Oliva is a lovely and vibrate town on the edge of the Valencian province in the Safor territory that has a very beautiful, classy and colossal neo-classical church in its core.

The parish Church of Santa María la Mayor represents the historical, cultural and intellectual evolution of the Valencia region in its architecture.

* Report by Arts Historian and Educator , Karla Darocas, Hons. B.A. (
* Copyright Karla Darocas 2018* (no part of this text or photos may be replicated)


This 18th c Renaissance achievement is super stylish in white, black and gold. There are three wide isles with roomy neo-roman barrel vaults. There are hints of Baroque designs around the main octagonal cupola and in the lunette behind the alter. Fresco paintings of the 4 apostles surround the cupola with its Virgin Mary inspired center star-crown keystone.

Perfectly spaced upper windows are matched to their buttresses. In true Roman revival form, the interior elevation is ordered based on Corinthian pilasters and fluted counter pilasters with matching capitals.

This church is actually a tribute to two very famous Valencianos,  Tomás Vicente Tosca and Juan Bautista Corachán, who were the nucleus of the Valencian chapter of the Novatores founded in the year 1686. These men were great mathematicians who were the great intellectuals who responded to the crisis of European consciousness that coincides with the scientific revolution and precedes the Enlightenment.

The architectural scheme is modeled after the grand churches  of Giacomo Barozzi da Vignola, one of the great Italian architects of 16th century, who worked for Pope Julius III and, after the latter's death, he was taken up by the papal family of the Farnese and worked with Michelangelo.

As with many churches that have had a Renaissance classical makeover, it is not surprising to find that the foundation was originally the base of another church.

This original church was of  Gothic origin and since the Muslims were not expelled until the mid 17th c, much of the exterior reflects their unique Mudéjar building style of clay bricks and field stones.

In 1683 a remodeling was started but never finished. In 1705, work began again, which lasted for practically the entire seventh century (1705-1787), because of two major setbacks: the war of Succession 1705-1713 and sadly in 1754 the main dome and part of the roof collapsed due to an earth settling or shifting under the church. Sometimes this happens after a major rainfall, but I have no idea here how the shift happened, just speculation.

In 1754 architects decided to build an extra buttress to reinforce the apse in order to prevent another collapse of the central dome. This buttress is at the back of the church on Calle de les Moreres and since it is external to the church, you can walk through it like a tunnel.

The front of the church is of smooth plaster with a classical facade of pillars, capitals and pediments framed with a Gothic arch of brick. The three Saints in stone niches surrounding the portal door the images of the Assumption, Saint Anthony of Padua and Saint Francisco de Assisi.

The best time to visit this marvelous masterpiece is around 11:00 on Sunday before the congregation. As with any of the great churches of Spain, just follow the bell tower :)