La Lonja de la Seda de Valencia, Spain

A hub of business and commerce built in response to the boom in the Valencian silk trade in the late 15th century

Main facade of La Lonja, the tower and the Pavilion of the Consulate of the Sea (1996) by La Lonja de la Seda de ValenciaUNESCO World Heritage

La Lonja was built to provide a location for trade and commerce in an era at the end of the 15th century when business was prospering in the city. Business deals were made in the Hall of Columns, otherwise known as the Hall of Trade, which, along with the tower, constitutes the main nucleus of the building.

The third main element is the building that housed the Consulate of the Sea, with all areas being joined by the Orange Garden. Construction was carried out in four phases between 1482 and 1548. 

Hall of Columns (1996) by La Lonja de la Seda de ValenciaUNESCO World Heritage

The Hall of Columns is the most interesting space in the building. It is a large room containing eight beautiful, spiral columns which divide the room into three longitudinal sections, and another 16 similar columns which are embedded in the walls. 

Lonja de la Seda (1996) by La Lonja de la Seda de ValenciaUNESCO World Heritage

The floor is paved with black, white and brown marble tiles, forming, in places, 6-pointed stars enclosed within a square. High up on the walls, at a height of around 11 metres, gold letters painted onto a dark band issue a reminder to merchants to trade honestly in order to guarantee a life of wealth and prosperity.

Ceiling detail, Hall of Columns (1996) by La Lonja de la Seda de ValenciaUNESCO World Heritage

The eight strands that spiral their way upwards and around each column branch out as they reach the ceiling to support the vaults, or the “sky”, of the room. They intertwine with each other across the ceiling which was originally painted in bright colours, as was common in similar gothic buildings of the time.

Inside La Lonja (1996) by La Lonja de la Seda de ValenciaUNESCO World Heritage

A 360° visit

Main door, Plaza del Mercado (1996) by La Lonja de la Seda de ValenciaUNESCO World Heritage

The main entrance to the building is located on the western façade at Plaza del Mercado. It has been said that the sculptures adorning this doorway, among which we can find an image of the Virgin Mary with Jesus in her arms, create the impression of entering a place of worship rather than of business. 

A narrow, stone column divides the doorway into two and each door is covered with a beautifully-decorated metallic plate dating back to 1532.

Angels supporting the coat of arms of the City (1996) by La Lonja de la Seda de ValenciaUNESCO World Heritage

It is very interesting to note the presence of the City of Valencia’s coat of arms on each of the four corners of the building, the high level of detail and workmanship clearly visible. On the south-western side of the building, two sizeable and exquisitely-crafted angels hold a large coat of arms bearing a royal crown.

Door on eastern facade (1996) by La Lonja de la Seda de ValenciaUNESCO World Heritage

Decorative bands of vegetables, palms, laurel, ivy and myrtle bursting out of ornate vases resting on human heads can be found on either side of the door which is situated on the eastern side of the building and which opens out onto Calle de la Lonja.

An image of Majestic Christ, located above this doorway, along with the figures of David and Sampson which can be found above the adjacent windows, are clear examples of biblical symbology.

Coat of arms of the City of Valencia (1996) by La Lonja de la Seda de ValenciaUNESCO World Heritage

On the south-easterly corner of the building, the city’s lozenge-shaped coat of arms can be found looking out over Plaza del Dr. Collado. The inscription on the band around it states that construction of the building officially began on the 5th of February 1483.

Northern door, the Orange Garden (1996) by La Lonja de la Seda de ValenciaUNESCO World Heritage

Opening out into the Orange Garden, which is located within the walls of the building, the northern door features some of the most beautifully-embellished sculptures of the whole building. 

The elliptical archway of the doorway is decorated with acanthus leaves, men, animals and centaurs, amongst other things, with a coat of arms, a flower and a cross located above it.

Entrance to the tower (1996) by La Lonja de la Seda de ValenciaUNESCO World Heritage

The doorway at the entrance to the tower is one of the most interesting doorways of the whole building, not only for the style of the archway that lends it its beauty, but also for the delicacy of the sculptures that adorn it: intricate leaf details, an angel bearing a band inscribed with Ave María and a winged female form with a basilisk at its breast.

Staircase of the tower (1996) by La Lonja de la Seda de ValenciaUNESCO World Heritage

The tower, along with the Hall of Columns, was built between 1482 and 1898, before being extended and having battlements added at a later date. A chapel can be found on the ground floor of the tower, and there are two upper floors which can be reached via a spiral staircase.

Detail of the spiral staircase (1996) by La Lonja de la Seda de ValenciaUNESCO World Heritage

This staircase is most impressive in the sense that it has no central support to which each step is anchored, meaning that support comes from the connection between each step. Records state that the two upper floors were used as a prison for bankrupt merchants.

First floor of the tower (1996) by La Lonja de la Seda de ValenciaUNESCO World Heritage

The flooring of the first floor of the tower is a recreation of the original which was laid with 15th-century glazed tiles from Manises.

Ceiling detail, first floor of the tower (1996) by La Lonja de la Seda de ValenciaUNESCO World Heritage

The ceiling of this room on the first floor features a spherical, sectioned vault.

Chapel (1996) by La Lonja de la Seda de ValenciaUNESCO World Heritage

The chapel is located on the ground floor of the tower and entry is gained via a large doorway above which can be found an image of Jesus. 

The door, which dates back to 1601, was removed from the old City Hall and relocated here in 1902. The chapel measures 7m by 7m and is paved with tiles of black, white and red marble in a star design.

Interior facade of the Pavilion of the Consulate of the Sea (1996) by La Lonja de la Seda de ValenciaUNESCO World Heritage

This pavilion housed the Consulate of the Sea, which was formed in 1283 and governed all maritime and business-related issues, and is made up of four parts: a basement, the ground floor and two upper floors. 

The design of the pavilion started out as Gothic but ended up as Renaissance, and whilst the differences are not always visible on the inside of the building, the two styles are evident on the facades of the building which look out over the Plaza del Mercado and the Orange Garden. Clear differences can also be seen in the architecture of the windows of the ground, first and second floors.

Basement of the Pavilion of the Consulate of the Sea. (1996) by La Lonja de la Seda de ValenciaUNESCO World Heritage

This underground floor, made up of two rooms, occupies the whole of the downstairs of the Pavilion of the Consulate and features a low, vaulted ceiling. 

Access is through a small door located below the stairs which lead up to the first floor. There is also an 18th century gate that was previously a door and which opens onto the Plaza del Mercado.

Hall of the Consulate of Business, Pavilion of the Consulate of the Sea (1996) by La Lonja de la Seda de ValenciaUNESCO World Heritage

Two doors lead into the Hall of the Consulate of Business, one from the Orange Garden, and the other, created in 1546, from the old chapel. The hall has a coffered ceiling formed with wooden supports and large renaissance-style square and hexagonal recessed panels. 

The Orange Garden and stairway to the upper floor of the Pavilion of the Consulate of the Sea (1996) by La Lonja de la Seda de ValenciaUNESCO World Heritage

Access to the first floor of the Pavilion of the Consulate of the Sea is via an external stone staircase which originates in the Orange Garden, around which we can find located the Hall of Columns, the tower and the Pavilion of the Consulate.

Hall of the Consulate of the Sea (1996) by La Lonja de la Seda de ValenciaUNESCO World Heritage

This hall was home to the Tribunal of the Consulate of the Sea and is accessed via the stairway from the Orange Garden.

In 1920, the previous ceiling was replaced with the ceiling that was recovered from the Cambra Daurada of the old City Hall when the rest of the building was destroyed by fire.

Ceiling of the Cambra Daurada (1996) by La Lonja de la Seda de ValenciaUNESCO World Heritage

This ceiling is a first-class medieval work of art, created in the 15th century under the guidance of Juan del Poyo with the collaboration of artists such as Bartolomé Santalínea, Julián Sancho and Antonio Guerau. 

The wood is painted with rich colours and gold and features carvings of, amongst other things, mythological and biblical characters and scenes.

Gargoyles (1996) by La Lonja de la Seda de ValenciaUNESCO World Heritage

Gargoyles portraying a variety of fantastic beasts, monsters, people and eagles are distributed high up around the building. There are 28 gargoyles in total. 

Inscribed on the World Heritage List on the basis of cultural criteria (i) and (iv), La Lonja de Valencia is a masterpiece of late Gothic architecture. It illustrates the power and wealth of a major Mediterranean mercantile city in the 15th and 16th centuries.

Visit La Lonja (1996) by La Lonja de la Seda de ValenciaUNESCO World Heritage

Discover La Lonja

Credits: Story

This exhibit was created by the Ajuntament de València and Visit Valencia: www.visitvalencia.com

More on the La Lonja de la Seda de Valencia and World Heritage: https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/782

Photos: Ajuntament de València, Rafael de Luis and Arturo Zaragozá.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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