1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Valencia (city)

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26381961911 Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 27 — Valencia (city)

VALENCIA, the capital of the Spanish province of Valencia, on the right bank of the river Guadalaviar or Turia, 3 m. from the Mediterranean Sea, and 304 m. by rail E.S.E. of Madrid. Pop. (1877) 143,856; (1900) 213,550. Valencia is connected by numerous railways with all parts of Spain, and has one of the most secure and capacious harbours on the east coast. It is the seat of an archbishop, a court of appeal, a university, a captain-general and an army corps. All round it stretches the beautiful and closely cultivated Huerta de Valencia, an alluvial plain planted with groves of oranges, lemons and mulberries. The climate is mild and very dry; rain hardly ever falls except when the east wind blows from the sea. The White houses of the city, often Moorish in many details of their architecture, and the multitude of domes and towers overlaid with blue, white and gold tiles, give to Valencia an oriental appearance which is remarkable even in south-eastern Spain. Until 1871 it was enclosed by a wall founded by the Romans and rebuilt in 1356 by Pedro IV.; two picturesque gateways with machicolated towers still remain, but few other remnants are left of the old fortifications, the site of which is now occupied by fine boulevards. The river, reduced, except in time of flood, to a scanty stream by the demands made upon it for irrigation, is crossed by several bridges, of which the longest has thirteen arches. The streets are for the most part narrow, crooked and somewhat gloomy, but in the more modern quarters there are some broad and handsome thoroughfares. Towards the close of the 19th century Valencia was lighted by gas and electricity; electric tramways were laid down and a good water-supply and drainage system secured.

The cathedral (La Seo), begun in 1262, was in 1459 lengthened in its original Gothic style, but in such a way as to spoil its proportions, and in the 18th century it was further injured by pseudo-Classic additions. It possesses some fine examples of the sculpture and metal-work of the 15th century, as well as of the Valencian school of painting. The Campanile (el Miguelete), an isolated octagonal Gothic tower, 152 ft. in height, commands an extensive view of the town and surrounding country. Near the cathedral is the episcopal palace, its large and valuable library, rich in medals and other antiquities, suffered greatly during the French occupation in 1812. Besides the cathedral, Valencia has numerous parish churches and other ecclesiastical buildings, none of them of great architectural beauty or interest; the church of St Nicholas (of Moorish origin) has, however, good specimens of paintings by Vicente Juanes as well as frescoes by Dionis Vidal; and Ribalta can be studied in the chapel of the Colegio de Corpus or del Patriarcha.

Valencia University was formed about 1500 by the fusion of an episcopal school of theology with a municipal school of arts, medicine and law, both dating from the middle of the 14th century. New colleges were soon added, and up to 1600 the university attained much prosperity and a high reputation. It then began to decline, but was reorganized after 1848, and resumed its place as one of the leading universities. The average number of students is 1750; law, philosophy, natural science and medicine are the subjects taught. The large but uninteresting university buildings date from the 16th century. The library, containing about 60,000 volumes, was robbed of its chief treasures by the French in 1812. There is a rich provincial museum, with paintings by Velazquez, Ribera, Dürer, Juanes, Bosco, Goya and many modern artists. Among other public buildings may be mentioned the court-house, a Doric edifice, dating from the time of Ferdinand the Catholic, and having curious frescoes (1592) in its main hall; the customhouse (1758), now a cigar manufactory, employing some 3500 women; and the silk exchange, a large and elegant Gothic hall (1482). The citadel, on the north-east of the town, was built by Charles V. as a protection against Khair-ed-Din Barbarossa, the sea-rover; in the south-west cf the town is the former College of Saint Augustine, now used as a model prison, adjoining which is a large hospital. Beyond the old line of the walls there are a botanic garden, a large bull-ring, and various shady promenades, including the beautiful “Glorieta,” and, on the north side of the river, the alameda, leading to the port (El Grao). The principal manufacture is silk, and the town is also celebrated for its coloured tiles or “azulejos,” and its oranges. Linen, woollen and esparto fabrics, hats, fans, leather, paper, cigars, glass and pottery are also manufactured, and there are foundries and printing works. Corn, rice, silk, saffron, oranges, raisins, almonds, figs and other fruits are extensively exported, and iron, hardware, timber, manure, grain and colonial produce are imported.

The port and the village of Villanueva del Grao are 3 m. E. by N. of Valencia, and are connected with it by two railways and two tramways. The harbour works, begun in 1792 at local expense, have been steadily improved, and now provide many facilities for loading or discharging on the moles and wharves. During the five years, 1901–5, about 2600 ships of 1,500,000 tons entered at the port every year. About 2000 of these were Spanish, including a large number of small coasters. The majority of the foreign ocean-going ships were British. The fishing fleet of El Grao comprises about 600 boats with 2800 hands. About 1 m. N. is the town of Pueblo Nuevo del Mar or El Cabanal, to which large numbers of the Valencians migrate in summer for sea-bathing.

The earliest historical mention of Valencia (Valentia) is by Livy (Epit. lv.), according to whom Junius Brutus settled the soldiers of Viriathus here in 138 B.C., and invested the town with the jus Latinum. It sided with Sertorius (c. 77 B.C.), and was accordingly taken and partially destroyed by Pompey in 75 B.C.; but it must have recovered speedily, as it is mentioned by Pliny (iii. 4) as a colony in the region of the Edetani, and by Mela as an important place. It was taken by the Visigoths in A.D. 413, and by the Moors in 714. After the downfall of the caliphate of Cordova, an independent Moorish kingdom of Valencia was established in 1021, and extended along the coast from Almeria to the Ebro estuary. The Almoravides occupied the city in 1094, but it was retaken within a few months by the Christians under the Cid (q.v.), from whom it is sometimes called Valencia del Cid. The Moors recovered possession in 1101 and the kingdom was re-established in 1146. After 1172 it became tributary to Aragon, and in 1238 James I. of Aragon added it to his dominions. The first Spanish printing-press is said to have been set up here in 1474. Towards the close of the 15th century Valencia was annexed to Castile and placed under the rule of a viceroy. In the 16th and 17th centuries it became the seat of a considerable school of painting, of which Vicente Juanes (1523–1579) may be regarded as the founder, and to which belonged also Francisco de Ribalta (1550–1628), Juan de Ribalta (1597–1628), José Ribera (1588–1656), Pedro Orrente (1560–1644) and J. G. Espinosa (1600–1680). In the beginning of the 17th century Valencia and its surrounding district suffered greatly from the expulsion of the Moriscos, its most industrious and enterprising cultivators. In the War of Succession Valencia sided emphatically with the house of Austria, for which it was punished by being deprived of many of its ancient privileges. In 1808 an abortive attempt to capture it was made by the French; they succeeded, however, in 1812, and held it till June 1813. Queen Christina signed her abdication at Valencia in 1840.