Every year, in the traditional fiestas of La Magdalena, Castellón celebrates the foundation of the city. For this, it goes back to the times of the Reconquest and the battles of Jaime I, who took control of this area in the first half of the thirteenth century.
But the expelled Muslims had a few hundred years to leave their mark, and it cannot be said that they didn’t take advantage of them. To begin with, the castle which is part of the origin of the city is Islamic, perhaps of the tenth century, and it was located on top of the hill of Magdalena, where you can still admire its remains.
As you can see, the origins of Castellón started on the top of a hill. Until, in 1251, Jaime I commissioned one of his trusted men, Ximén Pérez de Arenós, to choose a nice flat location and move the population there. It is this descent from the hills to the fertile plain which marks the real beginning of the current city, and it is for this reason why it’s remembered in the local festivities of Castellón.
Once the fights between Moors and Christians were over, a bright future was expecting the medieval village. But of course, there was always need of protection and before the fourteenth century was over, Castellón was surrounded with a proper city wall with its moat, its gates and its towers which, unfortunately, disappeared almost entirely in the nineteenth century. It’s what happens with progress, sometimes it clashes with things from other eras.
The history of this place, in any case, never stopped being a turbulent one: during the War of Succession, it had to suffer a severe attack by the Duke of Berwick. A century later it was the turn of the Napoleonic troops as they proceeded to take the town without the permission of its inhabitants. And there was still the Carlist Wars to come, with the terrible siege of General Cabrera.
But the city’s heritage keeps a beautiful memory of all those atrocities, indeed. The Cathedral of Santa María which was initially of Gothic style but had to be rebuilt after the fire and destruction suffered in the Civil War. Even so, you should not miss it, let alone the tower which they call El Fadrí, or El Soltero (The Bachelor), because it is on its own and separated from the temple.
Do, also, go to see the Town Hall and the Casino Antiguo, and have a walk around the squares of the city centre, full of flavour and history. And if after the long walk you feel like a swim, you know: the beach is right there.