Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Following in the footsteps of the Borgia around Valencian lands

Few families arouse so much interest, so much attention, so much fascination, as that of the Borgias, a house of Aragonese origin that was installed in the interior of Valencia and that ended up being the protagonist of the second half of the 15th century from Rome (Italy), then the most important political center in Europe.
Palace intrigues, power relations, conspiracies, battles, sex… A mixture of fiction and reality, around the Borgias it grew a “black legend” that contributed to expanding its popularity throughout the globe, and with its surname Italianised (the original was Borja) . A fame that reaches up to the present day thanks to series and movies that make it stand at the center of its plot.
The considered by some as the most universal Valencian family in history that managed to “place” two of its members as popes despite not being Italian, heads of a then-powerful Catholic church: Alfonso de Borgia, who “reigned” in the Roman Curia between 1455 and 1458 under the name of Calixto III, and his nephew Rodrigo, who did the same as Alexander VI from 1492 to 1503.
To try to capitalize on the interest in this family, the province of Valencia has a route that treads the path through the towns marked by his presence. The triangle that makes up Valencia, Xàtiva and Gandia is home to this tour
Art, landscape, history, culture and gastronomy go hand-in-hand to attract a tourist that whom it wants to prove that the area has more than beaches to show.

The Grand Duchy of Gandia

The legacy of the Borgias has its epicenter in Gandia, where the family re-established the Grand Duchy. In the university, for example, sculptures representing the popes Calixto III and Alexander VI can be found, but also to other illustrious members of this lineage, such as Caesar and Lucretia or St. Francis.
The ducal palace built a century and a half before the arrival of the Borgia to the city, gave birth to the majority of the dukes and their descendants. Also worth a visit is St Marc Hospital, the St. Clara's Convent, where an art collection was donated by the family and St. Roch, now converted into a cultural center.
The inheritance of the family extends to the nearby town of Alfahuir, where the Monastery of St. Jerome of Cotalba is located, protected majorly by the Duchess María Enriquez and it was the Court destination for the Duchy of Gandía as a spiritual center.
The route continues in Castello de Rugat, where the remains of the Borgias Ducal Palace, which was acquired in the 15th century and used as a summer residence, are preserved.
In Albaida, the connection with the family occurs through the nephew of Calixto III, Juan Luis del Milá, who after being a papal vicar in Rome commissioned the construction of a fortified palace in the Main Square that even today is one of the most emblematic town monuments
The traces of the Borgias are also visible in the town of Canals. In fact, the legend says that Pope Calixto III was born in its tower, right in front of the Borgia oratory.
The tour does not leave the small town of Vallés, where it is mandatory the visit to the Sanz's Palace.
In the vicinity is also Xativa, capital of the region of La Costera and place that saw the birth of Pope Alexander VI, who was baptized in its St. Peter Church. The family is physically present in another church, the church of the Collegiate, where there are buried several members of this family. Inside the visitor can also contemplate the altarpiece of Cardinal Alfonso de Borgia and a silver chalice engraved with the name of Calixto III, among other things.

Towards the coast,

the next step in this route is to leave the interior of Valencia and approach to the coast to make a mandatory stop in Simat de la Valldigna. In this monastery-which became fortified in the 16th century by the Revolts of the Brotherhood, the continuous Moorish revolts and the attack of the Algerian pirates- Rodrigo de Borgia and his son César were abbots.
The fountain of the tritons, the cloister of silence or the Abbot's palace are only some of the parts in which it is divided into public and private, a true gem.
The road through the remnants of the Borgias directs the visitor's footsteps to Llombai. In addition to the Church of the Holy Cross, the town still celebrates today a medieval market that bears its name and has already become one of the biggest tourist attractions of the year. During this event, it is recreated what life was like at that time, with food stalls, theater shows, dance or falconry.

The Valencian Parliament, the legacy of the Borgia

The route reaches the luminous Valencia, where the traces of the Borgias are maintained six centuries later. For example, St. Peter's Chapel, which is located in the interior of the cathedral was commissioned by Callixtus III, while his nephew, Pope Alexander VI, commissioned a few frescoes to Paolo da Sanleocadio to this same place, which eventually became the entrance of the Renaissance painting Italian in Spain.
Goya's canvases dedicated to another of his descendants, Francisco de Borgia, are another of the treasures of this same chapel. But also the University of Valencia-one of the oldest and most prestigious of the country is related to this family since it was founded thanks to a papal bull emitted by Alexander VI.
However, its great legacy in the capital of the Túria is, without doubt, the Borgia's Palace, built by the son of Alexander VI and that today is the seat of the Valencian courts, a name that receives the autonomous Parliament.

Gastronomical Wealth

The taste of medieval times that follows this path wants to become a reality in the palate of those who traverse it, for what there are some typical dishes whose origins date back to that time. From the
“Sang I ceba” (blood with onion), via the Arroz al Horno (oven rice) or with ”fesols I naps” (beans and turnips), without forgetting pumpkin sweets -from Arab roots and very present in the borgian tables - or sweet potato pastries. All of them are key dishes of the Valencian gastronomy despite being little known outside its “borders”, and they give the best finishing touch possible to a tour around the Borgias' huge legacy in the area.

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