History of Xativa. Xativa Tourist Information
Xàtiva is a town in eastern Spain, in the province of Valencia, on the right
bank of the river Albaida and at the junction of the Valencia–Murcia and
Valencia Albacete railways.
Xàtiva is built on the margin of a fertile and beautiful plain, and on the
southern slopes of the Monte Bernisa, a hill with two peaks, each surmounted by
a Castle of Játiva. With its numerous fountains, and spacious avenues shaded
with elms or cypresses, the town has a clean and attractive appearance. Its
collegiate church, dating from 1414, but rebuilt about a century later in the
Renaissance style, was formerly a cathedral, and is the chief among many
churches and convents. The town-hall and a church on the castle hill are partly
constructed of inscribed Roman masonry, and several houses date from the Moorish
period. There is a brisk local trade in grain, fruit, wine, olive oil and rice.
Xàtiva (Saetabis in latin) was famous in Roman times for its silk fabrics,
mentioned by the Latin poet Ovid. Xàtiva is also known as an early European
centre of paper manufacture. In the twelfth century, Arabs brought the
technology to manufacture paper to Xàtiva.
Birthplace of two popes, Callixtus III and Alexander VI, as well as the painter
José Ribera spagnoletto, it suffered a dark moment in its history at the hands
of Philip V of Spain, who, after his victory in the Battle of Almansa in the War
of the Spanish Succession, ordered the city to be burned, changing its name to
San Felipe. In memory of the insult, the portrait of the monarch hangs upside
down in the local museum of L'Almodí.
Xàtiva was briefly a provincial capital under the shortlived 1822 territorial
division of Spain, during the Trienio Liberal. The Province of Játiva was
revoked with the return to absolutism in 1823.
Hannibal is said to have watered his elephants in the town during his epic
journey and two Borja popes were born in the castle there – Calixtus lll and
The Spanish civil war caused a serious decline in the architectural and historical heritage of Xativa. Many churches, convents and altarpieces were destroyed or seriously damaged and Xàtiva was bombed by Franco’s Italian allies in February 1939 in one of the last actions of the war. If you are arriving here via train one of the first things you can see when you leave the station is a memorial to those killed during the bombing.
The years following the civil war were very difficult. Slow population growth coupled with the closure of several public institutions such the military garrison, the prison and the offices of the Bank of Spain caused a downturn in the town’s fortunes. However, things slowly improved during the 50s and 60s when large amounts of public money from central government was in invested in agriculture with the intention of making the Valencia the biggest producer of oranges in Europe. This legacy can still be seen in the fields of orange trees that surround Xativa and also throughout the province of Valencia.
Xativa profited massively from the housing boom of the late 90s and early 00′s as many people from Northern Europe took advantage of cheap housing and a good exchange rate to buy their dream place in the sun. Streets of new houses and blocks of new flats were built both on the western and eastern side of town, most of which are still empty as the crisis continues to bite.