The name of Gandía might make you think of beach tourism and beach bars. But do not be discouraged by prejudices: this is a beautiful city, full of history and with lots of things to see. And most of this is thanks to the Borja or Borgia family.
So let’s go back in time…
Gandía’s area has its Iberian vestiges and its Roman past, but it seems that it was in the Muslim times when the city was established. After the Reconquest, the village was owned by different Medieval Noblemen with a sword in their belts, and at the end of the fourteenth century the Ducal Palace was built, an impressive building that you can see in the centre of the city and which would be modified many times in the following centuries.
The ineffable Rodrigo de Borja, future Pope Alexander VI, was going to lay his hands in the dukedom of Gandía. Rodrigo bought the manor from Fernando the Catholic and gave it to his son Pedro Luis, this way the Borja clan prepared to make their mark in the area.
Truth is that the city prospered and the palace was extended and altered to the Renaissance taste. In the year 1510, Francisco de Borja, another interesting character, was born here. Francisco was sent to the Court of Carlos V where he became quite relevant. But he fell in love, they say, with Isabel, the Emperor’s wife, and after her death, he suffered a crisis that led him to leave worldly matters and devote himself to more spiritual life. So much so that despite the family history, Francisco became Saint and his room still remains intact in the Ducal Palace.
Near the palace is the Collegiate Church of Santa María, a magnificent Gothic building to which Alejandro VI gave wealth and splendour but to which, the Civil War did much damage. Right beside it, you can see the Convent of Santa Clara. This was not built by the Borja family, but several women of the clan spent a good part of their lives within this walls, perhaps to try to redeem their surnames from the many absurdities attributed to them.
And if you have a little more time, go to see the Castle of Bairén where the Cid fought many centuries before Alejandro VI. Just so you see that not everything in Gandía has to do with the Borja family…