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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)

Hola Valencia’s Top Five: Festivals

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Well, I bet you’ve already guessed one of the festivals on our list! Sorry, Assumption Day, it’s not you. Here are the five festivals we loved the most during our time in this party-loving city!

Fallas

Fallas is the Valencian festival, for an entire week turning the city into a exploding, singing, marching, crying, drinking madhouse. We love it. If you visit Valencia during Fallas, you will never, ever forget it.

Our Mega-Fallas Überpost

Wine Festival in the Turia

Not really a traditional festival in the sense of the others on this list, but a great time regardless. The annual wine festival in the Turia seems to grow in popularity every year and, why not? With an incredible selection of cheeses, sausages and wines, and a great atmosphere which seems to buzz with the joy of spring, this is an event which no one should skip. Unless you’re one of those teetotaling losers.

Heaven on Earth? The Wine Festival

Virgen de los Desamparados

Possibly even crazier than Fallas is the celebration of Our Lady of the Forsaken — Valencia’s patron saint. The Sunday morning parade is the shortest, most intense religious freak-out I’ve ever seen.

The Traslado de la Virgen

Corpus Christi

In May, Valencia’s second most important festival gets underway, with bizarre parades, towering dancing figures and la moma — the lady dressed in white. It’s all tied to religion, of course, but what a giant-headed dancing Moor has to do with the body of Christ is anyone’s guess.

Paseo de las Rocas 2010

9 de Octubre

Get out your Valencian flags and head down to the Ayuntamiento, where the city will be celebrating itself in a grand fashion. This is the most nationalistic of Valencia’s holidays, and there’s often trouble as black-clad (and perhaps slightly fascist) Spanish nationalists come up against Valencian separatists. A good time!

Separatist Shenanigans at the Lowering of the Senyera

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September 2, 2010 at 8:49 am Comments (2)

New Ribalta Painting Discovered in Valencia

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This must be the kind of discovery that anyone who gets into the field of restoration hopes to one day make.

A dusty, dirty old painting in storage at the Church of San Andrés was cleaned up and restored by The Light of the Images, the same group responsible for the marvelous renovations of the Glory of the Baroque. Underneath the grime and neglect, workers realized that they were holding a painting by the 16th century Valencian master Francisco Ribalta.

A crucifix scene now christened “El Calavario”, the painting depicts Christ on the cross with a kneeling Mary Magdalene, the Virgin Mary and a few others surrounding him. The painting has been dated to 1620, eight years before the artist’s death, when he was already respected and firmly entrenched in Valencia. Ribalta was of the Baroque era, and one of the first Spanish practitioners of Carvaggio’s tenebrist style.

You can see his newly discovered painting in the church of San Juan de la Cruz, as a part of the Glory of the Baroque exhibition.

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July 17, 2010 at 8:35 am Comments (0)

Paseo de las Rocas 2010

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Crazy weather tried, but wasn’t able to totally dampen the Corpus Christi festivities this year, and we made sure to show up for at the Palacio Arzobispal for the Paseo de las Rocas.

Close your eyes, and imagine a magical land called Pony Paradise, where diminutive horses are fed sugared hay on cotton candy sticks, and get deep horse-muscle massages from enslaved jockey midgets.

Corpus Christi 2010

Now open your eyes again, because the Paseo de las Rocas is the exact opposite of Pony Paradise. It is HORSEY HELL. At the Palacio Arzobispal, the smallest horses are selected to drag the mammoth Rocas up the hill. Fat, sadistic Valencians “encourage” them with vicious stick beatings, laughing as the ponies bray and buckle under the weight, sometimes collapsing onto their knees.

Naturally, it’s one of my favorite events! I always make sure to show up early, to jeer at the stupid ponies and take pictures of their hilarious suffering. Hey now don’t look at me that way, my family was slaughtered by a wild band of crazy horses. They are my enemies.

Valencia Guards
Corpus 2010
Rocas Valencia
Paseo Rocas
Giant Corpus Christi
Corpus Giants
Waiting for NIE
Apple Dance
Moma 2010

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June 7, 2010 at 3:26 pm Comments (4)

Corpus Christi 2010

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Corpus Christi Valencia

The festivities for Corpus Christi, one of Valencia’s most important holidays, get underway tomorrow and run through the weekend. Huge statues, creepy white-robed ladies, elaborately decorated balconies and unfairly burdened ponies are just some of the things you can expect. Here’s a quick rundown of the main events:

Saturday, June 5th
all day – The Rocas, centuries-old wooden structures which illuminate the “mysteries” of the Catholic faith will be on display all day.
19:00 – Performance of “The Mysteries” in the Plaza de la Virgen. If memory serves, it’s mainly for and by children.
23:00 – Concert by the Valencian Municipal Band in the Plaza de la Virgen. They’re always worth catching, especially if it’s a pleasant summer evening.
00:00 – Festive parade during which the best-decorated balconies are awarded prizes.

Sunday, June 6th
9:00 – Bell concert from the Miguelete, the bell tower of the city cathedral. You say “concert”, I say “maddening cacophony”.
12:00Cabalgata del Convite. Really, if you see just one parade this year in Valencia, make it this one. With crazy costumes, including La Moma, fun dancing and lively music, this is the most fun parade I’ve ever seen. Stand along Calle Avellanas, to see Herod’s henchmen get drenched with water from the balconies… just don’t stand too close if you want to stay dry.
16:30 – The 2nd of the day’s parades is the Paseo de las Rocas, when tiny horses carry the enormous Rocas through the city streets. As the parade comes around the Palacio Arzobispal, bets are made on whether the smallest horse in each convoy can drag its Roca up the slight hill. It’s exciting and cruel.
17:30 – Dance of the giants in the Pl. Virgen. Huge figures and groups of costumed people dance around the plaza. Last year, we met two wild-eyed Catholic German girls here, who tried to convert us to their faith.
19:00 – Solemn Procession of the Corpus. Alright kids, the fun is over, and this dreary parade lives up to its name. Women in black and men in suits walk solemnly down the street, on their way to the cathedral.

It’s a lot; a lot of parades, music, dancing, events. I’m exhausted just typing it out. The best thing to do is probably just plan to spend your weekend around the Plaza de la Virgen, which is where most of the action takes place.

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