The Spanish City of Valencia
In order to discover the origins of the city of Valencia, one must go back to the second century BCE, when it was a prosperous Roman settlement. In keeping with the rest of Spanish history, it was subsequently conquered by the Visigoths in the early fifth century CE, and then by the Moors three centuries later.
Since 1021, Valencia has enjoyed an independent status. The city continued to be governed by its own parliament and laws, the Furs de Valenica, even after the Christian reconquest of the thirteenth century. This autonomous status was, unfortunately for the people of Valencia, withdrawn in the year 1707 by the decree of Nueva Planta. From that time the region has been governed by the laws that govern the rest of Spain. For the last two centuries, Valencian politics have more or less been an extension of Spanish national politics.
Valencia is an autonomous community in eastern Spain, comprising the provinces of Castellon, Valencia, and Alicante. The city of Valencia is the capital of this region. The city can be found at the mouth of the Turia River on the Mediterranean Sea; and is surrounded by rich agricultural plains on which orange trees and rice grow. Valencia hosts numerous sites of historical archaeological importance, such as the Lonja de la Seda, the Palau de la Generalitat, the Cathedral and the Serrano Towers. The Lonja de la Seda of Valencia was declared a World Heritage landmark by the UNESCO in 1996. The building was originally constructed for trading silk, and gradually came to symbolize the power and wealth of Valencia. Built between 1482 and 1533, the Lonja is an outstanding example of Gothic architecture applied to secular purposes.
A recent and exciting addition to the cultural and architectural scene has been the Ciutat de les Arts i de les Ciencies — the Art and Science City. Built by the architects Santiago Calatrava and Felix Candela, reputed for their avant-garde ideas, the futuristic centre has won acclaim as the largest European complex for cultural, educational, and leisure activities. It consists of four main buildings: the L’Hemisferic for exploring the universe; the Museo de las Ciencias Principe Felipe, devoted to science and discovery; the L’Oceanografic, in which lagoons and leisure pavilions take the form of an underwater city that displays marine life; and the Palacio de las Artes for the performance of plays, opera, and music. The “Jardi Botanic” is one of the oldest botanical gardens in the world. Founded by the University of Valencia in 1567, it boasts of one of the most important collections of varied tree life and palms in Europe. The gardens are a home to nearly 45,000 international species.
“Las Fallas” is a popular Valencian festival which is also called The Festival of Fires. It is held in honor of St. Joseph, patron saint of the carpenters. During the festival, artistic displays known as fallas are built with combustible material, such as wood or cardboard. The fallas are subsequently lit on fire. The festival occurs between the fifteenth and nineteenth day of the month of March, and is a major tourist attraction. Corridas, or bullfights, are staged for a week during the fallas. Valencia’s Plaza de Toros is one of the largest bull rings in Spain.