Xàbia : Facts and Anecdotes...Did you know that in the old town of Javea there are over 35 devotional "hornacinas" ?
These were niches in a house façade with a religious figure in form of a statuette, painting or ceramics. These symbolic representations, usually of a saint or a Virgin Mary, served as transcendental intermediaries to God and were invoked especially in moments of need or crisis and for protection against sickness and agricultural disaster. There was usually one in a street which would serve the needs of all the neighbours, so that when someone was ill, the figure would be taken to the bedside of the infirm for quicker recovery. It would also be taken to the funeral service when there was a death. Thus most of the representations were originally statuettes which could be removed easily. This custom, however, has long been abandoned.
Although there have probably been devotional "niches" in Javea since the 16th-18th centuries, it seems that all but one were destroyed by anti-clerical elements during the Civil War ( 1936-1939 ). Those we see today are from the 1940s and later….
Xabia : Facts and Anecdotes: Did you know ... that one of the best-known crimes committed in Jávea became notorious because of its connection with the famous Valencian artist Joaquin Sorolla ?
For several years Sorolla, his family and a few servants would come from Madrid to spend long summer holidays in Javea. In 1905 pretty 23 year-old Ramona had been working for Sorolla for a year and was undeniably his favorite. So of course, she was one of the party.
One day, Ramona and Asunción, another servant, went to a nearby waterwheel to wash clothes for the family when suddenly they were approached by a tall, well-built young man who started to talk with Ramona, then quarrel with her, while she continued to do the washing. He followed them back to the house once they were done washing, carrying on the dispute. Suddenly he pulled out a Smith revolver and shot at her. Shocked, Ramona dropped the linen and was just about to run away when he fired again, hitting her directly in the stomach and knocking her to the ground. Stunned by his own deed, the man put the gun to his temple and shot himself. Hearing the shots, Sorolla and the family ran out to find a man lying dead, Ramona wounded on the ground and a panicking Asunción. They called for a doctor immediately but Ramona died before she could be taken to hospital. Nevertheless she did have the time to tell them what it was all about : before leaving Madrid, she said, she had broken off her relationship with Bartolomé, a Guardia Civil officer. Heartbroken and angry, he had taken 2 weeks off from work to follow her down to Javea to try to make her change her mind.
This was a crime of jealousy and passion. Today we would call it gender violence.
Sorolla was completely devastated by what had happened and retired to his room. He was so withdrawn and silent over the next few days that the family decided to close the house and return to Madrid, never to return to Javea again !
… that the tall, straight trees with huge leaves and beautiful violet blossoms that we see beside the Gata road and in several other sites in Jávea are called “Paulownia” ?
This tree was named in honour of the 18th century Grand Duchess Anna Pavlovna of Russia, Queen consort of the Netherlands. Although it is native to China, Laos and Vietnam, Paulownia has long been commercially cultivated in Korea and Japan. It is known in English as the Empress tree, Princess Tree, Sapphire Princess, Sapphire Dragon and Foxglove tree.
Several species and hybrids of Paulownia have been introduced to Spain in recent years. It is said to be the fastest-growing hardwood tree, being harvested after 8 years. After harvesting, new trees sprout from the roots. It can be trained to grow tall and straight without knots and produces a wood known as “kiri”. This is fine-grained and very light, but also strong and ideal for the manufacture of many items such as lightweight furniture, guitars, surf boards, skis, boxes and even bee-hives. It is resistant to pests and is fire resistant up to 400ºC. Its foliage can be used for animal feed or biofuels and its flowers attract honey bees.
In short, it could become a very valuable crop. Xàbia’s agricultural landscape has changed many times over its long history and one day the fragrance of Paulownia flowers may replace the perfume of the orange blossom we smell today.
The Castle of Ocaive is located to the south-west of the town of Pedreguer, within its municipal area, on top of a crag at the foot of the "muntanya gran" a place with an important natural defence. It features an impressive vertical wall on the north and west faces. Although The site was occupied during the Bronze Age and Iberian period, the architectural structures found at its highest point date from Medieval times (13th-14th centuries). These consist of the remains of a quadrangular tower with a vaulted base and several rooms. On a lower level towards the east, there are the remains of a large rectangular cistern, built on the edge of the “albacar” (lower enclosure) from the Islamic period (12th-13th centuries).The views from the castle are impressive, showing its strategic location for the control of the territory. The castle of l´Ocaive (or Olocaiba in medieval documents) was the central element of a castral district that comprised approximately the current district of Pedreguer and part of that of Gata de Gorgos, in which there were several farmhouses that depended on the fortification for military and administrative purposes.
Archaeological excavations were carried out in 2018 and 2019. Subsequently some of the architectural structures were consolidated and restored. All These works have been possible thanks to investment by the Pedreguer Town Council and a grant from the ERDF Operational Programme 2014-2020 (2018/8193), of the European Union.
In the second half of the 19th century, economic activity in Xàbia and the Marina Alta centred mainly on the production and export of raisins. The situation changed with the advent of the 20th century. In the early years of the new century, the Phylloxera plague spread throughout the region and the raisin sector went into crisis. At that time, part of the local population was forced to emigrate to Algeria in order to find work. There, in that region of North Africa, the men from the Marina Alta worked mainly in the fields while the women were principally employed as wet nurses and child minders.
Economic reasons were not the only motivations for emigration to Algeria. As the Spanish Civil War neared its end, hundreds of people were forced to flee to the then French colony because of their political ideas. Despite political and racial tensions, Christians and Muslims, French, Valencians and Algerians lived side by side in Algeria. This ethnic mix gave rise to a peculiar language, the patuet. This language had words referring to food, clothing and work relating to the countryside. Some of these words such as "sicató" (pruning shears) have survived to the present day thanks to the people who returned to the Marina Alta following the independence of the North African country in 1962.
Most of the windmills in the Valencian region were built in the Marina Alta. There have been windmills in our region since medieval times, possibly even during the Andalusian period. The largest concentration of windmills is in the area around Montgó, Xàbia, with 12 mills, Gata with 3, Pedreguer with 2 and Dénia, with 5.
The three mills of Jesús Pobre, a district of Dénia (now designated with the curious name of an EATIM: (entidad de ámbito territorial inferior al municipio - Territorial entity inferior to the municipality) are on the top of a small hill, 155 metres high, one kilometre south-west of the village.
The three mills were in operation in the second half of the 18th century, which is when they were probably built. They maintain the characteristics of other mills in the Marina Alta. Two floors, with a single entrance door (open to the south-west), an upper floor supported by a rough tosca stone vault, (where the millstones and machinery were located) ventilated and illuminated by two opposing windows. Access to the grinding wheel room was via a staircase with stone steps attached to the inside wall of the building. There were also four sails and a mobile conical roof.
Time and neglect have led to the disappearance of many of these elements, leaving only the robust cylindrical structure of masonry, built with irregular limestone blocks and lime mortar.
AMUX visited these windmills on April 17th
... a centuries-old tradition in the Valencian and Catalan regions? It is possible that the name harks back to the Arabic word „muna“ in the 15th century, a provision or gift, that was paid in kind as a land tax. Here in Xabia, until not long ago, it was made in each household during the Easter Week. The ladies would knead and knead the dough until it had the right consistency and then it would be laid to rest under a multitude of covers and blankets in the matrimonial bed - for many hours, so that the fermented dough would double in size. Once ready, the monas would be taken to one of the 5 or 6 large ovens that were in Javea, since the oven at home was too small to hold all the monas.
The tradition is that this was always gifted - hence the name - by the godparents or the grandparents to the children. In Xabia, they always gave the children a pair of „zapatillas“ as well, flat rubber-soled shoes used for sports, that were usually bought at the La Rulla shoe shop.
Easter was celebrated for at least 3 days (Sunday, Monday and Tuesday ). Family and friends would celebrate it by spending the morning in their „ casita de campo“ and in the evening all would go to the beach for a picnic with the monas. They would carry these in a small basket that the grandparents gave them. These were handcrafted baskets made at home from esparto grass or palm leaves. At the beach the children would play games, hop with skipping ropes, toss spinning tops and light fireworks.
I remember that the most beautiful mona was always taken as a present to a family in mourning for the recent loss of a family member ( for it was frowned upon to make monas while in mourning). A gesture of solidarity towards family and friends !
Happy Easter to all!
We had intended to organise an excursion to the windmills at Jesus Pobre this month. However, the Covid 19 situation has rapidly worsened and the committee has regretfully decided to cancel all AMUX activities for the time being.
This means we cannot yet set a date for our Annual General Meeting. The Committee will meet virtually in February to assess the situation and decide on a course of action.
In the meantime, we will try to keep you updated with archaeological and museum news through Facebook and our blog.
AMUX is also on Twitter: @Amuxabia
We wish you all health, safety and a brighter tomorrow as we endure this difficult period of world history.
On November 21st, eleven members of AMUX hiked in the Parque Forestal de la Granadella guided by Ximo Bolufer, Director of the Soler Blasco Museum of Xàbia.
We walked in two groups, leaving the Cala de la Granadella up the dry water course of the Barranc de Martorell. Ximo explained that three major water courses and several other smaller ones converged on the Granadella cove. After about 600m, we turned left to go up a footpath known as the “Gurugú”, since it passes close the top of the Gurugú peak. The name “Gurugú” has an origin in the Berber language and is found in several places in the region. The most famous is Monte Gurugú in Morocco, which was the site of an important battle between local insurgents and Spanish troops during the Rif war in July 1909; Monte Gurugú in Alcalá de Henares, Madrid is said to be where the Spanish cavalry who took part in the war were trained; However, Monte Gurugú in La Granadella does not have such a colourful history, and is just a modest hill some 151m above sea level.
We looked back to see the site of the “Les Teuleries de Baix” next to a private house. Here, they used to manufacture roof tiles and bricks for local use. Deposits of suitable clay were found in a nearby stream-bed and there was abundant wood in the area – a vital resource to keep the firing kilns burning. There is also evidence of some ochre mining (yellow and red iron-bearing rock) which was used as a pigment.
Looking around, we could see numerous abandoned agricultural terraces. Ximo explained that the soil in La Granadella was of poor quality, and therefore the area had never been densely settled nor farmed intensively. However, subsistence farming took place on these terraces until the 1960’s with crops such as carob, vines, legumes and cereals. Interestingly the farmers were from Benitatxell, not Xàbia. Most of the land now belonged to the Xàbia Town Hall. Although some plots are privately owned, no development is allowed, since the 750 hectare area is fully protected as a LIC (Lugar de Importancia Comunitario) known as the Penyassegats de la Marina.
We saw stands of esparto grass (Stima tenacissima) which was used to make rope, baskets and sandals (espadrilles) and a small agricultural hut (casup) with its attendant well. Looking down into the valley of the Barranc de Martorell we saw the ruins of an old farmhouse beneath the cliffs where they once made honey. Ximo pointed out other interesting features such as “check dams” – small dams of stones across water courses, designed to slow torrential flow during the rains as well as a hill overlooking the sea where remains of a look-out from Islamic times have been found.
There was also a small, isolated farmhouse in which a leper from Benitatxell had lived. Each day, someone would come to bring food to this unfortunate quarantined man (We felt a particular sympathy with him during these moderns days of Covid!). It is likely this leper would have gone to the leprosarium in Fontilles following its opening in 1909.
Finally, before returning to our cars, we enjoyed a panoramic view of the Cala de la Granadella, noting the Torre de Ambolo, the Illa del Decubridor and the Cova del Llop Marí.
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