Benisanó ( or Beninssanó, in Valencian language ) is a peaceful inland village of the province of Valencia that is located in northern area. It has a population of more than 2,238 inhabitants and it´s on 20 minutes´drive from the capital city.
Its origins date back in the 12th century, the village clustered around the houses and other buildings that were grouped around an ancient Arabic castle, known as “Beni Sahnún”. Later on, its name changed several times: Benixanut, Beniçano, Benizano and Benisanó.
The Christians conquered the castle, and afterwards it was enlarged and modified by its different owners, and was transformed into a noble residence. It reached its greatest splendour in the 15th and 16th centuries with the Cavanilles-Villarrasa family.
Nowadays, the castle is very well preserved. After crossing the impressive entrance, you come across the parade ground where you can see two wells that were used to provide water for the castle. All the subsoil of this area has been digged and it makes a large cistern for water storage. Additionally, you have the Poterna Tower, the stables and the access to the palace.
This picture was extracted from www.jdiezarnal.com
In the past the stables had two floors, then, if you look up the upper part of the wall, you should be able to see some interesting engravings. According to the legend, they could have been carried out by prisioners or artists who used these walls to sketch plans for their architectural projects. One example of this are the plans of a church and geometric engravings and several boats can also be observed.
This area is connected with the hall by a small aisle. There is another access that is located in the parade ground, but this is not the original entrance. The first main door was located at the same place that is currently ocuppied by the monumental window. This change was done because one of its owners desired a better enlighted lobby. Another architectural element that will catch your eye is its free-standing twisted column whose origin is unknown, possibly brought from a demolished house of Valencia city.
This picture was extracted from www.jdiezarnal.com
On this floor you can also find a Renaissance kitchen in which there is a chimney with the crest of the lords Cavanilles-Villarrasa. Next to this room there is a door that leads to the basement that dates from the Muslim period. This area was used as a warehouse and it has a hole on the roof that servants used to lower the food with a pulley and a rope from the semibasement which also was used for storage. According to the legend, there was a secret tunnel in the basement that the lords of the castle could use to escape if attacked.
In front of the kitchen you can see the base of the Arabian Tower, where there is a small hole on the wall, closed by a tiny door. Initially, it was an Moorish cistern, and after it was used as a punishment cell. The door has a small opening throughout which food and drinks were given to the prisoners.
Also, in the lobby you will find a few steps, which if you climb, you will arrive at the Administrator´s Room. From here, this officer controlled the order of the castle and the labors of the serfs. The floor of this room is covered by ceramic tiles of Manises ( a renowned town for its ceramics) which has been known since the 15th century as Blue Ceramic and a 16th century roof with plaster vaults with figures of figurines. This type of roofing is named “Techos Revoltones”.
If you go up the main staircase, you will arrive to the noble area where you can visit bedrooms, rooms such as the “Socarrats” ( its coffered ceiling was painted in imitation of ceramics), a chapel to pray, two dinning rooms, a modern kitchen of the early 20th century, and the amazing Noble Chambre.
The Noble Chambre is a large rectangular room with a magnificent wooden coffering with a frieze where you can see colourful crests of arms of the lords Cavanilles – Villarrasa, and a curious quote is written: “La superbia de vos matará amos e dos” (Your arrogance will kill you). There is a belief that the origin of this phrase is that Luís Cavanilles who was son of Luís de Villarrasa and Castellana de Cavanilles, he was forced by his mother to change the order of the surnames, if he wanted to inherit the assets, in order that the surname Cavanilles was not lost. Other experts think that this sentence is related to the represented scene in the multi- coloured stained glass window. Here you can observe the crest of arms of the Escrivá de Romaní family, who was the owner of the castle and two hands are holding the hair of two maidens. There is a legend that the king of France, Francisco I, when he was prisoner in this castle, and he was treated as a king, celebrating feasts and celebrations in his honour. So, in one of those dances, Francisco I wanted to dance with the two daughters of the lord of the castle, but the maidens refused his proposal because he was enemy of Spain. The lord of Benisanó got angry with his daughters, then he caught hold of them by hair and he forced them to dance with the prisoner. However, this story is uncertain, Jerónimo de Cavanilles-Villarrasa only had a son. In this room, you also can see three façades and a wonderful Renaissance chimney.
If you buy the ticket that includes the guide tour, whose price is over 4€, you can visit the top floor of the castle. In the past, this area was used to store grain, and later here some nuns of a religious order worked weaving silk. The looms, that they used for their work, are preserved at the present.
To finish the visit, you can walk through its moat, and you also come across a tower, terraces and the remains of a winery.
Nowadays, the three rings of medieval walls that surrounded the town of Benisanó, they haven´t kept up. However, you can visit the three gateways: Liria, Bétera and Valencia.
Near the castle, you can find the Santos Reyes Church which was ordered to be built on an Arabic mosque by The Cavanilles and Villarrasa family in the 15th century. Inside you can discover some works of art, such as the paintings of the Adoration of The Three Wise Men, Jesus of Nazareth and The Virgin of Defenceless, or the sculpture of The Pieta.
The Patron Saint festival is held from the last week of August to the 10th of September. The great day of this festivity is the 8th of September when the day of La Virgen del Fundamento is celebrated. This Virgin is the Patron Saint of Benisanó because in 1699 an elliptical bronze medallion was found in the foundation of the house number 26 in the Main Street. This Virgin was represented with a child in her arms.
Would you like to know more about the legends and history of Benisanó? Come and discover this gorgeous village.