of the Forsaken, is staged on two consecutive days. Thousands and thousands of flowers are placed over a wooden structure that serves as the framework upon which her image is formed. This is located in front of the Basilica and the entire Plaza is perfumed with the fragrance of endless bouquets of flowers.

 Almost 100,000 Valencians take part in the procession. And of course, every day at five in the afternoon there is an important bullfight within the framework of the March Bullfighting Fair.

 On the night of the 19th, Valencians burn down their creations, saving only what is known as the "Ninot Indultat", or the "reprieved figurine", which becomes a museum piece. The children's fallas are burnt at ten in the evening, with the exception of the first prize in the children's category, which is set alight at ten thirty, and the city council children's falla, which goes up in flames at eleven.

 At twelve o'clock midnight, preceded by a grand fireworks display, the large fallas are set to the torch.

 The entire city is filled with flaming fallas. At twelve thirty the first prize Falla is burnt and at one o´clock at night the Falla in the Plaza del Ayuntamiento is set alight, symbolically finishing for another whole year this semi-pagan, semi-patriotic, semi-religious fiesta that stirs the hearts of the Valencians.

 On the day after the 'night of fire', a few marks on the asphalt is all that remains of the falla that stood so proudly the night before. On this very same day, the next fallas campaign gets under way.

 The fallas fiesta was born in Valencia and quickly spread to other towns in the region, even outside the immediate area.

 As a traditional Valencia festival, it is in the capital city Valencia where the Fallas command the most colour, participation and their greatest impact.

 From the end of February, Valencia starts its fiestas with the so-called 'Crida', which is the call to action, followed by the Ninot Parade, the splendid Parade of the Kingdom, the "Song of the Kindling Wood" and the Ninot or figurine exhibition.

 As for the origins of the Fallas, they seem to be connected with the pagan celebration of the spring equinox. It is said that in olden days craftsmen toiling throughout the wintertime would extend their working hours by using a light perched on a stand which they called a 'parot', something like a large candelabrum with various arms or wooden appendages. When spring came, they would celebrate the lengthening of the days that made their 'parot's superfluous by taking them out of doors and burning them in the street on the eve of St Joseph's day. Logically, this custom was initiated by the carpenters of the city.

 Today we know that since 1497 carpenters have been celebrating this Patron Saint's day with a feast. There is a curious document still preserved from the 15th century which refers to "the day on which the joiners burn the pole." Later on, the stand was adorned with old garments, much like a scarecrow, and was burnt in a bonfire along with odds and ends and leftovers from the workshop. After this, the stand was given a human visage intended to mock a well-known personality in the neighbourhood. Thus the Ninot, or doll-like effigy, was born. It soon became a fundamental element in the Fallas feast, no longer used on its own, but accompanied by a whole pageantry of figures.


 Another important advance was made with the appearance of the "subject" or "theme" of the Falla, generally something satirical or critical, expressed in humorous verse, although perhaps bearing on historical fact or some aspect of local life. These rudimentary representations gave birth to the 'llibret' or explanatory book written in the Valencia vernacular. After propping the figurines on full-scale pedestals in the 18th century, the creation of the Fallas festival was almost complete.

 The name of the 'fallas' was not originally given to the figurines or to the entire monument itself, but rather to the fire which was supposed to consume the whole construction. The scholar Carreres i Zacarés discovered a quote on the fallas dedicated to San Vicente: in 1596 one Pedro Toralba was paid the sum of 74 pounds, one shilling and 6 pence for the possible use of his grills on which he burnt "the fallas which are made on the feast day of the Glorious Saint Vicente Ferrer."

 The fallas dedicated to St Joseph quickly obtained the overall applause of the modest working neighbourhood, but was snubbed by the upper class, and the more puritanical. Thus, the journalist José Ombuena in his book on "The Fallas of Valencia" took note of a complaint made by a devout Christian. This reproof appeared in the "Newspaper of Valencia" in 1792, and included the answer given by the same periodical to a certain vexed priest called Traggia: "Sufficient reason you have as the good Christian you are to be full of sorrow when you observe our streets and plazas full of pyres and figurines all ridiculously dressed, entertaining the great majority of the populace, who on days such as these fully forget their obligations and lose much of their otherwise productive workdays." Not many years later, in 1808, the Frenchman Alexandre de Laborde became acquainted with the Fallas of Valencia and described them in his book "Itineraire descriptif de la Espagne" in the following manner: "Every year on the 18th of March, the eve of St. Joseph's Day, cabinetmakers and carpenters come out onto the streets, each in front of his own workshop, to build truly theatrical representations of life-size figurines, covered with the clothes of the character they wish to represent. They are built with very light wooden structures, a mask forms their faces, their clothes, headdress and adornments are of paper - quite often done with great ability. These figurines are set up on a huge pyre which is usually well hidden, and surrounded up to its full height by a thicket of mock adornments all artistically positioned."   He also mentions that fine sights could be seen: "at nightfall these figurines were set alight, and in an instant the entire representation goes up in flames. These representations are called the Fallas de San José..." The importance of the feast was described as follows: "People press thick against one another, persons of a higher position mingle with the masses; people come from miles around and forget all they may have on their minds however important their affairs may be." It seems that fallas were adorned in those days with all kinds of erotic paraphernalia, with much symbolism using the shapes of fruits and vegetables, in addition to extending criticisms of all their neighbours and the town authorities.


 Perhaps this was the reason why the Fallas were outlawed in 1851 by the Mayor of Valencia, the Baron of Santa Barbara. In 1883 the City Council stamped a tax of 30 pesetas per falla on the festivity, and that year only four fallas were set up. In 1885 the tax rose to 60 pesetas and only one falla went up in flames. In 1886 the city had no spring festivity whatsoever, after which lively protests were heard. The following year the tax was reduced to 10 pesetas and twenty-one fallas were built.

 The first 'llibret' was written by Bernat i Baldoví in 1855.

 Criticism and burlesque provocation became the keynote of the fallas as they came closer and closer to becoming art forms in the 19th century. Artistic skills began to be exercised to the full. Painters and sculptors were brought in to help. Soon afterwards an entire school of fallas artists began to burgeon, presided over by Antonio Cortina, Andrés Cabrelles and Regino Más. The fallas grew in complexity to become enormous monuments, and an entire industry was born under the auspices of the Guild of Fallas Artists.

 The Fallas are a feast to which people from all walks of life can contribute. No one, even if they try, can come to Valencia during this time of year and stay on the sidelines. The catafalques are there in the street. The parades never end, whether the falleros happen to be marching to collect their prizes, offering flowers, coming to the deafening midday sound fireworks sessions, seeing fireworks at night, or listening to outdoor concerts in the streets. Food and drink are everywhere, with typical pastry stands on every corner. The noise is sometimes too much for people used to quieter quarters, but there is no doubt about it. Valencia welcomes everyone with open arms and encourages all to join in the feast.

Article found at www.valenciatrader.com  



Whatever lights your falla         

Article and interview by Samantha Kett

From Think Spain/Today

March 16 - March 22 2007

















Loud drums, even louder fireworks, parades, music and setting fire to things. From the outside, this is how many of us view the uniquely-Valencia Fallas fiesta which comes to a noisy culmination on March 19 every year. Yet, have you often wondered what it is all about and had nobody to ask? Have you ever been tempted to stop a fallera in the street, mid-procession, and bombard her with questions? ThinkSPAIN/today reporter Samantha Kett did precisely that. Noelia Llidó Llopis, 25, has been picked as fallera del foc this year for her individual falla, in Oliva's Parc de l'Estació, and was happy to shed a bit of light on the apparent madness for us uninformed expatriates.

How does one become a fallera and what does it involve?

To be a fallera del foc, which I am this year, you have to have a new costume and pay for the breakfast at the despertà ('awakening') for everyone. You have to provide food for everyone who goes, bring tables from home and buy cakes, desserts, bread, chocolate, juices - everything you could possibly imagine. As though it were a huge party, in fact. Each falla here in Oliva has a fallera del casal, fallera del foc and fallera major. As fallera major you have to have two costumes and you have to go to everything - you can't miss a thing because you're the representative of the festival. All the other falleras - called falleres de la cort d'honor - only parade for three days; the presentation, the offering of flowers and the cremà, when they set fire to the statues on Saint Joseph Day. As a fallera major you have to go to all seven presentations, the paella contests, the crida - or call - of the Fallas, and every day that they hold a mascletà [display of bangers and fireworks]. The fallera major, both for each of the children's fallas and the main ones, gets to keep one of the ninots from their falla. A ninot is one of the individual figures on the monument. As the fallera del foc, it's me who has to set light to the falla statue on the night of March 19.

Is this your first year as a fallera?

As fallera del foc, yes. But when I was a child I was a fallera de la cort d'honor every year.

If you are a fallera, is it just for the festivals or is it a full-time, year-round job?

You could be working all year round if you wanted. There are numerous meetings - to decide on the costumes for the abalgata dels ninots, or fancy-dress parade; meetings to decide on who is going to be in pairs for the processions; meetings to organise the presentations; rehearsals; making costumes and practising for the amateur theatre play that each falla association puts on, and then all year round there are cards' tournaments. You're in competition all the year round, playing cards. If you want work to do, there's plenty of it! And if not for the whole year, at least certainly for three or four months.

What normally happens during the Fallas fiesta?

First of all there is the presentation of the falleras - the fallera del foc, fallera del casal and fallera major are presented to veryone. After this there's a huge dinner for everyone. Next, there are the paella competitions, which are open to anybody. Then we have the crida, or pregonera, a wake-up call to the whole town from the balcony of the town hall. Following this is the Cabalgata dels Ninots, which is a fancy-dress procession designed to criticise current issues. This year, the girls' theme was climate change, and the boys sent up the gigantes y cabezudos,or 'giants and bigheads' festivals, so they paraded with huge papier mâché heads. We always criticise something, a different topical issue every year. Later  between March 15 and 19 is Fallas week. On March 17 is the offering of flowers to the Virgin, and it is also the day when the prizes are given to the different fallas. By night, groups of kids sing various traditional songs. On March 19, Día de San José, that's when we set light to all the fallas, which is my job as fallera del foc.In the meantime, though, we'll spend one whole afternoon visiting all the other fallas, another doing a parade in wigs and a further day in pyjamas. Prizes are given for the most original wigs. At night, there are live bands and mobile discos and you are basically partying non-stop for two days. Forty-eight hours with no sleep, or very little, not finishing until 04.00 or 06.00 hrs in the morning. It's exhausting, but it's great fun. Then on March 20&ldots;we sleep like logs!

You often see women on the TV after the ofrenda de flores crying and saying how emotional the whole thing is&ldots;

Yes, and I think it's because for one day in the year, it's a day for women. Christmas, Easter and all the other religious holidays are for male saints, or for Christ - but what do women have, other than Mothers' Day? Only International  Women's Day on March 8, but that's not even a public holiday. And women still work even harder than men in a lot of cases. After being at work all day, they have to look after the house and the kids. The ofrenda is where we give thanks to the Virgin for our health, work, and all the good things in our lives, and some women with small children bring them along, too - almost as though they were showing their child to the Virgin. It's a very emotive day, overall. This year, the offering of flowers falls on a  Saturday. From now until then, we're working round the clock,  setting up the casal, which is the big tent near the falla where it all takes place - eating, drinking, getting our costumes on, dancing to mobile discos - everything except sleeping, of which we only manage about two hours a night anyway. Hence the whole town is empty on March 20, because everyone is asleep.

Does it cost a lot to be a fallera?

Just a bit. First, there's the dress, which can be around  3,000 or 4,000 euros; aside from this you spend a fortune on your make-up and hair. Even if you do your own make-up you still need to go to the hairdresser's so they can put your hairpieces in. In fact, you need help getting into your dress - first goes the corset, then the skirt has several layers on top of a crinoline. If you're a fallera del foc you have the expense of buying the food, the bread and cakes and so on, for the whole of the casal. Unless you're lucky and you have a grandma who bakes nice cocas [similar to small pizzas and traditionally eaten in Oliva on Fridays] although in any case, it's rather a lot of money. I'd say it's as though it were a wedding - but it's better, because when you get married you only wear the dress once, whereas falleras wear theirs every year. It's as though it's everyone's wedding on the same day.

Is there a particular hierarchy of falleras? And how do you get to become, say, fallera major? 

The fallera del casal - that's my sister, this year - is the first step, followed by fallera del foc. So I'll never be able to be fallera del casal, but I could go on to become fallera major. You put your name down and are voted for by your Falla association, but there are loads of girls who want to do it, so competition is fierce.

Does this mean you can only be fallera del foc once?

Yes, it'll be the only time in my life that I get to light the falla.

Doesn't the thought of that scare you silly?

No! It's not as though you're given a cigarette lighter. You get a great big long  cane with a tiny flame on the end and you light a long string on the end of a firework - so you have plenty of time to step back before it really catches hold.

I always think it's so tragic when they set light to the fallas. All that hard work going up in smoke.

Once, people just used to burn old furniture, in homage to Saint Joseph, because he was a carpenter. Nowadays, the fallas represent topical issues and things we'd rather do without - bird 'flu, drought, overdevelopment and so on. Setting fire to them is a way of getting rid of the negative to give way to the positive. It used to be a pagan festival to mark the change of season from winter to spring - and in a way, it's a sort of cleansing process. Burning everything we don't want in our lives to make room for the new.

Is it a family tradition, being a fallera?

It's an old tradition, but not in our family. When I was little my maternal grandmother wanted to put my name and my sister's down to be falleras but it took a long time before we were able to afford the dresses. Then, without telling our parents, we put our names down to be falleras del foc and del casal! My father wasn't too pleased at first but I managed to convince him that if we were elected we would have to do it. Although it's not a tradition in our family, you could say my sister and I have started  that  tradition.

I see that the falla with the lowest placing is set fire to first, and the winner  goes up last. How do they award the prizes, and what for?

There are loads of prizes. The prize for the winner of the card tournament championship; the best theatre play; the best llibret de la falla, and the best use of valenciano in the llibret. Plus for the fallas themselves there are prizes for the most attractive, the best criticism of current affairs and then there are prizes for the ninot parade. Best procession, best group, best individual costume. Prizes are given to third place for both the children's and the 'adult' fallas and are judged  by people from outside the town - total strangers.

What is a llibret de la falla?

Each falla has its own. It's like an album with photographs of falleras, explanations and drawings of  the monument, poems, criticism, short articles about traditions relating to the festival and pictures of previous Falla fiestas and the parties. If yours wins the prize for your town, it can go on to compete in the championship against all the other winning llibrets in the province of Valencia.

A friend of mine tells me the Fallas are like going on holiday - exhausting, but enormous fun and you come back mentally refreshed.

Yes, absolutely - you need a holiday to get over them!  After the first day you find yourself wondering how you're going to make it through to the night of March 19, but somehow, you hang in there. We have a great time though, non-stop partying, eating and drinking. It's fantastic. It's a dream come true.


 Anyone that happens to be sailing  along below the cliffs of mount Toix  will have their attention attracted by a series of steps and refuges that have been cut into the rock. I n fact these can be seen almost anywhere along the cliffs of the Costa Blanca coast.

These constructions, hung high on the dangerous steep cliffs that loom high out of the sea, were constructed by men whose needs made them forget the fear that they were feeling whenever they were going down to  to fish from the tiny wooden platforms(very similar to those used by window cleaners). Many of them couldn't even swim and they were conscious that any mistake they made meant  death for them.

There is no specific evidence as to when this type of fishing started off the cliffs of Toix. All the information that exists is oral and therefore stems mainly from the XXth century.

In Toix this fishing was called "canyis"  and fish were caught from a wooden platform hanging from the cliffs above the water. Some of them are still in existence, are accessible by boat and are still used sporadically.

The construction of these platforms was hugely difficult and extremely risky. After identifying a place naturally formed by the sea, it was necessary either to go down from the top of the cliff or up from the sea to the above mentioned place, fixing stakes or bolts in the orifices of the rock. Next  it was necessary to  put in place ladders and ropes and  then finally  build the refuge, the base from where they would fish. It was very important that the refuge was minimally comfortable because of the long hours spent fishing.

I was told by my cousin Pepe Zaragozí (Pepito the Spring) that sometime in the 1960's, he and his cousin Jaume Perles were interested in a godforsaken "peixquera" that existed in the Cova dels Coloms. They went to Poble Nou of Benitatxell to ask  permission to fish from  the owners (traditionally everybody respected the rights of property for fishing). The owners gave them permission to assemble the peixquera again. Pepe and his cousin Jaume had to carry all the materials from their houses in the Canuta up to the top of the mount Toix and then climb down  the cliff  to the sea carrying these materials. They carved steps in the rocks and built a small shelter to protect themselves from the cold in the night. The most difficult thing,  Pepe told me, was making the holes to secure the base of the platform. Hanging over the sea, he and his cousin Jaume, and using hand tools, they made at least twenty  holes in the hard rock. Each of the holes took more than an hour and a half of arduous work.

When Pepe and Jaume had the "peixquera" ready, they invited two men from Poble Nou (fishermen) to come and see it. They were greatly impressed with the work they had done restoring the peixquera. It seems that this was the best place to fish in Toix. Also it is one of the most dangerous, not as dangerous though as the fishing that was carried on at Paleres or Martí . All of them have  access  by ropes and steps. It is understood that the users of the "peixqueres" took the risks through necessity. They were hard years and the additional income that was provided by the selling of the fresh fish could not be turned away. And of course they loved the work despite the danger and risk to their lives.

On one occasion, a layman in the matters of fishing called Joan del Chacal, was taken down from the top of a stone arch Forat de l'Ase - He had some rather bad luck descending to the platform and ended up hanging from one of them in the sea.  He wasn't able to swim, so started shouting until he was heard by the carabineers on the nearby hill and  was rescued with a rowboat. Luckily the carabineers had good knowledge of  "peixqueras"  and hence were able to rescue him.

At present, these fishing areas of Toix are a relic of the past and it is necessary to recognize that as such . I hope that nobody has the idea of " restoring them ". Their principal attraction is to contemplate them as they have come to us.

Translated by John T 

© Copyright 2006 All Rights Reserved




"Leprosy has been on the increase in different parts of Spain for some years past, and the extension of the disease has at last aroused the attention of the Government. On February 16th the Director - General of Beneficence and Sanitation sent a circular letter to all governors of provinces calling on them to take such steps as may seem necessary under the circumstances."-British Medical Journal, March 5th, 1892.

In a communication to the Lancet, January 16th, 1892, "On the Origin and Spread of Leprosy in Parcent, Spain," founded upon investigations by Drs. Codina and Zuriaga, Dr. George Thin introduces the following table and comments :-

"Table Showing the Cases of Leprosy in the Towns referred to in this Report.


No of inhabitants

Date of invasion

Cases up to 1887


































































































































I gathered the data stated in the present table during my visit to the towns in the district of Parcent.   Although I have endeavoured to obtain my information as accurately as possible, I am unable to guarantee its correctness.  the towns sometimes hide the truth as to the number of lepers existing; but if there are any, they will consist in showing too small, rather than too great, a number of lepers.

    "There is nothing in the soil, occupation, food, or race to account for any difference in the number of lepers which are to be found in these towns respectively. It also shows that the proportion of lepers to the population of the towns is not connected with the length of time that the disease has lasted, and therefore is not in relation to the opportunities given by heredity, even if it were assumed that heredity was a cause. Parcent, which is the most striking example, shows in twenty-seven years, in a population of 150 inhabitants, 65 cases of leprosy, of whom 28 were living at the end of that period; whilst Pego, with 1200 inhabitants, and where the disease has lasted since last century, had only 20 living lepers. Pedreguer, in which we know there was leprosy in 1809, with a population of 720, had in about forty years 79 lepers, of whom 12 were living at the date of the report whilst Murla, with only 120 inhabitants, had had 14 cases in seventeen years, of whom 10 were living at the date of the report.

    "Excluding heredity as an insufficient cause of these cases, and as otherwise being discredited, the difference of the rate of increase of leprosy in these similarly situated villages is best explained by the assumption that the opportunities for contagion have been greater in some cases than in others, even if we did not have the statements which I have collected from two independent sources- namely, from the Mayor of Parcent, referred to by Dr. Zuriaga, and from Dr. Codina's report to the Director-General at Madrid. Another sad fact comes out from a study of this table-namely, that in many of the towns the appearance of the disease is comparatively recent and that in this part of Spain leprosy is spreading. The necessity for a hospital in Parcent seems to have been realised at last, for we find that a commission visited the neighbourhood in June, I887, for the purpose of finding a site, and were uttered one by the municipal corporation free of cost."

No inquiry appears to have been made, either by Dr. Codina, Dr. Zuriaga, or Dr. Thin, as to vaccination being a possible cause, which, according to a communication to me from Senor U. Montez, the Spanish Consul in London, has been obligatory for many years. This gentleman writes (London, May 26, 1892):-" Apart from previous ordinances on the subject, the law making vaccination obligatory on the whole of Spain is dated the 28th of November, 1855." This mode of propagation, where the contaminating virus enters directly into the blood, is surely more credible than the one suggested by Dr. Thin, of contagion (simple contact), unless Dr Thin, like other pathologists, interprets the word to include inoculation and vaccination.*

* Baron, in his "Life of Jenner," vol i., p. 604, says that Mr. Allen, Secretary to Lord Holland, writing to Jenner from Madrid in 1803, observes:-"There is no country likely to receive more benefits from your labours than Spain; for, on the one hand, the mortality among children from small-pox has always been very great; and, on the other hand, the inoculation for the cow-pox has been received with the same enthusiasm here as in the rest of Europe." .. . . The result, however, was the reverse of satisfactory; the writer adding, that "the inoculation of the spurious sort has proved fatal to many children at Seville, who have fallen victims to the small-pox after they had been pronounced secure from that disease."



Windmills in the Marina Alta

(click on images for full size versions)























































Jesus Pobre




























La Plana Javea








La Plana Javea


This information, and the pictures have been adapted from the booklet produced by the Concejalia de Turismo, Javea. The booklet is available at the Tourist Information Centres in Javea.

There are very few documentary or other references to Valencian windmills. The oldest record seems to be a royal privilege dated 1258 by Alfonso X to the city of Alicante permitting the construction of windmills. Then in 1391 came another document mentioning a mill "called of wind" located in the Plana de Sant Jeroni, in the town of Xabia/Javea. The first graphic representation of a local windmill can be found in an altarpiece painting from Pobla Larga (Ribera Alto district), a work attributed to the circle of the painter Pere Nicolau (1440 -1450). At the top of the painting, forming part of the landscape, is a schematic representation of a Mediterranean type windmill located on the crest of a hill. It has a thatched conical cap, with four rotors fitted with sails, an access door and a small window on the upper floor. Under the cap is a long curved wooden beam, called a "bandera" (banner) in the Marina Alta district, and this was used to rotate the cap and the arms of the mill.

Much later, in the second half of the 17th century and in the 18th century, can be found representations of windmills in diverse engravings showing Mediterranean type mills with four sail arms in the city of Alicante.

Dating from the 17th and 18th centuries are various documents referring to other windmills in the towns of Albocasser and Peniscola (Baix Maestrat district), and also in Font de la Figuera (La Costera district), and remains of these are still preserved near the town.

More recently, in the mid 19th century, there are abundant references to windmills in a work by Pascual Madoz called "Diccionario Geografico Estadistico Historico de Espana y sus posesiones de ultramar" (Geographical Statistical HistoricaI Dictionary of Spain and Her Overseas Possessions), where many of the windmills in the southernmost districts of the Valencia Region are described, coinciding with the time of the greatest expansion and development of regional windmills.

From north to south in Valencian lands we can still find the remains of some windmills, ranging from the Bajo Segura district in the southernmost climes up to the highlands of the Maestrat district in Castellon province. These constructions certainly once dotted the landscape in many areas of the region.

Between the years 1990 and 1993, thanks to support from the Ethnological Service of the Regional Ministry of Culture of Valencia, an inventory of Valencian windmills was carried out. As a result of this work, plus a few later additions, a total of 47 windmills were catalogued, from an approximate total of 70 windmills that must have existed at some point. The majority of these were used for grinding grain, although in the Bajo Segura district (named after its river), a few mills were employed for water extraction. These structures show a strong geographical distribution in the Marina Alta district. This area still has 28 windmills out of an approximate total of 37 that must have existed here up until the beginning of the 20th century, with 12 in Javea/Xabia, 5 in Denia, 3 in Benissa, 3 in Gata, 2 in Pedreguer, 1 in Teulada, 1 in Calpe and 1 in Lliber.

In the southern districts of Bajo Segura, Baix Vinalopo and l'AlacantIi there was another concentration of some 22 windmills in the 19th century, of which only the remains of seven are still standing: 3 in the Bajo Segura, 1 in Orihuela, 1 in San Miguel de Salinas, 1 in Rojales and 1 more in Santa Pola, in the Baix Vinalopo district.

Further north there was another group located around the Sierra Calderona, which in certain cases, such as the windmills of the town of Sagunto, are only known from vague documentary references. Six are still preserved in the Alto Palancia district: 2 in Gatova, 2 in Las Alcublas and 2 (?) in Caudiel; plus 1 in Quart de les Valls, in the Camp de Morvedre district, and another 1 in Pucol, in the I'Horta Nord district.

Even further north, there are 4 more windmills spread around the districts of Alt Maestrat (2 in Culla), the Plana Alta (1 in Cabanes and another in Torreblanca), and the Plano Baixa (1 in Eslida). Documents. also show there were windmills in Peniscola and Albocasser (Baix Maestrat district).

Isolated from all others, in the westernmost corner of the La Costera district, there are remains of a windmill in the town of Font de la Figuera.


Apart from an abundance of information on windmills in Xabia, there are also further documentary references about windmills in the Marina Alta district. The first known records date from the 17th century, although it is possible that some windmills in the district were built some years before this. One of the most interesting references found is in a book in Valencian whose translated name is Ordinances Concerning The Custody And Safekeeping of The Maritime Coast of the Kingdom of Valencia, written and published by one Vesposiono Manrique Gonzaga, Count of Paredes and Lieutenant and General Captain in the City and Kingdom of Valencia, printed in the year 1673. This document has a chapter entitled Memory of The Changing of the Guard In All Fortresses, Towers, Castles and Detachments of the Coast, in which we can read in reference to the tower of Palmar, in the municipality of Denia : "... and to all, their posts and the names of their posts were given by the representative of authority, and often he would send them to the windmill, and would send two guards on rounds..."

This windmill, which is still preserved today, has given its name to a geographical site on the coast: La Punta del Molins, or Mill Point, on the northernmost part of the coast of Denia. And in another equally significant document, called the Act on the Building of the University of Benitagell, drawn up by the Notary of Valencia Lluis Ribes and dated 4 January 1698, we can read: "... that is, within the following boundaries, which are: with the limits of the town of Teulada as marked by the Castello windmill which serves as the dividing  line instead of a boundary stone & ldots;" The circular base of this windmill, still preserved today, has recently served to rectify the limits between Teulada and the village of Poblenou de Benitatxell. A little later, from the second half of the 18th century, there is a magnificent graphic reference to windmills shown on a ceramic tile panel from the former Convent of Jesus Pobre (Jesus the Poor). The panel shows a schematic representation of three windmills that are still preserved on the top of the Molins (meaning "windmills") hilltop, south of Jesus Pobre village.

And yet another reference was provided by a work by Joaquim Marti Gadea called Tipos, Modismes y Coses Rares y Curioses de la terra del Ge (Valencia,1908). This author provides us with perhaps the last direct testimony to windmills in the district that were still in operation: "...it is still surprising to see in the mountains of La Marina and other dry land areas those round turrets topped with crossed sails, which were once dedicated to grinding grain from which to make flour. As since practically none of these mills are in operation any more and will soon disappear completely, with the idea of bequeathing them to coming generations, let us dedicate this record to them...".The Marina Alta is the Valencian district with the largest number of windmills still in existence. Today, of the 37 windmills thought to exist at one time thanks to various sources dating from the 19th century up to the present day, a total of 28 still remain. This abundance of windmills has been interpreted as being due not only to the lack of significant watercourses for moving hydraulic mill mechanisms, also existing in the district since Medieval times, but also due to historical tradition and technology, as the presence of wind energy enabled these devices to be built and used since Medieval times up until the 19th century. A study of the mills preserved in this district and the documentary references known to date have enabled us to define two major periods of construction and establishment in the Marina Alta district. The first and most extensive period ranged from the lower Medieval period to modern times, from the 14th to the 18th centuries. Dating from this longer period are the eleven windmills from the Plana de Sant Jeroni in Javea, the windmill of Pla del Palmar or Punta dels Molins in Denia, the windmill of Els Castellons in the municipal area of Poblenou de Benitatxell and Teulada, and the three windmills of Jesus Pobre, as well as the now non existent windmills of Pla dels Molins, in Benissa.

The second period corresponds to the 19th century, the time of maximum expansion of windmill use in the district. Probably all the windmills built during this period were erected in the first half of the 19th century, as indicated by all the dates engraved on these mills. Corresponding to this period are: the windmill on the Gaians hilltop (Denia), the windmill of Safranera (Javea) dating from 1850, two windmills on the hilltop of Molinets (Pedreguer), one of which is from 1850, the three windmills of Gata, one windmill in Rompudetes and another two on the hilltop called Pedreguer (one dating from 1839), the windmill of Conna (Teulada), two windmills of Collado (one from 1850), the windmill of Montserrat, the windmill of Collao (Lliber) and finally the windmill of Morello (Calpe).




Preserved within the municipal area of Javea (called Xabia in Valenciano) are twelve windmills, eleven of which are on the plateau called Plana de Sant Jeroni, located on the Montgo massif, near the cape of Sant Antoni at about 190 metres above sea level, and the other, called the Safronera windmill, is in the area known as Freginal, isolated from the series on La Plana, very close to a river and only 18 metres above sea level. The latter was the latest mill to be built in Xabia, and still preserves over its doorway a commemorative inscription engraved on the masonry: "ANO 1850 ARBANIL / MYGUEL SOLER / Dueno Guillermo Catala" (YEAR 1850 BUILDER / MYGUEL SOLER / Owner Guillermo Catala). The windmills of La Plana, fanning out from east to west, form the most important series of windmills in the Valencia Region, both in number and in view of their historic and monumental interest. Based on existing documentary references, we know that a windmill was erected at the end of the 14th century that belonged to the once existing Monastery of San Jeronimo (1374 1386):&ldots; "from the Cape of the chapel, popularly called Cape San Antonio, [the boundary line] runs straight across the hill to the Sorbasota cave towards the mill called the windmill that formerly belonged to the St Jeronymous Monastery and is now owned by one Berthomeu  Ameler, a neighbour of the aforesaid village of Xabea&ldots;"From the 16th and 18th centuries we have other written references of the names of some windmills in Xabia, and an interesting graphic document from the 17th century preserved in the Medinaceli archives (nobility from Xabia), corresponding to a "Representation of the map of the areas of Xabea, Gatta and Teulada". In this cartographic document there is a schematic representation of the municipal area of Xabia, showing the windmills of La Plana.

As of the 18th century, references become more frequent, both in written and graphic format. In 1777, the ruler of Parcent, referring to Xabia, mentions that "... it has within its municipal area a mountain towards the north, called Mogo, very high; on the cone of said mountain are 10 windmills &ldots;" The botanist Cavanilles, around 1795, mentions the windmills of La Plana in his "Observaciones". Dating from 1775 is an interesting document corresponding to the title deed of the establishment of a windmill on the "Costa de la Mesquida" (La Plana), in which two inhabitants of Xabia request permission from the Marquis for the construction of a windmill, and a tenant's contract is executed stipulating the terms and conditions: payment of 4 wages a year, obligation to build the windmill within the period of one year and the stipulations of the emphyteusis. It is clear from this document that both the terrain of La Plana and the construction of windmills was regulated by the rights of the nobility. According to works by Madoz (1847), we know that in the mid 19th century there were still  eight windmills grinding grain in La Plana, and the Safronera windmill started operation as of 1850. But by the early 20th century only one windmill in La Plana, belonging to a certain Tono Garco, was still in use, and was abandoned shortly thereafter.

At the end of the 19th century practically all the windmills in Xabia and the Marina Alta had ceased operation. This came about due to a reduction in wheat production, and particularly due to the use of other systems and sources of energy (hydraulic, steam and electric mills), soon causing their complete disappearance.

Their wood and iron mechanisms were the first to disappear, being reused for other purposes. The same ting happened to the physical structure of the mills, with stone blocks being taken out of doorways, stairs and even some ceiling arches. Some mills were totally destroyed, as was the case of the mills in Poblenou de Benitatxell, Teulada and Benissa.

After the loss of the machinery and roofs, the remains of most of these mills at present are simply the solid cylindrical towers and some of their more stable architectural elements. Despite this, the windmills of the Marina Alta present constructive elements that set them apart from other windmills, namely, they usually have a quarter circle arch built in rough hewn stone for the support of the upper floor.

The height of the windmills preserved in the district ranges from seven to eight metres, whereas the diameters alternate between 5.5m to 6.5m. Their sturdy walls have variable widths, some 1.5m and just above in some cases, with widths of course diminishing slightly towards the top. At the base of many of these constructions is a kind of run around wall or bench that probably acted as a counter buttress or foundation wall.

The inner structure presents a lower floor with a doorway and an upper floor supported over arches. The access to the upper floor was via a stairway with steps set into the sides of the wall. Between the two floors was often a small chamber built using wooden beams. The two millstones (the top one that revolved and the stationary bottom one) were located on the upper floor, whereas the other rooms were used for storage and living quarters. The mill was topped by a conical roof, with a wooden structure, that was covered on the outside by vegetable fibre (rushes, etc.) or wooden strips in more recent times.

From under the roof, facing slightly diagonally upwards, was a wooden beam called the "tree", on which the four grid work arms ("engraelledes") were supported, conveniently fixed with sails to be moved by the wind. This horizontal movement was converted by the machinery into a revolving vertical movement via the upper grindstone, which revolved around a lower stationary millstone, to grind wheat into flour, which was then collected and sent via a wooden flour channel to the lower floor for storage.



Walking on History
Sylvia Matheson


(Notes from a talk given to the Anglo-Spanish Society of Jávea in 1996)
What a remarkable area we've chosen to live in!

Whether we're walking in the port or the Arenal, shopping in the pueblo's narrow streets, wandering around Montgó, up on the Balcon del Mar or La Plana, on Cabo San Antonio with its Palaeolithic caves: or along La Plana, gardening in Adsubia or playing Golf at Lluca, treading over 3rd and 2nd century Iberian and Roman settlements, virtually wherever we tread we're bound to be tracing footprints of past inhabitants. Montgó's prehistoric cave dwellers and hunters dating from at least 30,000 years ago, and its paintings in Migdia cave are well-enough known. Its slopes have certainly yielded evidence of the ancient past to many local residents whether collecting Stone-Age handaxes and flints, Roman pottery or Muslim ceramics. If you are among those who gather the wild herbs still struggling to survive amid ever-increasing construction, just think of the Moorish Caliph Abd ur Rahman the Third who, 1000 years ago, at the beginning of the 10th century, made a special journey from Cordoba to collect over a hundred medicinal herbs from the slopes of our Montgó. Whether we're walking in the port or the Arenal, shopping in the pueblo's narrow streets, wandering around Montgó, up on the Balcon del Mar or La Plana, on Cabo San Antonio with its Palaeolithic caves: or along La Plana, gardening in Adsubia or playing Golf at Lluca, treading over 3rd and 2nd century Iberian and Roman settlements, virtually wherever we tread we're bound to be tracing footprints of past inhabitants.Montgó's prehistoric cave dwellers and hunters dating from at least 30,000 years ago, and its paintings in Migdia cave are well-enough known. Its slopes have certainly yielded evidence of the ancient past to many local residents whether collecting Stone-Age handaxes and flints, Roman pottery or Muslim ceramics. If you are among those who gather the wild herbs still struggling to survive amid ever-increasing construction, just think of the Moorish Caliph Abd ur Rahman the Third who, 1000 years ago, at the beginning of the 10th century, made a special journey from Cordoba to collect over a hundred medicinal herbs from the slopes of our Montgó. The slopes of Montgó, the tops of surrounding hills and the valley itself, all tell of the earliest known Neolithic settlements in the Western Mediterranean, where men developed agriculture and domesticated animals from around 3000 BC and into the Valencian Bronze Age between 1900 and 500 BC. In our Museum you can see Iberian beads, shards of decorated pottery, stone axes and pestle and mortars found all around us, including from a fox's burrow dig into the hill crowned by the Santa Lucia Ermita, and which revealed a Bronze Age and Roman Village. A few years ago there was a plan to build a radio or TV tower at the Western (Jesus Pobre) end of Montgó, and a road was begun leading from near the enclave of Los Lagos.
Fortunately the scheme was abandoned, but not before it had cut right through the stone dwellings of an Iberian settlement. And I was told that in all probability our charming little 14th century Ermita de Popol on the Jesus Pobre road, is most likely on a very ancient sacred site, possibly built over an underground stream as were many religious buildings.Visigoths were here too. In the 6th century AD. Christian Visigoth monks whose ancestors had accompanied the troops sent to battle in North Africa, came across to Javea and founded the monastery of San Martin, now disappeared but which probably gave its name to the Cabo San Martin. Here Hermangildo, son of the Visigoth king Leogevild of Toledo, sought refuge in the Monastery after angering his father by marrying a Christian girl. When his father's troops arrived to arrest him all but one ancient monk fled to Portichol - but Hermengild and the old monk were killed. You'll find a number of Javiense with Visigoth names even today.It's sad to think of the hundreds of new dwellings- or old fincas pulled down - whose foundations have been laid in desperate haste to conceal the many Roman villas that once lined our roads, particularly the old Cabanas road. and down near Arenal.They used to say in Iran that wherever you went, you couldn't put in a spade without pulling out a "plum" - archaeologically speaking. And almost the same applies to Jávea except that much has been lost or is still covered by buildings. Just consider, as you make your way into the Centro de Salud, that under the impressive new Central Cultural going up by its side, Iberian artifacts have been found here too, and our overworked archaeologists tell me that if and when sufficient funds are forthcoming to hire student workers-, they hope to carry out some exploratory excavations on the adjacent land. But almost every week when you go into the pueblo, somebody, somewhere is tearing down one of the old houses. During the last few months, a dilapidated village house in the angle of Santa Marta, leading off the Church Square, was pulled down and in the brief period given the archaeologists to examine the site, they made an astonishing discovery- The foundations of the 17th - 18th century house had been built right on top of a 3000 year old Bronze Age farming site, thus preserving the remains of two cabins and several silos! And in San Bartholome. The next street, facing the church, another house has been demolished to reveal relicsof a 14th. century dwelling with a cistern, well and various ceramics and coins. Come to that, do you remember when the police station, then part of the Ayuntamiento was moved to its purpose-built location opposite the car park, in 1994(?) The intention was to open a tourist office in the old premises, part of the Ayuntamiento, and renovations included relaying the floor. But what did they find? Fourteenth century graves- some with several skeletons added later, all of the first Christians to repopulate Jávea after the long Muslim occupation- The cemetery was in use for another two hundred years and archaeologists found the remains of what appeared to have been a high, fortified tower and the later, smaller, 17th century chapel of the Desamparados. Making use of some of this material the original Ayuntamiento was built over them in 1774.Fortunately several of the rock-cut graves - without their skeleton inmates which have been removed to the nearby Museum - have been preserved and can be seen under the glass floor as you enter what is one of the Ayuntamiento's offices. Go down to the port and as you sip your coffee on the pedestrian precinct of Andres Lambert, recall that only a year or two ago when a couple of fishermen's cottages were being demolished, the archaeologists, who were again given only two weeks to explore, discovered the massive foundations of an early Roman building, the major portion of which lies under the paving.A datable lead weight used by Roman fishing boats, put back Roman occupation of Jávea to the 2nd century BC, making ours the oldest known Roman site on the coast with a commercial port for fish and minerals. And of course you know about the important Roman fish factory under the Parader, and the nearby cemetery, probably the largest in the province, part of which lies under the recently built "Alkazaba holiday apartments. The late Solar Blasco, that fine artist who painted the triptich (now divided) over the Ermita de Popol's altar, and who was also our Alcalde, greatly concerned about Jávea's past, showed me many Roman and Iberian sites already lost or being covered by apartments along the coast. He pointed out the remnants of a Roman theatre, now disappeared, on the slopes of Montgó overlooking the main Valencia road, and a temple site by the Arenal's Canal de la Fontana, among many other relics of Jávea's ancient past. There is little left of the Moors but some inscribed gravestones and ceramics, although they were here from about 714AD until the last were expelled from Jávea and Denia in 1609. Most were farmers, cultivating and terracing the land but undoubtedly there are remains hidden beneath many buildings and wooded areas. Not long ago I watched the excavation of an 11th - 13th century Moorish fortified farm among the wooded slopes of Capsades, with tower walls standing a metre or more high, bread ovens, storage silos and courtyards. I was told a new urbanization was to be built here but that they hoped the Moorish site would be developed as an attractive feature. An imaginative idea and I hope it comes off.

Well, walk where you will in the valley, town or hills, you can be sure of one thing, you are walking on history.