Last October, during the ‘Unesco Paris’, it was decided that Valencia would become the ‘Silk City’ in 2016, truly an honour which will show the world the silk traditions of Valencia in its capital Turia. “This initiative, backed by the citizens and Valencian institutes, hopes to bring together cities through both culture and marketing.” as stated by its organizers. But what does silk represent for the Comunitat Valenciana? It is true this material has been present in Spain far before being discovered by Marco Polo?
Although the Integral Study Program for the Silk Roads was established in 1987 and formalized in 1994 by ministers of over a dozen countries, neither Valencia nor any Spanish city were present, ignoring an important silk legacy. Thanks to the university of Valencia and the Unesco Valencia centre, Spain now occupies its place of honour amongst the 32 nations elected by the silk road Committee; if that wasn’t enough, Valencia will be the protagonist this year – A perfect way to recapture the spirit that characterized this journey 2,300 years ago, as stated by Jose Manual Garcia Margall.
2016 marks a very special date for Valencia, considering it’s the anniversary of both the Lonja and the Colegio del Arte Mayor de la Seda. Whilst the first celebrates its 20th anniversary since it was declared a World Heritage Site by Unesco, the latter will celebrate its 35th anniversary as a National Historic Monument – A year that will remain engraved in the memory of this generation.
Valencia and Silk – Surprising History
Historians will always immortalize Marco Polo as the great discoverer of spices and other wonders of Asia, such as silk. This material is one of the leaders of the ancient trade routes passing through Persia, Tajikistan, Syria, Uzbekistan and Alexandria, as well as many overs, spanning a total of 5000 kilometres which are now trodden by both tourists and adventurers alike. But is it possible this material was to be found in European countries almost half a century before establishing the commercial routes in China and Mongolia? What if one of these were Valencia?
There’s written evidence of the contact between Rome and western nations with Asia, but nobody expected that the capital Turia would account for a very prosperous silk industry during medieval times, 600 years before it would come in all its glory to this continent. It was the Arabs, possessing not only a sensational culture and architecture, who would bring to the Levantine coasts one of the most coveted materials in the world.
Valencia, The City of Silk – A New Tourist Attraction
Since 2014, the Colegio de Arte Mayor de la Seda, one of the most symbolic Valencian architectures, has been converted to the Museo de La Seda, thanks to the insistence of the Fundacion Hortensia Herrero. In 2016, it will open its doors and add yet another tourist attraction in Valencia alongside the Castillo de Santa Barbara, the Bioparc and the Jardines del Turia; Not forgetting of course, its culinary delights such as the Valenciana Paella and sports events such as the Gran Premio de Valencia and Volvo Ocean Race.
Valencia is now represented amongst the many other cities that make up the Silk road, a true recognition by Unesco, putting its many heritage treasures in the international spotlight, giving you even more reasons to discovery this beautiful city.