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La Casa de les Primicies (the house of "First Fruits")

This outstanding building was the house of "batle" (mayor) Urteaga (descendent of the master builder Domingo Urteaga who built the San Bertomeu Church) at the beginning of the 17th century. It was the lodging of the Lord of Xàbia, Marquess of Denia, when he visited the town. The name of the house refers to the payment of the "Primicia"("First fruits"), a feudal tax on harvests, which farmers were obliged to pay to the church.

Originally this house was a gothic building with "high windows and wide portal" which was acquired and renovated by the rich and influential burgher Antonio Catalá Catalá, in the middle of the 19th century. He modified the building into what we see today: constructing a new floor and opening balconies on the upper floors, windows on the ground floor and widening the main entrance. The original entrance with a mid-point arch was cut and remodeled to have a flat lintel.

The recent restoration of the building (1997-2001) profoundly modified the internal structure of the house, losing some of the facings and other original architectural features.

Antiguo convento de los Minimos

The old monastery of the Minims

This extensive architectural complex, destroyed in 1936, was built outside the town walls in the second decade of the 17th Century. The monastery of the "Minimo de Nuestra Señora de la Victoria y San Francisco de Paula" was composed of the monk's rooms (cells, refectory, cloister etc.) and the church, which had an enormous rectangular tosca stone facade facing the square. We can define it as late Renaissance style using many classical architectural features. The historian R. Chabas said of the monastery .."there are greco-roman constructions of little merit: columns and pillars supporting cornices and capitals which crown them. The temple has a barrel vaulted ceiling, stark and without adornment". Despite what he says, this was a very interesting group of buildings with some notable annexes such as the cloisters. The present building was constructed in 1946 to house the Augustine nuns of the old town convent. Now it is an old people's day care centre.

Antiguo convento de las Agustinas

The old convent of the Agustinas

The building of the Xàbia Municipal Market was inaugurated in 1946. It occupies the plot where the "Convento de las Agustinas Descalzas" (Convent of the barefoot Augustine nuns) once stood. This was destroyed in 1936. The old convent was founded in 1663 by Sister Anna Maria Gallart, thanks to donations from Joana Anna Bolufer who gave a house and goods so that the devotees could take up residence there. As well as the nuns' cells, the church (built in 1696) and other rooms, the premises retained an old quadrangular tower in the vegetable garden. This tower corresponds to that known as Joan Cairat in 14th century documentation, within which lay the incorruptible body of Mother Gallarda "…well conserved in a magnificent, velvet-lined coffin under the vault of an ancient tower".

La casa-palacio de Antoni Banyuls

The Mansion of Antoni Banyuls

The Banyuls house (now the home of the Museum of Xàbia) is one of the town's most interesting buildings. Its builder and first owner, Antoni Banyuls (Xàbia 1582-1662) was a trusted servant of the Lord of Xàbia and Marquess of Denia and also served as majordomo (chief steward) for kings Felipe III and Felipe IV. The building was constructed in the first half of the 17th century, though it suffered glaring modifications during the second half of the 19th century, following the fashions of the times, during the economic boom created by the production and export of raisins.

The three storey house with two cellars has a unique facade of tosca stone blocks. The entrance on the ground floor is flanked by two large windows. Originally it had a mid-point arch which was lowered in the second half of the 19th century. The first floor has four balconies on the outside and conserves the original flooring of "mocadaret" (handkerchief) 17th century tiles in one of its rooms. The top floor is characterised by ten windows which conform to the typical portals of Valencian architecture at that time.

Casa de los Xolbi

The Xolbi house

This big civilian building was situated at the extreme north-east of the town, a few metres from where the "portal de la Mar" (Sea gate) was. Despite later modifications, the house still conserves architectural features which enable us to date the original building to the end of the 15th century. The current building has three floors and a patio, although originally there were only two, having been extended on the west side during the second half of the nineteenth century. Probably the main structural walls of the house correspond to the earlier construction with tapia (a type of form-work) with a crust of lime mortar and various corbels arranged horizontally upon which would rest the beams for the slabs of the floors and roof. Also, the entrance with access from Calle Roques, originally a mid-point arch which was cut and adapted in the 19th century, was one of the original elements of the earlier construction, as well as other features which have been hidden or masked by later works.

Casas del carrer Major (calle Mayor)

Houses of the "Carrer Major" (Main street)

Some notable buildings are still conserved in this street. These are large houses which in some cases date back to the late medieval or modern eras. No.8 stands out. It is a big house, now occupied by a business which retains several 16th to 17th century architectural features, such as the big tosca doorway with a mid-point arch. Also noteworthy is the three storey building which now comprises numbers 21,23 and 25 of the street. Originally this was a single house constructed of blocks of tosca and stone masonry. This building which probably dates from the 16th or 17th centuries suffered significant alterations of the lower floor where there had been a large central entrance, now modified and closed. The two upper floors maintain three windows, the largest are those on the first floor (the centre one was probably a balcony), framed by a classic style molding. The most unique feature of this building is undoubtedly the coronation of the facade which is a horizontal strip of worked tosca with eight ball-shaped ornaments.

Casas de labradores y menestrales

Labourer and artisans' houses

Scattered throughout the town are some two storey houses built on long, thin rectangular plots about 40m2 in area. These buildings have a facade of some 4 metres and usually take up three "nevadas" - bays. The facade is composed of a door of tosca blocks forming a mid-point arch, which in many cases was cut smaller in the 19th century. Above the entrance is a rectangular window with a tosca ledge and simple molding. The pitched roof overhangs and forms an eave or cornice of ceramic tiles. These houses occupy the original medieval plots of the town. The construction characteristics of the conserved buildings allow us to date them sometime in the 16th - 17th centuries, although in some cases there are some earlier features such as double windows. The most noteworthy are calle Sor Caterina Bas number 6 (the old town street of Sant Domingo), calle Santa Maria 10, calle Estret number 6, calle Sant Pere number 15, calle Metge González number 10 and calle Pastores 2.

Murallas y puertas

Walls and Gates

The town of Xàbia was protected and surrounded by walls until 1874, when those following the line of the current ring roads were demolished once and for all. Much earlier, since the beginning of the 14th century, the urban centre of the town had been protected by a defensive wall of which there is now hardly any evidence. This primitive, more or less quadrangular area with an almost grid-like urban development occupied an area of 4.38ha, with a perimeter of approximately 629m.

At the end of the 15th century, a significant population and economic increase drove the widening of the urban area and the walls which surrounded it. The new town was 6.61 ha, and the perimeter of its walls, 995m. This new wall was made of a strong masonry of limestone blocks and lime mortar. It was approximately 100cm wide, and some 120cm of its height has been preserved. The best preserved section consists of a stretch which was reinforced with tosca stone. The current architectural intervention consolidated and protected the original works, increasing the facings by some 60cm to make them more visible.

Five round towers which flanked the accesses to the town reinforced the gates and the wall. They were eventually armed with artillery against possible pirate attacks which always came from the sea. The gates were closed at ten at night, and opened again at dawn by a caretaker who had the task of opening the Ferreria gate for residents who wanted to enter or leave at any time during the night.

The new walled enclosure had three gates:
"Portal de la Ferreria" (ironworks) or "de Sant Vicent" (Saint Vincent) at the south-west of the town, documented since 1554 and reinforced in 1643.;
"Portal del Clot" (hollow) or de Sant Jaume (Saint James) at the south-east of the town, documented since 1554 and reinforced in 1634;
"Portal de la Mar" (sea) at the east of the town, documented since 1559 and reinforced in 1693.

Sometime later, probably at the beginning of the 19th century, a new gate called "el Portal Nou" (new) was opened at the north of the town.

La fortaleza e iglesia de Sant Bertomeu

The Fortress Church of Sant Bertomeu (St.Bartholomew)

Although the earliest church was in existence at the beginning of the 14th century, the present fortress-church was built in the 16th century following the plans of master builder Domingo de Urteaga. Construction started in 1513 with the large gothic nave which was added to the existing apse. At the end of the 16th century the old sacristy was built onto the north side of the apse.

The most characteristic aspect of this tosca stone building is the combination of religious and defensive use. This is shown in unique features such as the large machicolations (floor openings through which objects could be dropped on attackers) above the doors and other elements which have since disappeared which formed a crenellation in the balustrade which encircled the upper part of the building. The construction of this "Last Fortress" and defense of the Xàbia townsfolk took place when pirate raids and fear of revolt by the "mudejares" (descendents of the Muslim population; when later forced to convert to Christianity they were known as moriscos) became of greater concern each day.

Architecturally, the main construction of Sant Bertomeu fits the gothic plataresque style (in the manner of a silversmith), with a single nave and side chapels framed by buttresses. Inside, the ceiling is made of complicated groined vaults, which are much simpler in the presbytery vault. Above the side-chapels (three of the "gospel" group, and two on the "epistle" side) runs a gallery or triforium with small arched openings to the interior nave and large windows facing outwards - features which are clearly defensive.

The bell tower is on the north side, where the nave and apse join. This was built in 1659 and was also used as a watchtower to communicate with the coastal defenses. There are not many ornamental architectural features apart from the heraldic shields of the marquises above the two doors: Bernado de Sandoval-Rojas y de Mendoza (died in 1536) and his wife Francisca Enríquez y Luna. There are some plant decorations on the fascias, thistle leaves and balls around the doors. Sant Bertomeu also served as a cemetery for the most important families of Xàbia with urns and crypts situated beneath the chapels and other places in the church.

La capilla de Santa Anna de l'Hospital

The Santa Anna chapel of the Hospital

We have little information about the hospital of the town. The gothic chapel of Santa Anna and Sant Joaquim (St Anne and St Joseph) is the only surviving part of the old building located in the calle d'Avall. It is a small (area 43m2) rectangular building, constructed of tosca stone, divided into three sections and covered with a groined vault. This chapel served as the hospital's church, and was erected from 1502 thanks to the “magnificence” of Diego de Sandoval, the feudal lord of Xabia. Hospitals in the medieval and modern period did not have the same functions as hospitals today. They was more like central institutions to help those in need rather than places where illnesses were treated.

La Iglesia de Loreto

The Loreto Church

This building was demolished in 1870. It was located near the “Portal de la Mar” (Eastern “Sea” gate), in the space which is now a garden. Construction of the chapel began in 1556. The only description we have is that by R. Chabas, who describes a quadrangular building covered by a vault supported by columns which formed two naves in the Mudejar style. The Loreto was the chapel of the mariner people and the “vessel or sepulchre” of the sailors. i.e. the place where they were buried. One of the few documents known about the chapel mentions the burial of two sailors from the town of Begur (Emporda region of Catalunya) on the 28th of August in 1757. They had drowned while fishing for coral along our coast.

La Casa de la Vila, Sala dels Jurats y ermita de Sant Cristofol

The “Casa de la Vila”, Juror's hall and chapel of San Cristofol (St Christopher)

Another essential element of Xabia town in the Modern era was the “Casa de la Vila” (literally, House of the town) the meeting place of the municipal government. This building was where the current town hall is situated. It had other functions such as the prison and as the chapel of San Cristofol (St Christopher) built in 1602. The chapel was also used as a school, this function continuing until the beginning of the 19th century. It was then instituted as the chapel of the “Mare de Deu de Desemparats” (Our Lady of the Abandoned), and served as such until 1890.

The present building can be considered as dating from the middle of the 18th century (it was built in 1766, while the “porches” - gallery portals of the Plaça de Baix (lower square) were constructed in 1774). Part of the structure would have been earlier, occupying much of the town's old medieval cemetery. The chapel of San Cristofol was built over the cemetery with portals which also opened onto the church square.

In more recent times it has been subjected to various modifications, such as the walling off of the portals of the Plaça de Baix in 1946, the construction of an upper storey at the beginning of the 1980's and most recently, the restructuring of the interior.

El palacio de los Sapena

The Sapena mansion

This house belongs to the Sapena family who were well-off burghers and business people in Medieval times. The gothic style building (15th – 16th centuries), has three floors, with an outstanding “logia” (covered external gallery) of the windows of the upper floor, and the double windows of the first floor, the only original of which is on the south side.


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