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Hola Valencia’s Top Five: Churches

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Although sometimes it’s easy to forget, what with its liberal, anything-goes attitude to life, Spain is one of the most deeply Catholic countries on Earth. Valencia has an enormous number of churches, many of which have centuries of history. We’ve visited a lot of them, and have chosen the five which impressed us the most… in no particular order:

Colegio del Patriarca

The Patriarca was San Juan de Ribera, the influential priest who founded this church and seminary in the 16th century. The building hosts an excellent little museum, as well as a courtyard and a church. But the most curious thing is the crocodile, mounted on a wall over the holy water.

The Dragon of the Patriarch

Church of San Martín

Just meters away from the Plaza de la Reina, the Church of San Martín has centuries of history, and was recently renovated by the Light of the Images — a foundation dedicated to the restoration of ancient buildings and works of art. They did a beautiful job.

The Glory of the Baroque: The Church of Saint Martin

The Cathedral of Valencia

The epicenter of Valencian religious life, the Cathedral was a given on this list. The magnificent facade, the jaw-dropping interiors, the Micalet — and of course, the Holy Grail — all make the Catedral an absolute must for any trip to Valencia.

The Bells of the Micalet

Iglesia de San Esteban

Blue and gray are the dominant colors in this beautifully restored church in the quiet neighborhood of La Seu. The church was built over a mosque in 1472, and is one of the prime examples of the Baroque styles in Valencia.

More Information from the Light of the Images

Iglesia de San Juan del Hospital

Built around 1260, this is considered the first church in Valencia after the Christian conquest, and is the only medieval church to survive the years. With a small austere interior accessible through beautiful gardens, this is one of the city’s most impressive and somber places of worship.

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September 25, 2010 at 4:36 am Comments (2)

Murder in the Cine Oriente

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Back in 1950’s Ruzafa, a gruesome crime took place which has become known as the Murder of the Cine Oriente. The cinema on Calle Sueca no longer exists, but it captured the headlines of Valencia for an entire summer.


Photo credit: missmass

For days, the patrons of the cinema had been complaining about a terrible odor. The owner explained it as dead rats, owing to the poison he’d recently spread around. But the stench was truly atrocious and didn’t go away, even after the rat cadavers where cleaned up.

Meanwhile, a bag had been found at the nearby train tracks, holding the extremities of an adult human. The legs and arms were cleanly shaven, with freshly painted nails. Shocking, but not nearly as horrific as the decapitated, armless and legless body that soon appeared locked in trunk, in an empty lot on Calle Sueca.

With these discoveries, the rancid odor at the Cine Oriente took on a more ominous tinge. Despite thorough searches of the premises, the police could find nothing. They began interrogating the cinema’s employees… but the janitor was strangely nowhere to be found. He lived with his mistress, María López, who explained that urgent business had called him away to Barcelona. Her story, though, seemed a little suspect. The janitor may have been a useless drunk, but at least would have informed his boss about a sudden departure.

A more thorough search of the cinema was immediately undertaken and finally, battling through the overwhelming stink, behind the cinema screen inside a box of cookies filled with dirt and manure, they found the partly decomposed head of the janitor.

María López confessed immediately. The janitor had been drunk, and they had been fighting when he fell backwards down the stairs and smacked his head on the ground, dying immediately. Panicked, she decided to chop up his body and hide the pieces, using a handsaw and knives. She painted the nails and shaved the limbs to confuse police. After her original hiding place inside the cinema began to stink and draw suspicion, she started removing the pieces one by one to various locations, but ran out of time before she got to the head.

A good story, but a little difficult to believe in its entirety… there was no contusion in the back of the janitor’s skull, nor did this version explain the crowbar stained with blood and hair, which was found in her apartment.

María López would serve 6 years for homicide, and another 5 months for the mutilation of the corpse.

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July 6, 2010 at 11:41 am Comments (0)

The Jail of San Vicente Mártir

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After leaving the Baños del Almirante somewhat disappointed, we decided to try our luck at the nearby Carcel de San Vicente Mártir, in the Plaza de la Almoina. And we found it a lot more interesting.

The building is near the cathedral, in one of the historical focal points of the city. Remains of civilizations stretching back to the Romans can be seen in this area, and the crypt contains an intact Visigoth chapel from the 6th Century. This basement is supposedly where San Vicente was held captive prior to being martyred in 304 AD. Although, when I pointed out to the guide that there’s another spot in Valencia that claims to be his jail, he readily admitted that no one really knows “for sure” where the jail was… but it certainly could have been here.

The basement ruins are interesting enough, but the best part of the experience is a very cool audio-visual guide that leads you through Valencia’s early history, from the Visigoths to the Moors, to the arrival of Christianity. It’s available in English and provides a fascinating glimpse into the city’s early days.

We loved this exhibit, and were shocked to be the only visitors at 18:30 on a Saturday evening in May. The entrance is free and well worth your time. You can probably get lucky with an English tour, like we did, but you might want to call ahead to make sure.

Archaeological Crypt of San Vicente Martír
+34 96 394 14 17
Location on our Valencia Map

Vicente Mártir Procession

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July 5, 2010 at 4:09 pm Comments (0)

Los Baños del Almirante

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Right off Calle Palau, within 2 minutes of the Cathedral, lay the Baths of the Admiral — a bathhouse originally constructed in 1313.

Unlike the baths we visited while in Granada, these are of Christian origin, though with their arched doorways and star-shaped skylights, clearly owe a lot to Moorish aesthetic.

We’d been meaning to visit for more than a year, and finally did a couple weeks ago. Our visit began with a short video demonstrating how a 14th century lady might have bathed herself. Afterwards, we took a short guided tour of the building. The baños consist of three rooms — cold, warm and hot. Unlike the Arab baths, guests would only sponge themselves and sit in steam, and not fully emerge in water.

The architecture and history are neat, but this isn’t exactly Valencia’s most interesting cultural offering. The Baños have been fully restored, but have lost any sense of their antiquity. The introductory video was a little cheesy, bordering on distasteful, and our guide was unenthusiastic, bordering on comatose. But again it was all for free, so it’s difficult not to recommend a visit.

The doors open every half hour for the visit. Just wait outside until invited in.
Tue-Sat: 9:30 – 14:00 and 17:30 – 20:00
Sun & Holidays: 9:30 – 14:00
605.275.784
Location on our Valencia Map

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June 29, 2010 at 9:38 am Comments (2)

Granada – Federico Garcia Lorca

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“Viento del Sur,
moreno, ardiente,
llegas sobre mi carne,
trayéndome semilla
de brillantes
miradas, empapado
de azahares…”
– Veleta (excerpt), Federico Garcia Lorca

Spain’s most famous poet and the favorite son of Granada, Federico Garcia Lorca was a seminal artistic figure, just as important in death as life. Musician, artist, radical, dramatist, patron of flamenco, Lorca had his hands in everything, but it was his poetry for which he’s most well-known. His poetry, and his ignoble execution at the hands of Franco’s army.

Lorca lived in Granada, and we visited his house-museum on the southern end of the city. When he occupied it, not really that long ago, the house was on the city’s outskirts, in a field. But Granada grew quickly, and the house is currently within a city park. It’s been perfectly upheld, with original furniture donated by the family and Lorca’s artwork decorating the walls. For a fan of either poetry or history, a visit to the house is obligatory.

It’s difficult to overstate how important Lorca’s influence has been to the people of Granada and Spain. He was one of the most early proponents of flamenco music… one of Camarón de la Isla’s best songs is Lorca’s poetry set to music. He was openly homosexual and leftist — traits that were dangerous for the volatile period in which he lived. Indeed, shortly after the Civil War broke out, he was arrested by the Popular Front and executed. Franco then banned his entire body of work.

Lorca’s remains have never been found, and the recovery of his body remains a highly-charged topic in Spain, which is still coming to terms with the havoc of the war which tore it in two.

More from Our Granada Trip

Buy Garcia Locrca’s poems here. Click if you are in the USA, UK, Germany or Spain

Some pictures of Garcia Lorca’s house and the park which is named after him:

huerta-granada
lorca-granada
casa-lorca
parque-garcia-lorca
lorca-park-granada
Granada Art
granada-guitar
arabic-half-moon
gato-granada
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March 3, 2010 at 2:56 pm Comments (3)

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