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a short history of Jávea / Xŕbia - the jewel of the Costa Blanca

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Archaeological evidence found in Cova Foradada, a cave located on the northern flanks of Cabo de San Antonio, suggests that a nomadic hunter-gatherer society had settled in the area some 30,000 years ago. One of the most important discoveries was made in 1989 some 375 metres up on the southern cliffs of the Montgó Massif: the cave of Barranc del Migdia. Inside was discovered a series of cave paintings and the remains of eight individuals suggesting that the cavity was used as a funeral chamber and dates back almost 4,700 years.

The Iberian culture developed around the end of the 6th century BC and an Iberian settlement was discovered on the south-east slopes of Montgó with fragments of amphoras, jugs, plates and bowls found in the badly-damaged site. However, it was in 1904 when one of the greatest discoveries was made when a farmer uncovered a ceramic urn which was filled with a collection of gold and silver jewellery which has become known as the 'Treasure of Xŕbia' and is currently displayed in the National Archaeological Museum in Madrid, although a replica can be seen in the Soler Blasco Municipal Museum in the heart of Xŕbia's historic centre.

Between the 2nd century BC and 6th century AD, the Romans settled in the area and there is evidence of some 19 sites across the municipality, the vast majority in the wide Sant Bartomeu valley which had huge agriculatural potential. However perhaps the most famous of the Roman remains in Xŕbia is the site at Punta de l'Arenal. A great pool known as the "Banys de la Reina" - "Queen's Bath" - still exists, connected to the sea by two channels carved into the tosca stone, and archaeologists believe that it formed part of a fish factory where salted fish was prepared. A little further along to the coast on the other side of the sandy Arenal bay is the Séquia de la Nňria, a series of channel carved through the rocky coastline which allowed the low land beyond to be flooded with sea water. This water evaporated, leaving the salt which was then used for the salting process.

When the Romans abandoned the area in the 7th century AD, it appeared to remain largely uninhabitated for some 200 years until the arrival of Moors in the 9th century AD who lived in the region until the early 13th century. Some 22 sites have been identified as from this time, many of which have been largely damaged through terracing and modern contruction, with a heavy concentration on the northern slopes of the Sierra de Tossalets. However the best known are in Capsades where the are the remains of a rectangular tower and La Lluca where evidence of a large settlement was found mixed amongst the detritus of a modern domestic rubbish tip, including another tower called "La Presor" which was destroyed in the mid-20th century.

In the year 1244, Christians troops under the banner of Jaume I conquered the town of Daniya and its territories, ending five centuries of Moorish culture in the area, and the lands of the valley of Xŕbia were integrated into the new Kingdom of Valencia and settled by the conquerers, most of whom originated in Catalunya. The new arrivals, bearers of a new culture and language, based themselves on the site of a small prehistoric settlement on a low hill and built a small walled enclosure around it. Thus the seeds from which grew the village of Xŕbia were planted.

They began building a fortress to protect themselves, the remains of which probably formed part of the medieval tower which is now the apse of the impressive fortress church of San Bartolomé. Around this tower, they built walls to provide further protection and evidence suggests that this early enclosure was bounded on the east by what is now Carrer Roques, to the south by Ronda Sur, to the west by Carrers Sant Josep, Verge del Pilar and Pastors whilst to the north by Avenida Principe d'Asturias and Ronda Nord.

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The first references to Xŕbia as a village date back to 1304 in a document from the time of Jaume II, grandson of the conquerer. At around the same time, raids by pirates from North Africa had reaped a certain amount of destruction on the valley and another major in 1387 resulted in the abandonment of the monastery of La Plana. As attacks became more frequent during the 15th century, the inhabitants of Xŕbia constructed a new perimeter wall around the town which followed what is now the ring road around the historic centre. It was up to one metre thick and had three main gates: Portal del Clot to the south, Portal de la Ferreria to the west and Portal de la Mar to the east; a fourth gate, Portal Nou, was built in the early 19th century. These were slammed closed at night to protect the population; even the fishermen had their homes within the walls rather than face the very real danger of living next to the sea. A network of defensive towers was also built along the coast to act as an early warning system, many of which can still be seen today including Torre d'Ambolo, Torre Portitxol and Torre del Gerro. The last recorded attack by pirates was in 1812 and it was not long afterwards that the walls were demolished as the town, feeling much safer, expanded beyond the perimeter and the fishermen established themselves right on the water's edge. A representation of the walls can now be seen in Avenida Principe d'Asturias.

It was during these times that the great church of San Bartolomé was built. A tower had existed since the 14th century but the current building began in 1513 until the direction of an architect from Navarra called Domingo Urteaga. It was built from local tosca sandstone hewn from such places as the Cova Tallada on the northern flanks of Cabo de San Antonio and constructed to be a defensive fortress as well as a place of worship. The windows are positoned high up on the walls, letting in light but not attackers. Machiolations down which the defenders could hurl stones or other objects onto attackers still protect the doorways whilst some of the battlements can still be seen lining the top of the walls. Inside the building, a groined vaulted ceiling resembles the heads of palm trees. The bell tower, which doubled as a watch tower, was built in the 17th century. The church, which was declared a National Artistic Monument in 1931, can be visited between 10.30am and 12.30pm on Monday to Friday.

In 1612, Xŕbia was granted the title of "Villa Real" - "Royal Town" by Felipe III, seperating it from Dénia once and for all. The town celebrated the 400th anniversary of this decree in 2012 with a formal ceremony and rining of the bells of Sant Bartolomé by the Guild of Bellringers from Valencia.

In 1709, Xŕbia was granted the privilege of "Lealísima Villa" - "Most Loyal Town" - for its support of the Bourbon Felipe V during the Spanish War of Succession (1704-1714) and three years later obtained the right to ship its own products through its port. This privilege transformed the local economy through the production of the raisin.

Raisin production reached its peak in the 19th century during which Xŕbia enjoyed major economic and demographic growth, clearly reflected in the grand architectural style of the period. Fine examples include the Casa dels Bolufer opposite the church, Casa de les Primicies next to the museum and Casa de Tena, not the CA Lambert art gallery. The wide avenues of Avenida Principe d'Asturias and Avenida de Alicante were built to ease the transportation of goods from the port to the Placeta del Convent where the main district roads arrived. Raisin drying facilities called "ruiraus" were built and one of the biggest in the region still stands, the Ruirau d'Arnauda, albeit having been moved from its original site to the Parque Montaner.

The raisin industry faltered in the 20th century, thanks largely to foreign competition and the spread of grape phylloxera and, despite a short-lived recovery in the 1950s, production has almost disappeared from the area, aside from a few businesses which have re-built around the tourism industry which arrived in the 1960s and is now one of the prime economic sectors for Xŕbia.

what to see in Jávea / Xŕbia

THE HISTORIC CENTRE

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LA IGLESIA-FORTALEZA DE SAN BARTOLOMÉ, Plaça de l'Església
The fortress-church of Saint Bartholomew dates back to the 14th century. Designed by
Valencian architect Domingo Urteaga, the church was built onto the side of the original tower (which can still be made out on the eastern side) and constructed in the Elizabethan Gothic style to meet the two needs of the local population: religious worship and defensive protection. From the top of the bell tower, the story goes that a chaplain threw rocks at Napoleonic troops who had marched onto the town in 1812; once those French troops gained access to the church, the chaplain himself was thrown from the tower! Look for the statue of Saint Bartholomew in the tympanum above the eastern entrance as well as the defensive machicolations above both doorways.

AYUNTAMIENTO, Plaça de l'Església
The town hall building were once the town's court rooms which was originally built in the 18th century. Underneath this fine building are remains of a medieval cemetery which was used during the 14th and 15th centuries and some of these ancient graves can still be seen under the glass floor of the tourist office. 

MUSEO MUNICIPAL, Plaça dels Germans Segarra
Dating from the early 17th century, the building was originally the home of Antonio Bańuls, trusted servant of the Marquis of Denia and butler to Felipe III and Felipe IV. The building was refurbished in the 19th century and now houses the town's museum collection, telling the story of Jávea from prehistory. At the very top of the building is a viewing terrace which overlooks much of the old quarter as well as a near-360ş view across the area.

PORTAL DEL CLOT
On the location of the old gatehouses that allowed access into the walled enclosure have been built small tosca stone crosses. The cross at Portal del Clot affords a great view south towards the sea, the Arenal and the hills of Cabo de la Nao.

CAPILLA DE SANTA ANNA, Carrer d'Avall
The chapel formed part of the old hospital that was built in 1502 to meet the needs of a population beset by plague and pestilence and it's the only part of the hospital that remains. The chapel is normally locked but you may be lucky enough to pass by and the doors will be open so you can glimpse the three Gothic vaulted-arch ceiling.

CASA DE TENA, Calle Major
Built in the mid-19th century, this building has been recently refurbished and opened as a public gallery.

CONVENTO DE LOS MÍNIMOS, Placeta del Convent
The building was constructed just 65 years ago on the site of the 17th century 'Convento de los Minimos' which housed the Augustine order of Nuns. Whilst the chapel is still is use, the convent is now used as a day centre for sufferers of Alzheimers.

RIURAU DELS CATALÁ D'ARNAUDA, Parque Montaner
Located in the trees above the Plaza de la Constitución, this prime example of a traditional raisin drying facility was once located between the town and port but was moved to this location piece by piece in 2009.

THE ANICENT CITY WALLS, Avda. Príncipe de Asturias
The old city walls were pulled down in the 1870s but their original route around the old village remains and part of the walls have been replicated in the main road that passes through the town.

MERCADO MUNICIPAL, Plaza Celestino Pons
Although the building gives the impression of antiquity, it was constructed just over 65 years ago, designed in the Civil Gothic style with its single gable roof supported by large diaphragm arches. It houses the municipal market, the centre of commerce for fresh food in the town.

 

 

THE PORT

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IGLESIA DE NUESTRO SEŃORA DE LORETO
Inaugurated in 1967, this uniquely-designed church is d
edicated to the patron saint of fishermen, La Virgen de Santa Loreto. The story goes that a large number of fishermen was caught in a huge storm at sea and they promised that they would build their saint a new special church if she saved their lives. It's an unusual modern design, the twelve pillars representing the Twelve Apostles holding up the roof which, when viewed from inside, forms the shape of a boat’s hull. It has been considered one of the three most accomplished modern temples, along with Liverpool’s Metropolitan Cathedral (1967) and the Cathedral of Brasilia (1970) in Brazil.

PORT DE XŔBIA
A harbour of sorts had existed since the Middle Ages but the first jetty was not built until the latter half of the 19th century when Jávea became an important gateway for the export of raisins to the rest of Europe and North America. When the industry collapsed at the beginning of the last century, the port's purpose changed to fishing and the modern harbour was constructed in the 1950s and 1960s. Watching the trawlers come home, the haul unloaded and the fish sold off in the auction house is a wonderful way to spend a few hours in the port.

CALA DE TANGÓ o POPE
At the very end of the harbour, close to the steep cliffs of Cabo de San Antonio, sits the hidden beach of Cala de Tangó (aka Pope's Cove) and the bottom of the path that rises up to the viewing platform at the top of those steep cliffs.

THE ARENAL

ELS BANYS DE LA REINA
Just behind the Parador Hotel, located on the apparent promontory to the north, lie the remains of a Roman salting industry. Known as the "Queen's Baths", a number of tanks were carved out of the tosca stone coast into which were deposited the guts of fish caught further up the coast in special “fisheries”, one of which was thought to exist at Cala Blanca. They were then filled with salt extracted from the flats known as the
'saladar' fed by sea water through special channels cut through the coast just a few hundred metres away. Under a fierce sun, the mixture cured over a period of around two months and produced the precious "garum", a condiment that was an essential flavour in Roman cooking, which was then packed into jars and distributed throughout the Roman Empire.  

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SÉQUIA DE LA NORĚA
Carved through the tosca stone, remains of a fossilised sandbank, a 200m long channel, up to 1.70m wide and once more than 4m deep in places, extends inland from the water's edge. It has been thought that the channel was built to drain the water that accumulated in the low-lying Saladar area but the most common theory is that it allowed sea-water to flood the Saladar; a subsequent evaporation produced huge salt flats from which the salt could be mined and used in the "garum" industry. There was once a wheel – the “noria” – which moved the sea-water into the canal but this has long since disappeared. 

LOS MIRADORES DE JÁVEA

PARQUE NATURAL DEL MONTGÓ

javeamigos.com | BESIDES THE SEA | Los Miradores de Xabia"One of the main natural tourist attractions of the Jávea coastline are the exceptional panoramic views which can be seen from fifteen viewpoints which have been meticulously prepared and signalled for your enjoyment and contemplation. They all comprise the "Xŕbia Scenic Viewpoints Route", exclusive enclaves near the Mediterranean Sea where nature has created a landscape which will captivate all the visitor's senses."

One of the best ways to experience the natural beauty of Jávea's coastline is by visiting the official viewpoints which have been selected for their outstanding panoramas.

They begin in the north with ELS MOLINS, the remains of several windmills which overlook the town and are often mistaken for castles or watchtowers. To the south, the stunning high cliff landscape of Cap Negre and Cabo de la Nao can be admired from a number of viewpoints.

The Mirador Challenge is a medium-distance endurance walking competition that links all fifteen viewpoints in an exciting walking route. Read more about the challenge here.

javeamigos.com | BESIDES THE SEA | Los Miradores de Xabia

javeamigos.com | BESIDES THE SEA | Parque Natural del MontgóThe mountain of Montgó has a modest height of 753m (c. but its proximity to the sea provides a significant visual impact on visitors and it has become an almost sacred symbol of the Marina Alta region.

The Parque Natural del Montgó was inaugurated in 1987, just over 2,100 hectares of protected flora and fauna. There are over 650 species of flora, some of which are rare enough to be found only on the slopes of the mountain. The Bonelli's Eagle, one of the most endangered species in Europe, might be spotted in the skies above this protected area whilst the Peregrine Falcon and European Eagle-Owl can also been seen. On the ground, there are wild boar, rabbits, badgers, foxes and weasels along with several species of lizards and snakes.

The mountain itself can be climbed, most popularly from the east where a path winds its way up the steep face before a medium scramble up the eastern ridge brings the eager walker to the summit of Montgó. The view can be quite stunning in all directions; the Balearic island of Ibiza can be clearly seen nestling on the horizon to the east whilst the mountain of Sierra Aitana, the highest in the Alicante province can be spotted to the south. To the north, the huge Bay of Valencia sweeps away into the distance whilst the deep ravines that once protected (for a few years) the unfortunate Moriscos from forced expulsion carve into the mountains to the west.

Click here to view our Walking in Jávea page.

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