Onda and the Castle of 300 towers

Onda is a town in the interior of the province of Castellón. Its municipal term is one of the largest in this province (108.84 km2). It is located near the Sierra de Espadán, so in its surroundings you can go hiking, canyoning, climbing, or kayaking … among other more activities. An ideal place to spend the day and practise some of these sports is the Sichar reservoir, that is localed almost 13km from Onda. Here you will also find a pinic area.

These pictures were extracted from Turismoonda.com

It is know that there was human presence on this land since the Neolithic because ceramic remains from the Iberian period were found above all. Many years later, Onda was dominated by the Greeks, at wichi time it was called Sepelacon and Sepelaci during the Roman era. Actually, the origin of name of Onda isn´t known. According to Álvaro Galmés de Fuentes, who was a renowned philologist, dialectologist and Arabist, in his book Los topónimos: sus blasones y trofeos (La toponimia mítica) two theories are exposed:

  • It comes from the Arabic word ´umda which means support, parliament.
  • It comes from the Iberian-Basque language, o n d a , that means near or by the river.

Onda turn into an important city during the Muslim era, and between the 12th and 13th centuries it became the main town north of Moorish Valencia. First, the castle was built in the 10th century, and the wall was completed a century later. After the Christian conquest, in 1248 King Jaime I gave the Carta de Puebla, this document granted some privileges to the inhabitants of this city. Therefore, coexistence between Christians, Muslims and Jews was possible during the Middle Ages. The Christians occupied the area inside the walls, the Jews settled around the Portal de Valencia and the Muslims were established outside the city next to the walls because they were driven out due to a rebellion. This quarter was named Barrio de la Morería (the Moorish quarter), that has been preserved today and in which you can discover the neoclassical style chapel of San Vicente Ferrer (the 18th century) which was built over a former mosque. According to the popular tradition, this is the place where St. Vicente Ferrer (1350-1419) preached in 1412 during a visit to Onda, after he made a speech in the Compromiso de Caspe ( it was a pact established by representatives of the kingdoms of Aragon, Valencia and Catalonia to choose a new king because Martin I of Aragon died without descent and without naming a successor).

If you walk towards the Nuestra Señora de la Asunción church, before you get to this temple, you will find in the corner on the left side a few remains of the access portal to the Moorish quarter.

Nuestra Señora de la Asunción church is the most important religious building of this town. It was built on the remains of the 14th century temple, which was destroyed by a fire in 1467, only the bell tower survived, and the construction of the current church began in 1727. Outside, you can see two façades together, one is the main entrance to the church (it was built in 1854) and the other is the access to the chapel of Communion (it was built in 1753). Inside, some of the most notable elements are the frescoes in the dome which were painted by Carlos Maroti and where it is represented the Coronation of the Virgin and the Evangelists are represented in the pendentives. A curious fact is that the faces of some residents are portrayed who made donations for the recovery of the temple. Moreover, the magnificent masterpiece of the main altar will turn your attention. It was made by the sculptor Juan Bautista Folía Prades (1881-1945) who was formed with great masters such as Mariano Benlliure or August Rodin. Furthermore, he was given the task of building the altar in the chapel of Communion, but he died before finishing this work. Finally, the altar was completed by Pascual Santos Albella. Also, in this chapel you can find frescoes painted by José Vergara Gimeno (1726-1799) who was a well-known Valencian painter and founder of Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Carlos (1768).

Just a few short steps away from the church, you will come across the Sinagoga square that was the nerve centre of the Jewish quarter during the medieval era. Also, one of the mos important gates was located here, El Portal de Valencia, but it wasn´t preserved today. During recent excavations remains of palaces from the Andalusi period and a stairs were found in this place.

Escaletes dels gats is a charming and famous corner of Onda. These stairs are very narrow and steep and lead you to the castle. Moreover, these run in parallel to one of the paths of the Islamic wall. In times of war, these were used as a means of escape and refuge by people who lived outside the walls.

This picture was extracted from Turismocastellon.com

The most emblematic building in Onda is the Castle taht was built in the 10th century and throughout history it has been updated many times. According to Ramón Muntaner (1265-1336), a Catalan knight and writer, in his Crónica he referred metaphorically to this building as “the castle of the 300 towers” because in its maximun splendor it seemed to have as many towers as there are days in the year.

As soon as you enter, you will find the visitor recepcion building. It was built on the man cistern of the castle by the Carmelite friars at the beginning of the 20th century. This construction was a school between the 1920s and 1950s. Moreover, very close to here, you can visit the Museum of Local History and Archaeology where you can gaze up a magnificent set of Muslim plasterworks. In its origins, this building was a church which was also built by these religious. The other interesting area of the castle is the Alcazaba, where the Sultan´s residence was located.

One of these pictures was extracted from Geocaching.com

The Almudín square is only a short walk from the castle, it is the never centre of the city. The word Almudín comes from the Arabic language, and it means wheat or wheat trading place, so this place was an important centre of commercial activity a nd a wheat storehouse. Originally, it was enclosed and there was an access gate in each of corners, however only three of them are preserved today. In the 15th century the Gothic-style porticos were added, and the ancient 16th century prision located in the Torre del Reloj (sundial tower), it is also kept.

This picture was extracted from Wikimedia Commons

A minute walk from here, you will find Iglesia de la Sangre ( Church of the Blood) which is very close to the tourist office. It is dedicated to Santa Margarita and its archtectonic style is a mixture of Romanesque and Gothic. Moreover, this temple was used as a gathering place for the members of the Town Council.

This picture was extracted from Rutas Jaume I

Portal de Sant Pere was one of the main access gates to the medieval city, and it is currently the only of them that is preserved. It is sandwiched between two buildings and it consists of a circular arch and above it there is a coat of arms of the Kingdom of Aragon. On the right impost, there is an inscription that points the year of restoration ,1578. On the inner side of this gateway, you will see an open altar above the semicircular arch, which is dedicatedd to St. Peter. Nowadays, the door hinges and holes for the placement of the wooden sleepers are still preserved. Moreover, a few meters from here, you will find remains of the machinery of the mill of the Caracola.

Some of these pictures were extracted from turismocastellon.com

Also, walking along its winding streets, you can find several small altars attached to the façade of the buildings.

Both the old town and the castle were declared Historic and Artistic Site and Heritage of Cultural Interest in 1967. Outside the historic centre you can visit Molí de la Reixa that is a olf flour mills built in the 17th century. The machinery of mill is displayed and you can learn how it worked at its time.

This picture was extracted from turismocastellon.com

In the surroundings, you can visit two impressive museums:

  • Museo del Carmen: it is the museum of natural sciences in which more than 10,000 species of animals, plants, minerals and fossils are exposed. It is located next to the Neo-Gothic church of Nuestra Señora de la Esperanza who is the patron saint of Onda.
  • Museo del Azulejo Manolo Safont: it is a tile museum. Here, you can discover the history and ceramic tradition of Onda through more than 20,000 pieces that are on display in a modern building.

Some of these pictures were extracted from turismocastellon.com

Furthemore, on the outskirts you can see the medieval bridge over the Sonella River (the 16th century).

This picture was extracted from Cazando Puentes

Do you feel like visting Onda? It only takes 25 minutes to arrive from Castellón de la Plana or almost an hour from Valencia city by car.

5 comments

  1. Reblogged this on European Jewish Quarters and commented:
    #JuderíaDeOnda. ==> “” After the Christian conquest, in 1248 King Jaime I gave the Carta de Puebla, this document granted some privileges to the inhabitants of this city. Therefore, coexistence between Christians, Muslims and Jews was possible during the Middle Ages. The Christians occupied the area inside the walls, the Jews settled around the Portal de Valencia… “”

    Like

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