This is the land of the friendly giant named Tombatassals; a mythical hero who created Castellón de la Plana.
Tombatossals was a giant, born from the rocky collapse produced between his parents, two mountains: Penyeta Roja and Tossal Gros. Stories of this mythological character, his friends and their adventures have been passed along for generations in this area.
To this day, Tombatassals is remembered and celebrated.
An animated Spanish film Gigantes, The Legend of Tombatossals was released in 2013. El Gigante Tombatossals is a colossal statue, found in the town, of this good natured Castellón giant. Books and poems have been written, a musical is performed, a yearly race through the mountains and an annual children’s literary contest all keep the legend alive.
King James I of Aragon defeated the local Moorish Kingdom in 1233, and in 1251 he granted permission to move the existing town of Castellón down from the mountains to the plains. The move happened on the third Sunday of Lent in 1252. Today the city has a 9-day long Magdalene Festivity that continues to celebrate the date of that significant long ago move. The official name became Castelló de la Plana, although today it is once again commonly called Castelló (in Valencian) or Castellón (in Spanish).
In 1260 James I next authorized the construction of a road to link the new village to the sea, where maritime traffic and trade were beginning to be an important asset in the region. In 1284 King James I’s son and successor, Pedro (Peter) III, the Great, granted the village of Castellón the power to govern themselves.
During the Middle Ages, the city was protected within walls and towers and moats. By the 19th century, the city walls were removed, the town expanded, the railway arrived, the port enlarged and hospitals, theaters and parks were built.
In 1991 the Jaume I University opened and today nearly 10% of the cities population are college students enrolled in this school.
The economy of the 21st century is primarily based on tourism, industry and craft-works. The current population is ~180,000 and this charming city seemed to offer every service, including plenty of shopping opportunities.
Co-Cathedral of Santa María of Castellón
The Cathedral of Saint Mary was first built at the end of the 13th century. Destroyed by fire a century later it was reconstructed a second time. During the Spanish Civil War in 1936 it was ordered to be demolished, so the impressive Cathedral we visited is relatively new. The cathedral was completed only 20 years ago in 1999, replicating the original Gothic style. It was easy to locate as it anchors one entire side of the towns main plaza.
El Fadrí Torre
Next door to the Cathedral of Santa Maria and standing alone is the octagonal bell tower of El Fadrí (the bachelor). It was built between 1440 and 1604 and stands at 190 feet (60 meters) tall.
There is a spiral staircase with 200+ steps up to the four levels: the clock chamber, the ecclesiastical prison, the bell ringer’s home, and the bell chamber at the top.
Ribalta Park is a lovely large park and promenade to amble through. Referred to as the city’s green lung, it has been planted with a wondrous array of species from around the world. It was created in 1868 and named after the Spanish-Catalan baroque painter, Francesco Ribalta (1565-1628).
We discovered a pergola, multiple ponds, small trails, statues, monuments, an obelisk and the many superb, 19th century, elegantly tiled benches offering a place to rest.
EACC Espai d’Art Contemporani de Castelló
Opened in 1999, the EACC is a fairly large contemporary art space. Exhibitions, film, music, educational activities, conferences, workshops and cultural events are hosted at this site. We passed through the first room displaying a colorful collection of lights, framed photographs were in a second space and what reminded us of urban-decay sculptural art was in a third space.
Museo Etnológico de Castellón
The Ethnological Museum was an enjoyable stop to learn of the local traditions and history. It opened in 1985 and has recently been remodeled to create 3 floors and much needed additional space to exhibit it’s more than 2,000 pieces.
The first floor is used as a temporary gallery area and we saw machines used for grinding wheat and traditional tools of a bricklayer and carpenter (or saguero). This is where we found the ever charming ‘gigantes’, the 20 foot tall puppets that are used in festivals and celebrations throughout both Spain and Mexico.
On the second floor are displays relating to the agricultural past of the area, as well as military flags and history, old religious art and statues of Castelllón and a really wonderful collection of children’s toys from the early 20th century. We also enjoyed one entire wall of shelves filled with hundreds of small ceramic toros (bulls).
The third floor was dedicated to the decorative and domestic arts of the 19th and 20th centuries. We saw awesome antique sewings machines and irons, locally sourced hemp woven into shoes, weaving machines and old printing presses, furniture for a lounge or living room, game room collections, a dining room set up and an office arrangement that would have belonged to a doctor.
One of the city’s emblems is this intricately designed street lamp called La Farola. It was created in 1929 and is surrounded by the few remaining modernist style buildings in the city of Castellón.
Museu de Bellas Artes
Opened in 2001, the Fine Arts Museum showcases a collection of art that was initially donated by local collectors. They proudly display 8 large magnificent Francisco de Zurbarán (1598-1664) oils recently acquired from Costelló’s Royal Convent of Capuchin Nuns.
Zurbarán was a Spanish painter, nicknamed the “Spanish Caravaggio”, known primarily for his religious paintings depicting monks, nuns, martyrs and for his beautiful still-lifes. This museum had a number of other wonderful paintings we enjoyed.
The gallery also has rooms devoted to archaeology, ethnology and a collection of Valencian ceramics. The building itself is quite striking and has won numerous architectural awards.
Another successful day trip completed. From the home and lands of the friendly giant.
Salut from these Castellonenses,
Ted and Julia
View our Castellón de la Plana photo gallery here
View our Cathedral of Santa Maria photo gallery here
View our Church of San Agustin photo gallery here
View our Museum of Ethnology photo gallery here
View our Museum of Fine Arts photo gallery here