Anna is a peaceful town in the Valencian hinterland on the river Sellent. There you can admire a spectacular, grandiose building, a castle-palace that is an architectural milestone of an uninterrupted glorious history and a determined restoration. The place of Anna is an epic story, filled with illustrious times and famous people!

Report by Karla Darocas, Hons. B. A. ( for

Anna is a pleasant village away from everything and everyone, where you can easily find unpretentious, picturesque places on foot. What you will find are many life-affirming water channels criss-crossing the streets and gushing from fountains. This abundance of various water sources is the origin of the Almohad name "Yanna", which means "water garden".

On the outskirts of the village is the palace of the Counts of Cervelló, now an outstanding testimony to the past and the pride of Anna.

However, the history of this particular palace is a pendulum between abandonment and restoration. It passed from one illustrious owner to the next until finally, thanks to the dedication of a committed mayor, it received the love it deserves from 1995 to 2007.


The first words pointing to the earliest administrator of Anna's castle and lands come from a 13th-century epigraphic inscription on a piece of plaster taken from the Qur'an, Islam's holy book, and decorated with zoomorphic and plant motifs. This piece of plaster not only documented the dating of the inhabitants, but also helped the architects with the construction techniques needed to return the castle to its origins.

The administrator at this time was a Pego-born Almohad military leader named Al-Azrach. During the revolt against Jaime I, he not only lost the castle of Anna, but also the fortresses in Montesa, Vallada, Chella and Navarres.

The first Christian words written about Anna's possessions were written by the great Iberian conqueror, the Aragonese king to whom the history of mediaeval Valencia owes its strength, namely Jaime I (1208 - 1276).

In the battle for the region of Valencia (1229 - 1245), which was in the hands of the Emirate of Almohad, Jaime I asked for the help of the Order of Santiago, a Christian military-religious order of knights founded in Spain around 1160 to fight the Spanish Muslims and protect pilgrims on their way to the shrine of Santiago de Compostela.

On 2 September 1244, a deed of ownership of Anna's castle and domain was issued and given to Pelayo Pedro de Correa, the Master of the Order, including the resident Almohad peasants of the fertile land enlivened by the abundance of water.


During the time of the Aragonese King Jaime II (1267 - 1327), a diplomat became a unique negotiator and was involved in some very historic deals of the time. His name was Vicente Vidal de Vilanova (1286 - 1353) and because of his efforts, the king rewarded Vilanova with titles such as mayor of Xativa in 1322 and guardian of the castle of Xativa and of Anna.

In 1332, the Almohad peasants disagreed with the demands of their landlords and began a revolt. The now reigning King Alfonso IV (1299-1336) decided to exempt the peasants from paying their rents to the Order to prevent them from migrating and causing a depopulation that would hinder food supplies in times of war. The Order did not like this and decided to move on and leave Anna to Vilanova.

Due to the short life of Alfonso IV, his son, King Pedro IV (1319 - 1387), left the domain and castle of Anna to the Vilanova family in return for their help in fighting the Unionists in the Aragonese expansion in the Byzantine territories and in the war of succession with the
Castellanas, who interceded on behalf of Enrique de Trastamara.

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

The estate then passed to his son, the nobleman Luis de Vilanova, in 1409.

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


In 1444, from the neighbouring village of Xativa comes a singular plan to acquire the Garden of Eden, where Anna abounds. Now Isabel de Borja (1390 - 1468) comes into play, the mother of Rodrigo Alejandro de Borgia (1432-1503), who became Pope Alexander VI, the most controversial of the Renaissance popes, partly because he admitted to having fathered several children by his mistresses. Hence his Italianised Valencian surname, Borgia, became synonymous with the libertinism and nepotism that characterised his pontificate.

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

In a written document, Isabel offers her daughter Tecla de Borja (1430-1462) in marriage to the dashing soldier Vidal de Vilanova, lord of Pego and Anna, along with a financial dowry.

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

Unfortunately, Tecla dies of the plague in 1459. As she has no will, her quarrelsome mother Isabel demands the return of her dowry. She also hires her famous son Rodrigo to help with the formalities.

As there is no way to repay the money, Vidal de Vilanova sells Anna's deed to Isabel Borja in 1460. Eleonora Vidal de Vilanova's sister files a counterclaim, but it is untenable.

Isabel is satisfied with her purchase and passes Anna's title on to her son Rodrigo Alejandro VI in 1463, who in turn passes it on to his nephew Jofre de Borja Llançol de Romani in 1469, who is already Baron of Villalonga.

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


The fortress of Anna remained a defensive tower guarding the tiny village of 160 houses, where the majority lived Moriscos, Spanish Muslims who became baptised Christians.

On 3 May 1604, when Don. Fernando Pujades Olim Borja and his wife Francisca Alapont Relleu, Lady of Relleu, the second Counts of Anna, took over the primitive castle, they decided to turn it into a family residence.

An oratory in honour of Saint Anne was built in the north-western part of the building. On 13 September 1619, the wedding of two settlers was celebrated by the parish priest.

In 1855, further renovations were made to make the castle more homely. For example, an open water channel ran unprotected in the middle of the street in front of the palace, separating it from the town. A precarious bridge was the only crossing and with children in the house the whole situation was very inconvenient for the family, so the canal was buried in front of the palace.

On both sides of the palace, however, the canal was left open and a well was made for washing clothes.

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


The Trénor family was interested in buying Anna because there was water in abundance and because there was money to be made from electricity.

Valencia-born Ricardo de Trénor Bucelli (1837 - 1919), son of Irish-born Tomás Trénor Keating, who had founded his own bank in 1827, married Dona. Josefa Isabel Palavicino Ibarrola. They spent much time remodelling the central courtyard of 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 she and her children: Santiago, Gonzalo, Valentín and Patricia were the last inhabitants of the palace.

During the Civil War in 1936, the palace was used by the Executive Committee of the Popular Front and as the headquarters of the Phalanx, the fascist political party.

After the war, the Trénor family rented the palace to several families.

in 1988, negotiations began with the Trénor family for the purchase of the palace by the municipality of Anna. In 1995, work began to adapt the building for public use and ended in 2007.

Thanks to the conviction of the then mayor of the city, Fernando Sarrión, and the city council, a restoration mission was launched. To bring the Palace of Anna to life, it was important to recreate the main historical periods: the Moorish period, the Renaissance and the Baroque, with their respective artistic styles.

The Arabian Room is the most spectacular and required a series of trips to Morocco to hire craftsmen to create an authentic replica of Almohad splendour.

Today, Anna's palace is promoted as the Valencian Alhambra because of this incredible Arabic room and romantic courtyard. But the Gothic elements are also amazing and the Baroque hall is charming and full of paintings from the period, which are small replicas by artists such as Velazquez, Murillo and Goya.

The old horse stables are now filled with farming implements and other historical artefacts from the last two centuries. And the life-giving water for which Anna is so famous is brought right into the house, and there is a mini-museum with displays explaining how the water has been harnessed over the centuries.

The purpose of this huge restoration and financial project is obvious, as the palace now gives this remote community a new tourist attraction with a strong cultural character that can boost the town's economy.

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