It is well known that money and power have forever formed a solid marriage. And that both have liked, always, to claim the services of the best artists to go down in history with style and distinction.
That is why you have already seen a few portraits of fifteen-century Flemish merchants putting their good side to the painter, right? Well, very similar characters, covered with gold and dressed in silks and pointed shoes, were the ones who commissioned the construction of the majestic Merchants Market of Valencia. A building with an air of a Venetian palace which, without a doubt, has less fame than it deserves.
Let’s place ourselves at the end of that fifteenth century: Valencia is wealthy, its bourgeoisie is among the most powerful in Europe and the arts and literary flourish in the city. And on top of that, there has already been a Valencian pope and another one waiting for his turn. So, in 1482, construction began on a building that symbolised all that splendour. But it wasn’t finished until the middle of the following century, and it turned out that by that time a new continent had been found over the western side. This made the Mediterranean ports less important as they were a little out of hand for the expeditions.
But the construction, which is what matters to us now, turned out to be a true masterpiece of late Gothic, which was mainly intended for the silk trade. This is why it is nowadays better known as the Lonja de la Seda (Silk Exchange) than as the Lonja de Mercaderes (Merchant Exchange).
There is no lack of deep and complicated symbols in its architecture. The helicoidal columns that support the vault from the inside form a kind of stone palm grove, and on its façades dragons, demons and other fantastic figures flirt around. There is also a small dungeon that housed silk thieves, a chapel, a tower with access via a spiral staircase and a peaceful courtyard where one can rest under the gargoyles. And by the way, have a good look at these gargoyles because you will see that they represent satirical, erotic and bizarre scenes. The set, as you can see, is so spectacular that UNESCO did not think it twice to include it in its list as a World Heritage Site.
The construction of The Consulate Pavilion, right next door, began a little later and looks more Renaissance, or, if you prefer, less fanciful. It once served as the headquarters of the ancient institution of the Consulate of the Sea, which was responsible for resolving maritime trade issues. If you enter the main hall and look up, you will see an incredible coffered ceiling full of images and designs ranging from the zodiac to heraldry and from the horrendous to the humorous.
Both buildings are among the greatest gems of the Valencian capital, so you must see them without hesitation. Take our word for it!