Historical Valencia: The Borgia Route
Have you ever heard of Borgia?! – The noble family descending from Valencia that introduced two Popes of Vatican, along with many other church and political leaders. Since my last visit to Jativa and Gandia, I´ve put together a list of places related to the scandalous family in their home region of Valencia Community. Check out the main Borgia sites you should definitely include onto your Spanish Bucket List.
If you are planning to visit Valencia and want to experience the history of the region along with some places off the beaten track – this post is for you. There is so much information out there on the city of Valencia itself and yet little attention is given to the rest of the province. And believe me, there are more hidden gems in Valencia than you could ever imagine. Let´s start with the Borgia Route…
The Borgia: Who were they?
Who´s never heard of Borgia (Borja in Spanish)?! Or in case you haven´t seen The Borgias historical-fiction drama with Jeremy Irons let me share some details.
Borgia was a noble family descending from Valencia and ruling the Catholic heart of Europe. They were always quite wealthy, but international fame came to Borgia when they established roots in Italy and became crucial in the Vatican´s political life (between the 1400s and 1500s). The history relates Borgia with numerous crimes and murders, all because of their grasp for power. The House of Borgia produced two popes of Rome (Alfons de Borja, ruled as Pope Callixtus III during 1455–1458, and Rodrigo Lanzol Borgia, as Pope Alexander VI, during 1492–1503) as well as many other political and church leaders.
The Saint Mary’s Cathedral
One way or another, Valencia should be your first stop. However, it was the last “Spanish” stop of the Borgia family on their way to Italy, before they turned into one of the most powerful families of the XV century. Here you should check the building of Cortes Valencianas (the former palace of the Borgia)and of course, the Saint Mary’s Cathedral or Valencia Cathedral. Its Renaissance frescos, painted by the Italian artists Francisco Pagano and Pablo de San Leocadio were ordered by Rodrigo Borgia (later Pope Alexander VI) himself.
The Jativa Castle
Jativa is a small rural town with no more than 30.000 inhabitants and only 60 km far from Valencia. It´s a perfect day-trip idea when exploring the Valencia region: I still wonder why it took me so long to finally visit this place. Aside from the city center and a home (birthplace) of Pope Alexander VI you should definitely check the castle. Together with Morella and Peñiscola, – the Jativa Castle is making its way to my list of Must See Castles in Spain.
Within the castle, you could find a small exposition dedicated to Borgia. Read more
The Ducal Palace of Gandia
The Ducal Palace of Gandia was the residence of the Borgia family since 1485 and a birthplace of Saint Francis Borgia ( a great-grandson of Pope Alexander VI). The Palace itself is a must stop for the art lovers – no wonder it is considered to be an important part of the Valencian architectural heritage. Situated in the heart of Gandia with its origins going back to the 14th century, the palace takes us back in time to the years of prosperity for the Borja family. The Ducal Palace of Gandia is full of luxury decorations and significant artistic and architectural elements.
The modern range of artistic styles includes Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque and Neo-gothic elements. It could be explained by the fact that the palace was built, enlarged and restored during the last seven centuries. Read more
The Monastery of Simat De La Valldigna
And now let´s head to Valencia off the beaten track – The Monastery of Simat De La Valldigna. Here even Google was unsure about the route and took us towards the local fields of oranges [lol]. Apparently, this place went through a significant deterioration since its foundation in 1298. However, the restoration works started only after its acquisition by Generalitat Valenciana (The Government of Valencian Community) back in 1991. Even though it´s already been a while since then – The Monastery of Simat De La Valldigna is still work in process. Nevertheless, you could currently visit its church and gardens.
Here, Rodrigo De Borja (future Pope Alexander VI) was an Abbot once. And the building of the Capitular Hall (Spanish La Sala Capitular) which started during his presence at the Monastery, was finished later when his son Cesar became an Abbot at The Monastery of Simat following the steps of his father.
Even though you clearly see there is a lot of work to be done at The Monastery of Simat in order to return it back to its original state (or at least close to it), there is something majestic about this place… Especially cause you might be the only person walking through its halls and historical ruins. Or maybe the spirit of the almighty Borgia is still there?!
The Borgia Tower
Canals was a birthplace of another Borgia Pope – Callixtus III. The site you shouldn´t miss here is the tower of Canals, which was once a part of the Borgia palace. Restored back in 1995, the tower consists of several heights and basements. In front of it, you could find Ermita de la Santa Cruz (or The Borja Chapel).
As to the travel planning: you can not visit all of the Borgia sites in one day. Jativa and Gandia are both worth a day trip. Simat de la Vallbona could be visited on the way to Gandia, and Canals – on the way to Xativa. Nevertheless, I suggest you combine your visit to Canals with Anna, where you could find a beautiful lake, called Albufera de Anna, and Valencia´s little Alhambra – the Castle Palace of the Counts of Cervellon.
Happy weekend, dear readers!