No matter which village, town or city we visit in Spain, there is plenty of history to discover.
It has been 3 years since we posted the blog called “The History of Silk in Valencia” and in that writing we touched on the vital role that silk once played in Valencia. We definitely think it is worthwhile dropping in the Lonja de la Seda (Silk Exchange) and Valencia’s wonderful Silk Museum on your next visit to this charming Spanish city.
As we traveled through the valley on Metro Line 1 we noticed that the typical Valencian orchard is planted with acre upon acre of Valencian orange trees. However, between the 15th and mid-19th centuries, there would have been considerable expanses of fields planted in mulberry trees, whose leaves were cultivated to feed the prized silkworms.
In the mid-19th century a parasite called pébrine attacked and killed so many of the silkworms that, within a very few years, it completely destroyed silk production in Valencia. Farmers then removed the mulberry trees and replaced them with the prolific, highly productive and wonderfully scented orange trees we see to this day.
Masarrochos / Masarrojos
In the local Valencian dialect the village is spelled Masarrochos and in the official Castilian Spanish, Massarrojos. We stayed in this tiny suburb, population 2300 inhabitants, in the northwest district of the city of Valencia for 6 weeks. Without a car, the metro and nearest buses a mile away, we did feel it was a bit too remote for our lifestyle. The city of Valencia can be seen on the horizon, in the distance.
Masarrochos was first recorded as the name of an Andalusian farmhouse and it means ‘mansion’ in Arabic. In 1248 the building was purchased from the Moors by a royal lieutenant of King Jaime 1st. In 1699 there were 15 houses on record and by 1845, 104 houses. The large tracts of land around the small community were used to grow mulberry trees. The mulberry leaves were harvested to feed the worms that created the precious silk. Various smaller food crops – beans, corn, vegetables and wheat – also shared part of the field space. As the parasite began to destroy the silk industry, Masarrochos’s economy came to rely more heavily upon the long established extraction of stone, used in construction.
We have talked about our fascination with sundials in previous writings and this one, which still works perfectly, is dated 1985 and can be found on the side of a large building across the street from a church.
Next to Massarrochos lies the ultra quiet town of Moncada. This town’s name derives from “mons” (mountain) and “catanus” (juniper). Beginning in the 15th century the town officially eliminated the “t” from the spelling, calling the town Moncada. However, in the Catalan language, the “t” is still included, so we saw both spellings. Inially somewhat confusing but with multiple languages one learns to be flexible.
Ceramic pieces and part of an ancient walled town dating back to pre-Roman, early Iberian tribes have been discovered within the town of Moncada. Evidence of 2nd and 3rd century CE roman settlements have also been unearthed and fairly recently, foundations of several homes and a large Islamic necropolis, dating between the 11th and 13th centuries, have been found beneath the town.
The history of Spain is a never ending discovery. They are layers upon layers of historical evidence, stories and past lives. We enjoy learning and fitting together the various historic pieces of puzzles and timelines. The fascinating and mysterious Templars also especially capture our attention and we learned that by 1248, Moncada was reported to be one of the richest regions of the Templar Knights.
We visited the little town a few times, wandering, shopping and enjoying the local open air market held each Monday. We stopped for coffee at various cafes in the village over the weeks but we were surprised that we had to search the entire town before we finally found one single cafe open at 6 pm where we could order a glass of wine.
Masarrochos is bordered between Moncada and Rocafort and visiting this village was also an easy walk from our residence.
In Rocafort we discovered one of the most uniquely shaped parish churches we have seen to date. The Hermitage of Santa Barbara was built in 1963 as a private chapel and became a parish church a few years later. Today it is enclosed within the boundaries of one of Valencia’s most prestigious residential neighborhoods.
The church sits on a lovely quiet plot amidst small manicured gardens, trees and sculptures. An apt description of this interesting looking church is described as rustic-modern and with so much unique character it is no wonder the Hermitage of Santa Barbara has become a favorite venue to be married in.
Evidence of early man has been found in and around the Godella district dating to the Eneolithic Age (5,000 BCE to 3,000 BCE).
The name Godella can be traced back to the Christian reconquest of 1238 when King Jaume 1 of Aragon and his army defeated the Arabs and claimed the region the Arabs had called Godayla. The settlement was gifted to one of the Aragonese officers by Jaime 1st.
The town’s Coat of Arms was kind of cool. In addition to other symbols, on the top left there is a Cross of San Andrés (Saint Andrews) that was used by the Spanish military from the 15th century to 1843 and on the right are three rarely seen maces, representing ancient war weapons.
The Parish Church of San Bartolomé Apóstol de Godella was built in 1754 in the Renaissance style.
It clearly stands out in this charming little town and is considered one of the more important churches in the north part of the city of Valencia. The half-dome shaped church bells are quite different as well.
We visited this village only once. One afternoon we had a light lunch at an outdoor cafe with a lovely mirador overlooking a valley. We did however pass through the town whenever we took the metro to and from Valencia and each time we would try to get a better glimpse of this very interesting historical landmark-ruin.
The Chalé de Garín also known as the Rosal de Burjassot also known as the Palacete Del Empalme, abandoned for decades, has recently made the news. The Burjassot city council announced in 2020 that they will be renovating and restoring the historic building.
The beautiful old home was built in the mid 19th century by a wealthy silk merchant family named Garín and it was used as their summer residence. The architectural style is Portuguese Manueline Gothic and the striking tower is meant to bring to mind the famous Tower of Belem in Lisbon. It looks like it would be interesting to visit once the project has been completed.
Alphabet letter ‘Ñ’
Last month Google’s doodle artwork caught our attention. It featured the letter Ñ (pronounced ‘ny’ as in canyon or mañana). It is the only letter in the Spanish alphabet that originated in Spain and there are nearly 18,000 words in the Spanish vocabulary with an ‘ñ’ included in their spelling.
Google reported that in 1803, the ‘ñ’ was officially added into the Royal Spanish Academy’s dictionary and in 1993, Spain passed legislation to include the letter on its computer keyboards. In 2010, the United Nations declared April 23rd a day to annually celebrate the Spanish language, which after Chinese, is the most commonly spoken language in the world.
To wrap up this writing we had to include a couple of our favorite pictures. Although our apartment was on the top floor, the cute little neighborhood cat would come up in the evenings for a visit. At first she would dash off but by the end of the month we were able to go outside on the terrace and pet her and even elicit some friendly purring. The black and white birds are called wag tails. They have long tail feathers and they do wag them all the time making us think they were communicating with their movements.
It was such a delight to be able to stay in a comfortable home that had a large outdoor terrace filled with plenty of seating and tables, plants, insects, birds and a daily visit from the cute cat.
Dérive is a word of french origin and one of its meanings is ‘to drift unplanned, led only by the landscape and architecture around you.’ That is a perfect way to describe our wanderings through the towns and villages accessed by Valencia’s Metro Line 1.
Salud from these valencianos,
Ted & Julia
View the Godella photo album here
View the Masarrochos (Massarrojos) photo album here
View the Moncada photo album here