When visiting Valencia, you’d be well advised to visit the Lonja de la Seda – the Silk Exchange. This main monument of the city, and masterpiece of civil Gothic architecture, is located close to the Central Market, which I wrote about yesterday, see this link: Me Gusta Valencia, Mercado Central
Where the Silk Exchange stands, there was a previous Exchange from the 14th century, the Oil Exchange, or in Spanish: Lonja del Aceite. The Oil Exchange was not only used for trading with agricultural oils, but for all kind of business.
Valencia’s commercial prosperity reached its peak during the 15th century, and led to the construction of a new building. The City Council purchased 25 houses for demolition, and construction of the Silk Exchange commenced a year later, in 1482. Pere Compte was the man behind the project, but he unfortunately did not live to see his building completed. Several master builders continued to work on the building, and it was finished in 1548.
“The site is of outstanding universal value as it is a wholly exceptional example of a secular building in late Gothic style, which dramatically illustrates the power and wealth of one of the great Mediterranean mercantile cities.” – is why the UNESCO considered it as a World Heritage Site in 1996.
The building resembles old Medieval Castles with its rigid appearance of a stone walled fortress. It comprises three distinct buildings and a garden – the Courtyard of the Orange Trees: In the Contract Hall with the beautiful columns is where the deals were struck, the Chapel of the Immaculate Conception, and the Consulado del Mar (Consulate of the Sea) in Renaissance style – where maritime and trade affairs were taken care of. There are a lot of decorative features, including 28 Gothic gargoyles on the top of the building, whose practical purpose is to collect rainwater from the roof. There are allegorical figures, fantastic, monstrous or satirical, and their enigmatic symbolism has been widely debated throughout the years – and still are.
Check up the opening hours before you visit this magnificent building, as they do close for siesta.