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Introduction to the history of Valencia

The ancient city of Valencia was founded by the Romans in 138 BC, and was intitially named Valentia Edetanorum, although Iberian peoples had inhabited the area for centuries before. In subsequent centuries, the area was thoroughly romanised, until the 6th century AD when the city was taken over by the Visigoth monarchy.
However, it was the Arab invasion of 714 that left the most noticeable mark on the city, until 1238 when King James I conquered the city. This is where the basic origin of Valencia as a national community with a political identity began. However, King James I didn't annex it to the kingdom of Aragon or Catalunya, but made it into an autonomous kingdom within the group of States under his sceptre. Despite the predominantly Catalan nature of the conquest, Valencia is a self-governing State with an identity of its own and a special parliament and institutions.

Throughout the middle ages, a strong silk producing industry together with significant agricultural production enabled the city to grow into an important economic force. The 15th century was Valencia’s golden century, but this position was halted and weakened by the War of the Germanians, which ended in 1522. In 1609 the Moorish were expelled from the city, bringing an end to the prosperity and economic strength and marking the beginning of a decline. Soon after the turn of the 18th Century was the War of Succession. Unrest was caused here as the people of Valencia sided with the Archduke of Austria, instead of Philip V, causing him to take away the city’s autonomy after his victory. It was not until the late 18th century that the city’s economic and cultural situation was revived.
By the Civil War (1936-39), Valencia was made the capital of the Republican government, but received the status of Autonomous State with the re-establishment of the monarchy.

During the last two centuries, Valencian politics has been a reflection of the Spanish situation as seen from the capital of the State.

The city itself has a wealth of beautiful historic buildings, with the Miguelete being one of the most notable. This tower, which was built separately from the Holy Cathedral Church, encompasses a staircase of 207 steps leading to the top, where one can enjoy incredible panoramic views of the city. Linked to the cathedral is the Basilica of Nuestra Señora de los Desamparados, which is dedicated to the patron saint of the city. This building was built on the ruins of the ancient Roman forum, and houses a revolving statue of the Virgin. The cathedral itself was originally built as a Mosque, but was converted to a Roman Catholic Cathedral after El Cid conquered the city. The Cathedral was reverted back to a Mosque later on, only to be turned back into a Christian cathedral when James I re-conquered the city.

The old city is surrounded by the Moorish walls and the ancient outer ring of the city, which contain many historical remains, archaeological sites, religious buildings, and palaces that were built over many centuries.

Valencia is also blessed with two magnificent golden sandy beaches, Arenas and Malvarossa, which are both just minutes from the city centre. Both beaches can be easily reached via public transport, by car, or by bicycle along special cycle lanes. Facing onto Malvarossa beach is the house of the famous Valencian writer, Vicente Blasco Ibáñez, which has recently been refurbished. Along these two beaches runs the beautiful Paseo Marítimo promenade, where people roller skate, jog, walk, or sunbathe. Many bars and restaurants serve paella, fish stew, and fresh fish.

Author: Adam Wypyski
Created: 2005-04-06 10:51:50 | Updated: 2006-08-07 15:56:44

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