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Oliva History


Oliva History. Historic Oliva – Oliva Tourist Information

Oliva and its territory constitute, since old times, a place of setting for the different people that have settled in the Mediterranean through the years. Iberians, Romans, Muslims and Christians have lived here and have left their mark everywhere: very important archaeological ruins, the famous irrigation channel network, the ruins of the castle, the urban typology.

Oliva was a village populated by 52 old Christian families and dedicated to growing Muscatel grapes and raisins. The villagers built a beautiful late-Gothic church in honour of the patron saint, St Catalina. Prehistoric man, the Iberians and especially the Moors (Benimeit, Benimarco and Alcasar
are rural sections of Oliva) all left remains in this coastal area. Oliva became a walled village that was located slightly away from the coast for fear of Berber pirate attacks. As the village was near the coast, it was also a fishing village. Today both agriculture and fishing have given way to the tourism industry.

The history of Oliva is full of events and personages that talk by themselves about a past that must not be forgotten. The Christian conquest brought here the first lords, the Carrs legendary family, that would successively end in the Riusec family, the Centelles or the Borjas.With the Centelles, and around a
wonderful Renaissance palace (today disappeared), Oliva knew the glory of the county that was created in 1448. A great part of the merit belonged to the cultivation of sugarcane. It was the motor of an economy that ran very well thanks to the decisive help of the Muslim workers.

The moriscs were expelled in the year 1609. Because of this expulsion the Valencian lands and towns remained deserted. Although Oliva was not one of the most damaged towns, they were hard times for it. In the 18th. century, together with the rest of the disappeared Valencia Kingdom, Oliva began its recovery which had its peak not only in the economic aspect but also in the cultural one.
The erudite from Oliva, Gregorio Mayans, became a key figure in the cultural world of that period. From his home town he developed an intellectual activity in contact with his Spanish and European colleagues, that even nowadays awakes our admiration because of the productivity and the high standards they achieved
in their work. Gregori Mayans nephew Gabriel Ciscar Admiral of the Navy and Regent of Spain, lived the troubled events of the change of century, with the proclamation of the first constitution and the independence war, with a death sentence he could escape thanks to the help of his friend the Duke of Wellington.

Without the extinct dukedom of the Borjas and without its illustrious sons, Oliva faced the contemporary era with the challenge of replacing the old sugar cane by other cultivation that could reactivate the local economy. So, in the middle of the 19th century and at the end of the same, we find the development of the white mulberry and the silk industry. When this possibility was left, the
rice and the orange relieved. The rice farming lasted until the 1960s, but the orange cultivation has made Oliva one of the first towns among the producers of citrus fruits in the Land of Valencia. It has become the base of Oliva economic activity. The industry and the tourism are now at the right time to promote a diversification according to the European trend.

The old town, is no fake "olde worlde" pueblo-style village, but a typical small Valencian town, dating back to Moorish times and before. This quarter is endowed with charming, narrow, winding streets, lined with well-kept white-washed houses, often leading to quiet cool squares. Two beautiful old churches dominate two of the main squares in the old town – one of the churches with beautiful blue-tiled domes.

Overlooking Oliva on a hill is an ancient ruined castle which is well worth a walk for the splendid views it affords. Robert Hugill in his 1930s travel classic, I Travelled Through Spain, wrote: "The driver pulled up opposite a stall heaped with freshly caught eels and sardines and got out to deliver a
couple of live chickens at a bar. On we went through lemon and orange groves where the ripe fruit hung like lanterns among the dark green polished leaves in the shelter of tall cane and cypress hedges. Oliva is a quiet town sprawled about a blue-domed church on the slopes of a castle-crowned hill."

The "blue-domed church" to which Hugill refers is San Roque, an edifice steeped in history, well worth a visit.