The country’s third largest city, Valencia is on the eastern coast of Spain. Situated on the Guadalaviar estuary, the city links the Turia River with the Mediterranean Sea.
Valencia was originally the site of a Greek and Carthaginian settlement. It was founded by the Romans around 140 BC and rebuilt as the Roman colony of Valentia. It was then taken by the Visigoths in 413 and by the Moors in 714. When the Moorish kingdom was split into regions, Valencia became the capital of the Moorish territory of the same name in 1021. Under the Moors’ rule, the city became important agriculturally and as a trading centre for silk, ceramics, leather and paper.
Valencia was taken by the Spanish in 1012, but was recaptured by the North African Almoravids in 1092. The Almoravids controlled the rest of Moorish Spain throughout the eleventh century. When the Spaniards returned it was with an army led by the Castillian nobleman, Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar, better known as El Cid (Arabic as-sid: ‘lord’), who captured the city after 20 months of fighting. Independent under El Cid, Valencia was the only place in Moorish Spain not ruled by the Almoravids. He held the city until his death in 1099 but the Almoravids retook the city 3 years later. The oscillation between Moorish and Christian rule eventually ended in 1238 with the Riconquista, when Valencia was added to the kingdom of Aragón by Jaime I.
After the unification of Spain in 1479 under the Catholic monarchs, Isabella and Ferdinand, a peaceful Valencia grew and prospered. It became an important centre for arts and developed into the centre of the Valencian school of painting. Over the next two centuries the school included such artists as Juan Sariñena (1545–1619), who was Valencia’s official artist at the end of the sixteenth century, and Francisco Ribalta (1565–1628). The city was the home to the first printing press in Spain, set up in 1474. In the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries Valencia became an increasingly important centre for trading and finance. The city’s prosperity suffered as a result of the expulsion of the Moriscos (Moors who had converted to Christianity) during the Spanish inquisition.
During the Spanish Civil War Valencia was the seat of the Republican Government and was only taken by the Nationalists on 30 March 1939. Many buildings were destroyed during the crossfire, including many of the city’s churches. It was in Valencia that the unsuccessful coup of 1981 was staged.
Valencia’s industries include orange growing and processing, rice and silk as well as shipbuilding, motor vehicles, textiles and metallurgy. The surrounding region of Valencia, of which the city is the capital, is made up of the provinces of Alicante, Castellón and Valencia. The University dates from about 1500.
The city has sea, road and national rail links. The international airport is 8 km from the city.
Places of Interest
To the east of the city centre is the oldest area, Barrio del Carmen. This is the site of the two surviving gates of the medieval city walls, destroyed in 1871 to make way for modernization. At the heart of the ancient city is the cathedral. Constructed between 1262–1482, it has examples of Baroque and Gothic style architecture. The adjoining museum claims to be the holder of the ‘Holy Grail’, used by Jesus at the Last Supper. There are also fine arts and history museums as well as the Museo de Bellas Artes which has collections of Valencian Impressionists, Goya, Velázquez and works of the Valencian School.