Page 63 - Baroque-Gothic-and-Modernist-Valencia
P. 63


The conquest of the city of Valencia in 1238 by
   King Jaime I the Conqueror, and the subsequent founding
   of the Kingdom of Valencia occurred at a time when
   the Gothic style had attained its height in Europe and
   the rest of Spain. The development of this style was
   spearheaded by architecture, which fulfilled the mission
   of demonstrating its religious connotations in opposition
   to erstwhile Moorish customs. This explains why the first
   buildings were in fact churches built over former Islamic
   mosques, and convents for both military and nonmilitary
   orders, and particularly the unique Valencia Cathedral.
   A simple stroll through the city streets will introduce us
   to interesting buildings of the epoch: the church of St
   John of the Hospital, the Convent of the Dominicans and
   the early Cathedral, started at the head and continued
   to the Almoina doorway, where we can still discern Late
   Romanesque shapes as often used in Aragon, including
   sculptures on the capitals and very rich ornamental
   archivolts reminiscent of the abstract geometrics of
   Islamic traditions.
   Throughout the 14th century, history was propitious to
   this city, as it was unaffected by political problems in
   Aragon and Catalonia, and it consequently became a
   major commercial power in the Mediterranean. Moreover,
   the urban middle classes began their rise to power
   thanks to skilled craftsmanship, and agriculture benefited
   from Moorish traditions and the use of an obedient
   working class. This was the time when new parishes
   around the cathedral were built, using new spatial designs
   as exemplified by the nearby Santa Catalina Church.
   Again, thanks to Valencia’s role as the court for the
   Aragonese monarchs, there was a need to add to the
   defences of the city against Castilian pretentions, and this
   left magnificent military works such as the Serranos and
   Quart towers.
   In this commercial and urban context, an edifice such as
   the Silk Exchange (La Lonja) was thoroughly justified,
   erected as it was to house commercial and banking
   transactions extending throughout the known world at
   the time. As another means of consolidating the new
   kingdom, it was given a “meeting house” where juridical,
   representative and economic actions pertaining to the
   kingdom could be undertaken: today’s Palace of the
   Throughout the 15th century these circumstances
   evolved favourably thanks to influential personalities
   intent on strengthening art, such as the case of King
   Alfonso V the Magnanimous, patron of painters such as
   Jacomart, or the family of Rodrigo de Borja, later named
   Pope Alexander VI, who, in addition to bringing about the
   extension of Cathedral, introduced artists familiar with the
   new style of the Renaissance, giving way to Valencia’s
   own school of Renaissance painters.
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