The fire of September 2014
devastated the plateau of La Plana, stripping it of much of the tree cover that
provided welcome shade to visitors exploring this wide flat plain. However, two
old stone structures were exposed, previously hidden beneath the branches and
under bushes, virtually forgotten after barely a generation since they were
last used. These are the remains of the lime kilns which were used to extract
quicklime which would be then used in the construction of local buildings.
Since they were exposed, the municipality has restored them
to a point where they can be used to tell the history of an industry that was
developed more than 10,000 years ago by the Phoenicians. Evidence suggests that
the first kilns were built in the Xàbia region around the Punta de la Fontana during
the Roman occupation, the lime mortar produced being used to coat the water
pools hewn out of the sandstone coast which were used in the salting industry.
Their use continued through the Islamic era and into the Christian era. The
remains found after the fires are mostly likely from the mid-18th century;
banking of slopes and agricultural destroyed many of the earlier structures.
The kilns are cylindrical
structures which have been partially excavated into the ground in remote areas
away from urban centres and close to the resources required. They had strong
stone walls and a narrow entrance way. The kilns were covered in soil with a
chimney to allow the smoke to escape. More than 50 were in use in Xàbia a
little more than half a century ago, located across the municipality from
Granadella to La Plana.
Into these kilns, the master ‘calciner’
placed the limestone hewn from the land and wood cut from the surrounding trees.
The wood would be lit and the furnace kept burning for three days. As the
temperature rose to some 1,000 degrees, some 15,000kg of fuel would be
needed to convert the stone into 12,000kg of calcium oxide, ‘quicklime’, so the
master ‘calciner’ needed to be on site day and night constantly feeding the
kiln as smoke drifted across the sky.
The kiln was allowed to cool
before the quicklime was extracted and sold to the building trade to be mixed
with earth, sand and water to create a lime mortar which was used to construct
buildings in Xàbia right up until the 1960s. The mortar gains strength over the
years, thanks to the mineralisation process, which gives the buildings their
Half a century ago, there were 54
lime kilns in Xàbia, most of them in La Guardia, Cap Martí and La Plana
although there were four in Granadella, two each in Lluca and Ramblars and one
in Portitxol. Only four remain
today; Forn de Calç de les Faroleres de Xàbia
and Forn de Calç de la Plana on La Plana
and Forn de Calç Joan de Golaestreta
and Forn de Calç de la Granadella in
the Granadella zone.
for a pleasant walk across La Plana which visits two
of these remaining lime kilns >>
Night of the Abyss - L'Avenc de Xàbia
Only Tree Could Talk - Olivera Milenaria