We regret to announce the death of Michael Stephenson, whose donations of plans and photographs of the castles of La Marina Alta initiated the AMUX exhibition on Islamic Castles. He passed away on Friday, October 16. AMUX sends its condolences to his family and friends. We remain indebted to him for his donation and cooperation.
A unique collection of castle plans
On Saturday, October 3rd, 26 members and friends of AMUX strolled along Xàbia’s La Plana to visit the memorial built over the “avenc” (sink hole / pothole) on the Cape of San Antonio, and then to see the restored lime kilns of the Faroleres and la Plana. Our guide was Joaquim Bolufer Marqués – Director of the Museum of Xàbia.
We first followed a footpath for about 100m to reached the avenc which is located beside a gulley near the top of La Plana. It is topped by a concrete plinth and a cross. This is both a mausoleum and the location of a terrible crime which took place during the height of the Spanish civil war on the night of November 2nd 1936. This was a time when fear, suspicion, hatred and a debased rule of law contributed to the night known as “la nit de l’Avenc”.
Ximo explained that whole truth of what happened will never be known. It seems that a number of prisoners held in custody in Dénia were passed into the hands of an uncontrolled, left-wing extremist militia (reportedly consisting of 13 people). The prisoners were massacred (presumably shot) and their bodies thrown into the 67metre deep sinkhole. The number of people murdered is not clear, perhaps 21, or 17 or 15. One of them was said to have been badly wounded but alive when thrown into the hole.
Quite a few people were killed in Dénia during this period, though not all of them were known to be active supporters of the Nationalist side. However they had wealth, privileged professions and livelihoods - for example clergy, factory owners, judges, lawyers, students and land-owners - which would have made them targets for hatred.
The first monument was erected on the avenc in 1941. In 1953 the cavity was explored by cavers from Alcoi at the invitation of the town halls of Xàbia and Dénia. They found one almost complete body and large quantities of stone rubble. The bones were powdery and poorly preserved. In 1991 the mausoleum was modified to record the names of thirteen of the dead – a record of the last people to be murdered in the conflict. In 2013 the avenc was opened once more for the filming of a documentary promoted by the Xàbia museum. It is now an official “fossa” forming part of the inventory "fosa"s in the “Ley de Memoria Historica” Registry number Nº 2611/2015 ALIC. (Fosa: Place where human remains are buried, which for whatever reason, cannot be buried in their own grave)
Leaving this sad place, we then re-parked our cars near the Monasterio de Nuestra Señora de los Ángeles. Ximo described how this had once been the location of a 14th century Monastery of Saint Jeronimo. which was sacked by pirates in 1386. The monks subsequently abandoned the area and moved inland to establish the Monastery of Sant Jeroni de Cotalba (Alfauir) which stands to this day. The ruins of the original 14th century building on La Plana were destroyed during an “unfortunate” restoration in 1964.
Our walk took us past the ruined quarters of the Carabinieros.This corps was in charge of controlling the coast to prevent smuggling during the 19th and early 20th centuries and eventually became incorporated into the Guardia Civil. (The building was bought by Xàbia Town Hall in 2017.)
Finally we visited the restored lime kilns of the Faroleres and La Plana. Ximo described how the these had once been widespread and an integral part of rural life until the 1960s. The manufacture of quicklime involved baking small rocks of a particular type of limestone continuously at 800 – 1000 degrees C for almost three days. Workers called “calciners” had to keep the wood fire burning day and night, therefore a plentiful supply of firewood was needed. The final product, quicklime, was used to make lime mortar and whitewash, to waterproof water cisterns and as a disinfectant.