ANNA'S SPECTACULAR STRUCTURE IS A SERIES OF HISTORICAL MILESTONES


Anna is a peaceful town in the Valencian hinterland along the Sellent river. It is a pleasant village away from everything and everyone where you can easily walk about seeking unpretentious scenic spaces. What you will find are lots of life affirming water channels crossing streets and sprouting forth from fountains. This abundance of multiple water sources gives origin to this town's Almohade name of "Yanna ", which means "water garden".

There is however, a spectacular grandiose structure of a castle palace that is an architectural milestone of continuous glorious history and purposeful restoration. Once a dilapidated worthless structure, today the Counts of Cervelló Palace is a prominent vestige of Anna's past and pride.

The history of this special palace marks a pendulum of abandonment and restoration as it moved from one famous owner to another and finally to a devoted town mayor whose actions from 1995 to 2007 give us the marvel that we explore today.




* Report & Photographs by Arts Historian and Educator , Karla Darocas, Fine Arts, Hons. B.A. (KarlaDarocas.com)
* Copyright Karla Darocas 2019* (no part of this text or photos may be replicated)

IN THE BEGINNING

The first words giving rise to the earliest caretaker of Anna's castle and lands comes in the form of a 13th century epigraphic inscription taken from the Qur'an decorated with zoomorphic and vegetal motifs. This piece of plaster not only documented the dateline of the inhabitants but also aided architectural reformers in the constructive techniques needed to bring the castle back to its origins.

The caretaker at this time was a  Pego-born Almohade military leader named Al - Azrach. During the uprising with Jaime I, not only did he loose Anna's castle but also the forts at Montesa, Vallada, Chella, Navarres.

The first Christian words written about Anna's property came from the great Iberian Conqueror, the Aragonese King for whom the history of medieval Valencia owes its fortitude, namely Jaime I (1208 - 1276).

In the battle for the Valencian region (1229 - 1245) held in the hands of the Almohade emirate, Jaime I solicited the aid of the Order of Santiago, a Christian military-religious order of knights founded about 1160 in Spain for the purpose of fighting Spanish Muslims and for protecting pilgrims on their way to the shrine of Santiago de Compostela.

On September 2, 1244, an ownership deed to Anna's castle and domain, including the resident Almohade farmers of the fertile land, made vibrate with the abundance of water, was drawn and delivered to Pelayo Pedro de Correa, the Master of the Order.

THE VILANOVA ERA

During the time of the Aragonese King Jaime II (1267 - 1327) a diplomat would arise to become a unique negotiator and associate himself with some very historical deals of the era. His name was Vicente Vidal de Vilanova (1286 - 1353) and because of his efforts, the King rewarded Vilanova with titles, like becoming the Mayor of Xativa in 1322, as well as guardian of the castle of Xativa and of Anna.

In 1332, the Almohade farmers were not getting along with the demands of their landlords and launched a rebellion. The now ruling King was Alfonso IV (1299-1336), called "the Benevolent", decided to absolve the farmers from paying their rent to the Order,  in order to stop them from leaving and causing depopulation, which would hinder food supplies in times of war. This did not make the Order happy, and they decided to move on, leaving Anna to Vilanova.

Due to the short life of Alfonso IV, his son King Pedro IV "the Ceremonious" (1319 - 1387) granted Anna's domain and castle to the Vilanova  family in return for their help with the struggle against the Unionists in the Aragonese expansion in Byzantine lands and in the war of succession with the
Castellanas who were in favor of Enrique de Trastamara.

Since Vicente Vidal de Vilanova was a busy man, he gave Anna to his son Pedro and his wife Violante Carroz de Vilanova. However, Pedro died an early death in 1371.

The estate then goes to his son, the nobelman Luis de Vilanova in 1409.

In 1422, Anna becomes the property of his son Vidal de Vilanova.

THE BORJA ERA

In 1444, a unique scheme to acquire the garden of Eden-like abundant Anna comes from the neighbouring village of Xativa. Now enters Isabel de Borja (1390 - 1468), the mother of Rodrigo Alejandro de Borgia (1432-1503) who becomes Pope Alexander VI, the most controversial of the Renaissance popes, partly because he acknowledged fathering several children by his mistresses. Therefore his Italianized Valencian surname, Borgia, became a byword for libertinism and nepotism, which characterized his papacy.

But this story is about the village of Anna and how Isabel become the future owner and passes it along to her family.

In a written document, Isabel offers her daughter Tecla de Borja (1430-1462) hand in marriage plus a dowry of money to the dashing soldier Vidal de Vilanova, who is the Lord of Pego and Anna.

In 1448, the marriage of Tecla de Borja with Vidal de Vilanova takes place.

Sadly, Tecla dies in 1459 from the plague. She is without a will so the shrew mother Isabel demands her dowry to be refunded. She also engages her illustrious son Rodrigo to help with the paperwork.

With no way of repaying the funds, in 1460 Vidal de Vilanova sells Anna's deed to Isabel Borja. A rebuttal claim is made by Eleonora Vidal de Vilanova, sister of Vidal de Vilanova, but it doesn't hold up.

Pleased with her purchase, in 1463 Isabel donates the title of Anna to her son Rodrigo Alejandro VI, who in turn, in 1469 gifts it to his nephew Jofre de Borja Llançol de Romani, who is already the baron of Villalonga.

On November 5, 1585, King Felipe grants the new owners of Anna the "nobility title" of Cervellón and hence Don. Bernabé de Borja and Dña. Violante Pujades de Borja become the first Counts of Cervellón.


FIRST TRANSFORMATIONS

The castle fort of Anna remained a defensive tower guarding the tiny village of 160 houses, the majority of Moriscos, Spanish Muslims who became baptized Christians. On May 3, 1604 when Don. Fernando Pujades Olim Borja and his wife Francisca Alapont Relleu, Lady of Relleu, the second Counts of Anna, take charge of the primitive castle, they decide to remodel it into a family home.

On the northwest part of the building was built an oratory in honour of Saint Ana. On the 13th of September 1619, it was celebrated with the marriage of two settlers by the parish priest.

In 1855 more renovations were made to the Palace to make it more of home. For example, an open channel of water ran unprotected right down the center of the street in front of the palace separating it from the town. A precarious bridge was it only crossing and with children in the house, the whole situation was a discomfort to the family, hence the channel that was in front of the Palace was buried.

The channel was left open and on both sides of the Palace creating a fountain to wash clothes.

Due to a series of financial debts, the Borja family had to end their dynasty of devotion to Anna as the Counts of Cervellón and finally were forced to sell in 1890.


THE TRÉNOR FAMILY

The Tenor family were interested in the purchase of Anna for its abundance of water and the possibilities of making money off of it by providing electricity.

Valencia-born Ricardo de Trénor Bucelli (1837 - 1919), son of Ireland-born Tomás Trénor Keating, founder of Banca Trénor, married Dona. Josefa Isabel Palavicino Ibarrola. They spent long seasons rebuilding the central courtyard in the Palace. Two of their children were born in the Palace, Leopoldo and Ricardo Trénor Palavicino.

Leopoldo's daughter, Carmen Trenor Pardo married Valentín Moure López and they and their children: Santiago, Gonzalo, Valentín and Patricia were the last inhabitants of the Palace.

During the civil war 1936, the Palace was used by the Executive Committee of the Popular Front and as the headquarters of the Phalanx. The Trénor family also rented the Palace as a home to several families.

In 1988, negotiations with the Trénor family for the acquisition of the Palace House began by the City council of Anna. In 1995 work began on adapting the building for public use 1995 and ended in 2007.

Thanks to the belief of the towns mayor at the time, Fernando Sarrión, and the City Council, a mission of restoration was launched. To bring the Palace of Anna alive, it was import to replicate it's most important historical periods: the Muslim period, the Renaissance and the Baroque, with their corresponding artistic styles.



The Arab Room is the most spectacular and demanded a continuous series of trips to Morocco to engage craftsmen to create an authentic reformation of the Almohade splendor.

Today, the Palace of Anna is promoted as the Valencian Alhambra based on this incredible Arab Room and the Romantic Courtyard, however the Gothic features are amazing and the Baroque Room is charming and full of period paintings that are small replicas of artists like Velazquez, Murillo and Goya.



The old horse stables are now filled with farming equipment and other historical artifacts from the last two century. And, the life giving water that Anna is so famous for is brought right into the house and there is a mini museum with storyboards explaining how the water had been harnessed over the centuries.

The purpose of this enormous restoration and financial undertaking is obvious in the fact that the Palace now gives this remote municipality a new tourist attraction of strong cultural character, which can enhance the economy of the town.

When I was there, the cafe opposite was packed with tourists like myself drinking and eating.

It is a marvelous day trip that will enhance your visual senses and help you to build an appreciation for Valencian history.

Enjoy,
Karla Darocas

NOTE: If you want to see how the craftsmen rebuilt a replica of the Gothic altar in the Palace Chapel - click here

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