Xátiva is the capital of the region of La Costera and its monuments stand in stately testimony to the prominent role the city has played across the ages.
An Episcopal seat at the time of the Visigoths, Xàtiva scaled the heights of cultural splendour under Moorish rule when they introduced paper in Europe by establishing a paper manufacturing centre here. Then, following the Christian reconquest, it became the second biggest city in the Kingdom of Valencia.
Hometown of the notorious Borgia family and birthplace of Pope Borgia Alexander VI, Xàtiva suffered a dark moment in its history at the hands of Felipe V, who, after victory in the War of Spanish Succession, ordered the city to be burned changing its name to San Felipe. In memory of the insult, the portrait of the monarch hangs upside down in the local museum of L’Almodí.
The old quarter of Xàtiva was officially declared a Site of Historical and Artistic Interest in 1982. Crowned from on high by the imposing watchtower of El Castell, with 30 towers and four fortified gates, is its enormous castle, the result of the fusion of an Iberian-Roman fortress and a later Arab one. Running down from the castle are the walls which until the 10th century enclosed the Roman city. A second wall was added later which took in what today is the historic quarter.
Xàtiva is home to such great buildings as La Colegiata, the collegiate basilica of Santa María, the symbol of the town, the Hospital Reial, the chapels of Sant Feliu, Sant Josep and Santa Anna, the churches of Sant Pere and Sant Francesc, Plaça de la Trinitat square, the former convent of Sant Domènec, the birthplace of Pope Alexander VI, and various palaces from different periods.
Xàtiva’s gastronomy is rich and varied, brimming with fruit, such as the delicious oranges of La Costera, and vegetables ( the local green garlic is currently in the process of being granted Designation of Origin status). Rice is the main ingredient in many of the local dishes including arròs al forn (oven-baked rice), arròs caldós (rice stew), arròs en fesols i naps (rice with beans and turnips), arròs blanquet (rice with onion sausage) and, of course, paella which in Xátiva is cooked with lots of meat and vegetables. The legacy of the Moors who populated these lands for centuries is still evident in some of the local main courses and desserts.
Upcoming Local Events
The Xàtiva Fair, or Fira d’Agost, was first celebrated in 1250 by special decree of King Jaume I. The Fair takes place between the 15th and 20th of August. For five days, the streets and squares of Xàtiva play host to fair attractions, markets and cultural events. Also on the 15th of August Xàtiva hosts one of the most exciting motorcycle races of the year. Fans from far and wide fill the streets to watch the competition, the oldest in Spain and one of the few which still take place on an urban circuit. This is a truly classic motorcycling event to enjoy at close quarters.
Images via Xativa Turismo