Valencia through its churches
A tour of the most iconic churches
A city like Valencia, with more than 2,000 years of history and one of the largest historic centers in Europe, is worth a calm tour of the best Christian churches contained within it. The vast majority were built on mosques from the city's Islamic era. They represent almost every architectural style, and the great majority are in the Ciutat Vella.
Cathedral of Valencia
There's a reason we're starting this tour in the Cathedral, in the heart of the city. It is a soberingly beautiful Gothic building, as evidenced by the Gate of the Apostles, but with both Romanesque (Palau) and Baroque (Los Hierros) gates. It was built where a Roman temple and, later, the main mosque once stood. The highlights include its bell tower, the famous Micalet, the lantern tower in the transept, and, once inside, the chapel housing the Holy Grail, the Renaissance frescoes of musical angels, the main altarpiece by Yañez de la Almedina and Hernando de Llanos, as well as a couple of canvases by Goya in the cathedral museum.
Right next door is the Basilica of the Virgin of the Forsaken, a place of pilgrimage for the faithful. It is the only church in the historic center that is not built atop old churches or convents, but is a new work in the Baroque style. An element worth noting is the niche, one of the first built in Spain. The paintings in the vault are the immortal work of Antonio Palomino, court painter for Charles II.
Church of San Juan del Hospital
Also very close (Trinquete de Caballeros, 5) is the Church of San Juan del Hospital, the oldest in the city, since it was erected on the direct order of James I after he conquered Balansiya. It is a fine example of the transition between the Romanesque and Gothic styles, and retains influences from Mudejar art. Its small adjoining cemetery preserves a section of the central wall of the ancient Roman circus.
The next church on this tour, San Nicolás (Caballeros, 35), is a real must due to the pictorial jewel it contains. Upon entering this Gothic church, the eyes are unfailingly drawn to the cross vault, where the frescoes designed by Palomino and painted by his Valencian disciple, Dionís Vidal, capture the attention. It's 1,900 square meters of allegories that have earned it the nickname of "Valencia's Sistine Chapel".
In a corner of the Plaza de la Reina, and completely taking up the Plaza de Lope de Vega, rises the Gothic church of Santa Catalina. Its fine Baroque bell tower, built by Juan Bautista Viñes in the 17th century, is truly magnificent.
Church of the Patriarch
On Carrer de la Nau, and in the fine company of the historical headquarters of the University of Valencia, is the Church of the Patriarch, part of the Royal College Seminary of Corpus Christi. Its structure exhibits Renaissance, Baroque and Neoclassical styles. Be sure to visit its museum, with remarkable works by Valencian classical painters, and the disturbing alligator that presides over its entrance and is the source of a curious legend. The cloister, too, is remarkable.
Church de los Santos Juanes
No tour would be complete without visiting the Santos Juanes, a remarkable sacred building with a Gothic base and Baroque features located right between the Silk Exchange and the Central Market. Still present from its initial phase is the partially covered rose window (known as the O de Sant Joan). The paintings in the vault, also the work of the great Palomino, partially suffered the effects of a fire during the Civil War.
Convent of Santo Domingo
Outside the walls of the ancient fortified city there are two convents with a rich heritage. One is the Convent of Santo Domingo (Plaza de Tetuán), former headquarters of the Captaincy General, and boasting Valencia's most beautiful ensemble in the Flemish or Mediterranean Gothic style. Its ribs and helical transverse arches are astonishing.
Royal Monastery of the Holy Trinity
The other is the Royal Monastery of the Holy Trinity, adjacent to the Museum of Fine Arts, and an outstanding work of the 15th century, when the city was in full bloom. From the most classical Gothic style it transitions into full Renaissance. It was built on the site of a Trinitarian convent complex containing a hospital.
Plan a tour to explore the rich heritage of these Valencian churches.
THE MOST VISITED CHURCHES
Entrance ticket to San Nicolás, the Sistine Chapel of Valencia
Includes audio guide. From Tuesday to Sunday
Tour of the Church of Los Santos Juanes
Visit a National Artistic Historical Monument and admire its rich past.
IMPORTANT: Due to restoration works, the Church of Santos Juanes will be closed to the public from February 12 until the end of March.