Christian History of Valencia, Spain


Christian History of Valencia
The year 1238 saw the definitive victory of the Christians, as Jaime I of Aragón, having enlisted the help of Spanish, French, German and Italian forces, wrested Valencia out of the grip of the Moors and incorporated it into his own kingdom. He immediately kick-started a new system of urbanization, as churches and Christian architecture quickly replaced Moorish mosques and buildings.

While the 14th century saw its share of epidemics and political problems as the new Christian city of Valencia tried to find its footing, Valencia soon found itself in its golden age. Lasting from the 15th until the 16th centuries, Valencia became one of the Mediterranean's strongest trading center as well as an economic and cultural nucelus of Spain. Architects, painters, sculptors and writers provided the city with flourishing artistic activity -in fact, Spain's first printed book can still be seen in the library of the Antigua Universidad- and turning the city into a cultural haven with an exponentially flourishing population.

The 17th century was not a positive epoch throughout Spain, and in Valencia the reality was equally harsh. The 1609 expulsion of the Moriscos - Moors that had converted to Christianity - saw the loss of Valencia's talented populace of artisans and agriculturists; the crisis continued to worsen as political corruption and economic strife wracked the formerly affluent city.

carlos IIFollowing the death of Spain's heirless king Carlos II, the War of Spanish Succession broke out across the country and proved to be a crippling defeat for Valencia. Valencia supported the wrong guy - Carlos of Austria - and as revenge, the victorious Felipe V abolished the autonomous privileges (called "fueros") that Valencia had enjoyed. Meanwhile, in cities like Salamanca, which had supported him, he constructed grand plazas and buildings as a sign of gratitude.

The 18th century started off on a bad note for Valencia, but then was marked by post-crisis, post-war recuperation. Valencia expanded its port and its industries, and advances in agricultural techniques led to a thriving export of fruits, wine and rice. Plus, with new means of transportation linking Valencia to other major cities throughout Spain, its industries and economy steadily grew.

The War of Spanish Independence, lasting from 1808 until 1814, was the result of Napoleon Bonaparte's ever-ambitious scheme to essentially take over all of Europe. His troops tried to invade Valencia early on, in 1808, but the city was able to hold them off until the very end, when French troops took over the city from 1812 through 1814. Today, you can still see cannonball pockmarks spread across El Carmen's Torres de Quart, lasting reminders that attest to the invading troops' intensity.

Learn about other epochs of Valencia history!