The school builidng: The Old Palace Fernández de Córdova
Stately home of gothic origin built in 1865 on a very uneven piece of land where probably stood the old abbey house of St. Nicholas.
The building is situated on the main approach road to the ancient Roman city, which after the Reconquest served as quarters for the nobility. Its current exterior aspect, of a marked academic character, is due to work carried out by the architect, Salvador Monmeneu Escrig.
The façade of rendered plaster has a stone base and contains a ground floor and two upper floors joined together by an enormous line of classical pilasters in the wall sections. The main floor stands out, being distinguished from the rest by its greater height and by the pediments that stand atop its window openings.
The building contains within remains from previous eras: trilobate arches, polychrome coffered ceilings from the 12th century, and above all a section of the Arab wall with the tower where used to be found the Gate of the Serpent (Bab al-Hannax).
(Text adapted from an extract from 'Architectural Guide to Valencia´ (CTAV 2007)
It is said that in this house lived as a young student, Alfonso de Borja, the future Pope Callixtus III. He was born in 1378, for which reason, for the future Pope to have lived in this house, its antiquity must date back even more.
The school has 4 different zones, each of them with a special character related to a fragment of our history that we will find in them.
1.- Zone Hanax
Bab Al Hanax Gate of the Serpent (Gate of the Moorish quarter) 11th century
It used to be the western entrance to the city, one of the seven gates of the Arab wall built after the fall of the Caliphate of Cordoba during the reign of Abd al-Aziz ibn Amir (1062-1061) in order to protect the inhabitants and those arriving in Balansiya, the Valencia of the Muslim era.
Abd al-Aziz ibn Amir was the first sovereign in the history of Valencia, appointed at the age of 15. The 40 years of his government saw one of the most tranquil and prosperous periods ever. The walls and towers surrounded a jumbled network of houses, typically Muslim, with a labyrinth of streets, alleys, squares, market stalls, with its fortress or royal palace and the main mosque, where the most important news was given to the people.
After the conquest of the city by king Jaime I (9 October 1238), the Christians repopulated the city and the Muslims were expelled, but they were allowed to settle outside the wall. Those Muslims who chose to stay in Valencia set up the Moorish quarter of the city (known as 'La Morería), right on the other side of the Bab Al-Hanax gate. The king allowed the Muslims who lived there to keep their customs and religion.
Extracts from 'Muslim Valencia´ by Vicente Coscollá
2.- Zone Muralla
The Arab wall in Valencia 11th century
It is said to have been the most perfect defensive construction in the whole of Muslim Spain (Al-Andalus).
The Muslims conquered the city of Valencia in the year 714. After the fall of the Caliphate of Cordoba at the beginning of the 11th century, Valencia became the capital of a 'taifa´ (a kingdom within Muslim territory). This led a new building phase in which the increase in population and attacks by the Berbers from North Africa required both the expansion of the city and the construction of a defensive wall. Abd al-Aziz, first king of the 'taifa´, who began his reign in 1021, being only 15 at the time, built a new wall with the aim of protecting the population and welcoming those arriving from other places.
This wall, constructed between 1021 and 1061, was an example of architectural perfection and had seven gates. It was made of cement and had semi-circular towers crafted with skill up to the last storey, where they opened into an enclosed room. The average width was 2.25 metres, and the towers were placed approximately 26 metres apart.
It would have been a perfect example of the military architecture and engineering within Al-Andalus, according to the writer Al-Udri (Almería 1003-Valencia 1085): " ....... in all Andalus, more perfect and more beautiful walls around a city are unknown".
3.- Zone Patio
For Muslims, the garden was a private space, closed to outside attention and inviting contemplation. It gave natural light, freshness and greenness, and plants, fruit trees and water as the main decorative elements. An atmosphere of calm and intimacy is evoked by the Hispano-Muslim patio.
4.- Zone Tossal
Tossal: "A ground elevation neither too high nor with too steep a slope". From its origins until the Middle Ages, a second branch of the River Turia encircled the city. The Plaza del Tossal lay above the other streets around it and use of this was made by building a dyke to prevent water flowing when this stretch of the Turia overflowed.
Under the bustling plaza del Tossal can be found an archaeological crypt where it is possible to observe a stretch of the Islamic wall erected in the 12th century, one of the best conserved testimonies of the Islamic city of Balansiya (Valencia).