The Iglesia y Torre de Santa Catalina or in English ‘Santa Catalina Church and Tower’ is also known as the Templo de Santa Catalina Martír and is located next to Plaza de la Reina. This church has a lot of history; the style has changed multiple times and the tower was build later.
Conquest of Valencia by Jaime l
Jaime l conquered Valencia with his army in 1238 and his purpose was to restructure the city. He did this by dividing the city in ten parishes. And so one part of the city belonged to the parish Santa Catalina. After Jaime I defeated the Moors the dividing begun. It had multiple purposes. One of them was that the habitants changed religion to Christianity; another purpose was to organize the city. Also administration and politics improved because of the dividing. The Valencian government consisted of representatives that were elected by the parishes at that time.
Back in the days the cemetery of the Santa Catalina church was located nearby Mercado Central, at Calle de San Fernando. You can find the cemetery on the map of Padre Tosca (one of the first maps of Valencia) in 1704, but in the 19th century the cemetery disappeared.
You might think,“What has hygiene control to do with a church?” Actually not that much, except that there was a functionary of the government in front of the church entrance for years, who kept an eye on the hygiene of product trade at the market. Besides, he checked the weight and size of the products.
Almost at the top of the building you see three stone rings, which were used for the flag of the tribunal. Do not forget that there were huge commercial crowds at Plaza Redonda (butchers and fishmongers) and a little further at Lonja de los Mercaderes, also known as the purse of merchants.
History of Iglesia y Torre de Santa Catalina
The Iglesia de Santa Catalina was built in the 13th century and is located nearby the cathedral of Valencia. Before the church was built here, there was a mosque. The new church was built in classic Renaissance style, until something bad happened. In 1548 there was a fire in the church and therefore a huge part of the church was destroyed. The destroyed part was rebuilt in 1785 in a baroque style.
Before rebuilding the church, the bell tower was built (between 1688 en 1705). The clocks were produced in London in 1729 and in 1914 the clocks were placed on the tower. The tower is 56.12 meters high and is designed by Juan Bautista Viñes (whose name is engraved in a tombstone). It is a beautiful tower and for sure worth to look at. The tower is hexagonal, has five floors and at the top you see a small dome. Besides, this church has always been the ‘entrance’ to the neighbourhoodMercat. The bell tower of Santa Catalina can be considered as one of the most original baroque towers of the Spanish architecture.
Unfortunately, the church had to deal with another huge destroying. The Iglesia de Santa Catalina was attacked and burned by Republican militias (citizens with military duties). The church was totally destroyed. Luckily the church was rebuilt in the 50’s. The church got its baroque style back with this rebuilding.
The inside of the church
The church consists of three ‘domes’ and each of which consists of seven parts. Ribbed arches form the seven parts. These seven parts consist of stained glass windows. Unlike other Valencian Gothic churches the Santa Catalina has a choir aisle, which is a ‘rank’ outside the central part of the church. It is also the only Valencian Gothic church with a large round stained glass in the head of the church. In addition, the Santa Catalina has many French influences.
The light in the church comes through the many stained glass windows that the church has. In total there are seventeen windows; five in the dome and on both sides in the middle part six (so twelve in total). You can see Christian saints at these windows. All stained glass windows were made between 1966 and 1968 in Barcelona.
Visit the Iglesia y Torre de Santa Catalina
Plaza Lope de Vega (nearby Plaza de la Reina)
Monday to Sunday: 10.30-14.30 and 17.30-19.30
The church: free access
The tower: €2,00 (€1,00 for kids)
The church is located nearby La Plaza de la Reina. There are dozens of restaurants, bars and shops. Shop for example at ALE-HOP or Natura or eat delicious tapas in one of the tapas bars. For a good beer you can go to the Irish pub, also at Plaza de la Reina.
Across the church you find the oldest horchaterías of Valencia. Horchata is a typical Valencian drink. It is a milky drink, made of earth almonds (also called tiger nuts), water and sugar. You get the best horchata at Horchata de Santa Catalina.
Horchata de Santa Catalina
Horchata is a delicious refreshing drink for the warm summer months in Valencia. Besides horchata they also sell fartons (typical Valencian sweets rolls), churros and buñuelos (a kind of donuts).
Plaza Santa Catalina
Monday until Sunday: 8.15-19.30