PRETTY IMPORTANT PALACE IN GANDIA INVITES A DETAILED INSPECTION


One of the most important monuments in the city of Gandia is The Ducal Palace. It is a treasure chest of mind blowing artifacts deemed with legendary stories and adventures!

This palace showcases four distinctive periods of architecture from Gothic to Renaissance, Baroque to Neo-Gothic styles.

You can feel the grandeur of being in an elite family home. Wealth invites the arts to decorate and record and this palace has it all!

So, let's get started with a detailed inspection of this glorious place...



* Report by Arts Historian and Educator , Karla Darocas, Hons. B.A. (SpainLifestyle.com)
* Copyright Karla Darocas 2018* (no part of this text or photos may be replicated)
* Special thank you to Lizzie Clayton for some added photos.

HISTORY OF THE PALACE

The Ducal Palace of Gandia has its origin in the "Manorialism" system, an essential social and economic element of the Roman feudal society. Then the Gandia area was turned into a "manor" or "fief" in 1323 by James II of Aragon.

The first "lord of the manor" who vested his legal jurisdiction over the land and peasant population was King Martin of Aragon, who held the title from 1323-1359.

The palace was more like a fort that was a self-supplied building with its own farm, garden, forge, carpentry, warehouse and cistern built. It really grew in fame when it was inherited by Alfonso of Aragon, who was born in Gandia, becomes Lord of Gandía from 1359-1399 and finally the Duke of Gandia from 1399-1412.  He was also the Count of Denia, Count of Ribagorza, Marquis of Villena, and first Constable of Castile.

Alfonso transforms the house into a Valencian Gothic masterpiece; not just a basic manor mansion anymore, but the most important manor mansion in the Crown of Aragon. He also builds a glorious gothic temple dedicated to Santa Maria. Then, out in the countryside he builds the infamous monastery on the lands of Cotalba dedicated to Sant Jeroni.

Fatefully, the palace, which stayed in the Crown of Aragon till about 1485, was faced with no family heirs.

In need of stately palace, the Xativa born Cardinal Rodrigo de Borja (1431 † 1503, future Pope Alexander VI) purchases this Gothic glory and all its manor's land too... for his family! He was also planning to set up his family to be close to the Royals of Spain who were now celebrating the splendor of Valencia city in its Golden period of wealth and trade. Rodrigo was also named the archbishop of Valencia in 1484 before being elected pope as Alexander VI following the death of Innocent VIII in 1492.

This launches a new era in the history of this house; an era of splendor thanks to the influential Borja lineage, with their expensive taste, Italian style, and there were an excessive amount of dukes wanting to leave their mark by enlarging and reforming the palace... turning it into one of the most important palaces in the Valencia Kingdom.

On the death of Pedro Luis de Borja, single and without succession, the duchy is inherited by his stepbrother Juan de Borja Cattanei (1478 † Rome 1497).

Juan marries into the Castilian-Aragonese dynasty by wedding María Enríquez de Luna (1474 † 1539) cementing the Borja family to the Royals. Juan, who turns out to be a lousy military man and womaniser, is murdered in 1497, speculated killed by his brother or son, as his body was found with thirty gold ducats untouched in his belt pouch when fished out of the Roman Tiber river.


In this bedroom, Maria had two children. Today it has been rebuilt with neo-Gothic arches and artificial ashlars stone, but the floor tiles are original made in Manises with a blue and white pattern.

Maria becomes Gandia's Duquesa Regente (Dutchess). When she retires the position in 1530, María decides to live at the Gandia convent of Santa Clara where she becomes the abbess. She died nine years later. Her daughter Isabel de Borja and Enríquez becomes abbess in 1533. Her son, Juan Borgia, become the 3rd Duke of Gandía.

Maria's grandson, son of Juan, great-grandson of Pope Alexander VI, is born in the palace on October 1510 and is destined for greater missions in life. This is Francisco (1510 - 1572).

As a young Grandee of Spain, he serves his queen, Isabella of Portugal, wife of Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, devotedly until her death. Upon her demise, in 1539 Francisco escorts her corpse to her burial in Granada.

Here is a video clip from a Spanish tv series about Francisco and how he met his Queen, Isabella of Portugal. 


To witness the body, the coffin is opened and seeing (and smelling) the queens once beautiful rotting corpse, he was greatly upset emotionally and is said to confess, "Nevermore will I serve a master who can die on me.”

And here is another clip about that fatefilled day when the Queen dies and he pronounces his vow. This is also called, the Conversion of the Francisco de Borja.


Francisco's father dies in 1543 and he becomes the IV Duke of Gandia. At age 33 he retires from court duty and returns from Madrid to Gandia and the Palace. After the death of his wife in 1546, when he was forty years old, Francis Borgia joined the recently created Society of Jesus where he became General in 1564.

Francisco Borgia died in Rome and was buried there in 1572. Later on, due to the pressure exercised by the Spanish nobility, his remains were brought to Madrid and buried in the Jesuits’ Church. Francis Borgia was beatified in 1624 by the pope Urbano VIII and canonized in 1671 by the pope Clemente X.

The lands and palace stay in the Borja family until the early eighteenth century, when Luis Ignacio de Borja (1673 † 1740) the XI Duke of Gandia, dies in Madrid without succession.

This is when the ownership of the dukedom passes to the closest relatives, who are the Dukes of Benavente, and finally over to the Osuna family in 1832, who abandoned it completely.

By 1890, the Palace, practically in ruins after years of abandonment, goes up for auction.

The Palace is bought by the Spanish Jesuit order, an obviously choice considering the legacy of Francisco de Borja.

Today, the Palace, besides being a public monument, shares space as a Teaching College with the name of Borja School.

POINTS OF PALACE INTEREST

EXTERIORS


The Palace's interior patio or parade ground is called the Patio de Armas due to the large coat of arms that is showcased proudly. This great shield is a ceramic polychrome (multicoloured sculpture) with all the Borja family crests represented.

On the staircase of honour, as it is named, a trífora window of three lobed arches, typical of the Gothic architecture of the crown of Aragon, is sadly the only primitive window left in the palace Alfonso of Aragon built.



The staircase of honour is closed and visitors enter from the parade ground. There is a water well under the staircase in the middle arch. 


The exterior front of the Ducal Palace of Gandia is gloriously painted in floral patterns. The use of square, round and rectangular windows are a clear sign of its Baroque design. Visitor are charmed by the beautiful blue ceramic tiles over the window balconies and the alternating coloured tiles as trim.



INTERIOR HALLS

CROWNS ASSEMBLY HALL


This is the most important room in the house. It is a large rectangular room that served as a Kingdom Hall, where audiences were received, state decisions were made and the most important matters were dispatched. 

Built between 1544 and 1545 merging three smaller rooms of the fourteenth century; Francisco de Borja, IV Duke of Gandia and then saint, enlarged the rooms and raised the ceiling with a wooden Italian style coffered ceiling decorated with hundreds of double crowns, from which the room takes its name. The significance of the double-crown is the existence of two popes in the Borgia family. Alexander 6th used it as his own symbol when he became a pope and his children adopted it as a personal and distinctive sign.

Presiding over the room is a great portrait of Francisco de Borjas, Duke of Gandia dressed as a commander of the Order of Santiago; a reminder that he served in a diplomatic capacity as a knight.


This canvas was painted by the Jesuit Martín Coronas Pueyo at the beginning of the 20th century. Also from the same author, are eight canvases painted between 1918 and 1920 imitating tapestries that once decorated the room. These images represent scenes from the life of San Francisco de Borja.

  • Baptism of Francisco de Borja at the Collegiate Church of Gandia
  • Francisco de Borja before the corpse of Isabel of Portugal
  • Arrival of Francisco de Borja to the convent of preachers of LLombai
  • Francisco de Borja examining the works of the walls of Gandia
  • Francisco de Borja puts the first stone of the University and College of Gandia
  • Francisco de Borja receives the doctoral cap at the University of Gandia
  • Francisco de Borja says goodbye to his children before leaving for Rome
  • Francisco de Borja at the exit of Gandia on the way to Rome. 
All the furniture in the room are historic and thematic recreations.


The room is illuminated by Gothic windows with stone seats and gorgeous wooden coffered shutters. These windows overlook both the Patio de Armas and the Serpis River. Maybe hard to imagine now, as the town’s growth has changed the landscape, but from these windows one could contemplate the rich gardens of Gandia and the Mediterranean Sea in the distance.

This room was the first to be restored by the Jesuits in 1893.


DINING HALL or SARDINIA'S ROOM

The name of this room is a reference to the domains and properties that the Borgia family inherited in the island of Sardinia, after the marriage of the fifth duke of Gandia Carlos with Magdalena de Centelles. It is a small hall with tiles on its walls, a central table and various utensils used in the kitchens of the time.




EAGLES ASSEMBLY HALL

Named after the numerous eagles decorating the cornice of this room, made of plaster and painted with gold-leaf.



THE GREEN HALL

This room has many works of art including a white seated Madonna with Jesus and John that looks Italian and probably dates 16th century.  In another corner there is a polychome statue of Francisco looking at his queen's skull with her crown, reminder of his conversion. At his feet are scrolls and a globe suggestive of his travels to the new world.



CHAPEL



To get to the Chapel you need to go through the backside of the Hall of Crowns, but you will glad that you did. It is a magnificent and pretty chapel designed in the neogothic style with a mix of Byzantine style. This room was the old office of the IV Duke of Gandia (San Francisco de Borja), which was transformed into a chapel by the Jesuits in 1896.

I was mesmerized by the ceiling of the room because it is decorated with a Byzantine blue starry vault with gold ribs and painted in the center are four seraphs.


The walls are decorated with images of saints and attributes of saints made by the Jesuit brother Martín Corona (1862-1928), a Huesca painter whose membership into the Society of Jesus gave him opportunities that propelled his position as one of the the most brilliant artists of Aragon at the beginning of the last century.

One of the grand artworks by Corona is of the Assumption of Mary.  Painted in her glorious blue robe as blue being the colour of truth and clarity. Mary floats up to heaven on her crescent moon, a symbol of her waning time on earth, but not before she stomps on a snake representing her ability to crush evil.

On her left is Angel Gabriel who comes to Mary and announces her death. On the right is probably the archangel Raphael bringing Mary her white lilies, symbolizing her pure virginal body.

In the bottom left is a medieval Gothic castle that looks to be Isabelline with flamboyant windows, a blind arcade as decorative masonry over the ogive arch portal that has a single archivolt molding around it and a Mary symbol on it. This is likely to pay tribute to the Medieval era that launched the palace.

On a side wall is what looks to be a saint with a holy spirit flame jumping out of his head. I think he is a saint because of his gold halo, but on closer look he has wings? So maybe he is the angel that brought the Holy Spirit "tongues of fire" to the Apostles? Mystery.


The High Alter features the original crucifix of San Francisco de Borja, which is conserved in a glass molding in the shape of a cross.


An IHS monogram plaque with the H surmounted by a cross above three nails and surrounded by a Sun is the emblem of the Jesuits, according to tradition introduced by Ignatius of Loyola in 1541.


Behind the Chapel, which the Jesuits turned into an oratory in the 19th century, is a room that has been restored and preserved to match the private worship chapel of Francis Borgia.

The beautiful flooring is original from the 14th century and therefore previous to Francis Borgia. The grisailles painting on the walls, made in grey tones, represent the fifteen mysteries of the Rosary and are the work of Filippo Paolo of San Leocadio (son of Paolo de San Leocadio) although they were retouched by Brother Martín Coronas. 

It was Francis Borgia who transformed this small room and made the ceiling into the shape of a coffin. The idea of the design was to remind him of his conversion to God when he witnessed his beautiful queen as a rotten corpse. Such a morbid reminder was achieved in fine wood and paneled in the then new Renaissance Italian style, oddly named "coffer". 


THE GOLDEN GALLERY

Francisco Pascual de Borgia (1653 - 1716) 10th Duke of Gandia, decided to celebrate the canonization of his famous ancestor Francisco de Borja (canonized by Pope Clement X) by building a gallery on top one of the terraces around the Cistern Garden. The construction began in 1671 and completed in 1713.


The gallery is made up of a succession of five rooms divided by carved door frames and decorated with gold-leaf, which makes the gallery seem larger than it actually is. It quickly became a famous milestone within the late Valencian Baroque period.

The Golden Gallery was a party room. Basically a large rectangular room divided into five smaller rooms. The first three rooms are rectangular and the last two rooms are square. All rooms are separated by wooden doors but the first two are removable in case the need for a big party room.



Each room of the gallery has a different tempura ceiling painting on canvas (not fresco) and name:

  • The Heraldry of the Borgia family Room, based on heraldic ornaments
  • The Ornamental Room with baroque decoration
  • The Glorification Room contains decoration related to the canonization or glorification of San Francisco de Borja
  • The Holy Family Room relating to the Holy Family and the Holy Trinity
  • The Room of Heaven and Earth 

Although the canvases have always been attributed to the painter Gaspar de la Huerta Martinez, recent studies reveal that the painter Esteve Romaguera might have contributed to the painting of the first two.

The conservation and restoration of these murals has meant the revaluation of these works of art that is very valuable for the city of Gandia and the Valencian cultural heritage.


Heraldic Room. Lineages of the central shield: Borja (1), Centelles (2), Figueroa (3), Velasco de Frías (4), Oms (5), Doria-Colonna (6), Córdoba (7), Castro (8), Castre -Pinos (9), Castro, Portuguese branch (10), Ponce de León and Aragón (11), Cardona (12), Enríquez (13), Aragón-Sicilia and Granada (14), Barreto (15), wild ( 16). Lineages of the shields of the angles: Borja (17), Centelles (18), Fernández de Córdoba (19) and unidentified lineage (20). Heraldic and emblematic elements in ornamental border: trophy based on spears and heavy artillery (21), trophy of spears and beams with books in the foreground (22), emblem of Mars (23), emblem of Belona (24) and figure allegorical of victory and fame (25).



The Ornamental Hall presents a very common theme in the second half of the seventeenth century in the great palaces of Italy and France: sinuous decorative repertoires of vegetable type. The ceiling painting reflects this ornamental style as does the lovely silver framed wall clock in the Italian Baroque style.


Room of the Glorification of San Francisco de Borja. Terrestrial sphere: Ecclesiastical Assembly (1), female allegorical figure of the spiritual authority of the Church (2), Putti (3) and three midwives representing Faith, Hope and Charity (4). Celestial sphere: San Francisco de Borja (5), Saint Michael (6), the Trinity (7), the Immaculate Conception (8), Saint Vincent Ferrer (9), Blessed Andrew Hibernón (10), Saint Ignatius of Loyola (11) ), St. Francis Xavier (12), St. Charles Borromeo (13), St. Francis of Assisi (14), St. Peter Paschal (15), St. Francis de Paula (16), St. Philip Neri (17) and St. Teresa of Jesus (18)


Hall of the Holy Family. The Child Jesus (1), the Virgin (2), the Eternal Father (3), the dove of the Holy Spirit (4), Saint Joseph (5), angels young men (6), Saint Joachim (7) and Saint Anne ( 8).


On the wall hangs a charming reproduction of "The Madonna della seggiola" or Madonna della sedia, a popular  Madonna painting by the Italian renaissance artist Raphael, dating to c. 1513-1514. The original is housed in the Palazzo Pitti collection in Florence. It depicts Mary embracing the child Christ, while the young John the Baptist devoutly watches.


Hall of Heaven and Earth. Virgin of the Rosary (1), Glory of Saint Francis of Borja (2), Saint Michael (3), Eternal Father (4), Jesus Christ (5), the weapon Christi (6), choir of angels, mancebos musicians (7), Saint John the Baptist (8), Saint Matthew (9), Saint Bartholomew (10), Saint Andrew (11), Saint John the Evangelist (12), Saint Peter (13), Saint Jerome (14), Saint Augustine (15), group of the Fathers and Doctors of the Church (16), Isaac (17), Abraham (18), Samson (19), King David (20), Noah (21), Moses (22), Aaron (23), Saint Mary Magdalene (24), saints Justa and Rufina (25), Saint Ursula (26), Saint George (27), Saint Cecilia (28), Saint Francis of Assisi (29), Saint Dominic (30), Adam and Eve ( 31).

Earth is represented on the floor by an incredible Baroque mosaic made with some 1,500 pieces. The colours are mainly blue, yellow and green and all the ceramic ornamentation comes from Manises. The theme is the four elements (air, earth, sea and fire) and in the center the Sun.



While this palace profile is my detailed inspection, based on the items that interested me, there are many other marvelous artifacts to encounter and explore for yourself at the grand Ducal Palace in Gandia.



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