Valencia Photos of the Month: The Valencian Gate Series – Torres de Quart and ‘El Palleter’

Torres de Quart, the Quart towers, or Portal (gate/door) Quart, (spelled Quart in valenciano, Cuart in español) is one of four grande portals, part of the thirteen gates which circled Valencia city when it was walled between the 14th to 19th centuries. Torres de Quart was named after Calle de Quart, the street which led out towards Castilla in inland Spain. Each of the thirteen gates around the city had its own function, flanked by the four grande portals – Torres de Serranos, the king of the gates (still standing, but I’ll save that one for another day) leading people over the river from the north,  Puerta del Mar which faced the sea in the east, San Vicente in the south (where the bullring now stands), and Torres de Quart was the western main entry to the city, and Valencia’s protector from enemies. And protect Valencia it did.

Built between 1441 and 1460 in a gothic military style, to imitate the Arc de Triomphe in Naples (and later becoming the model for the smaller Portal de Nou on the Turia) after the design held out a huge invasion in the Italian city. Built in strong lime masonry, it has long been nicknamed the lime gate or door to the city, and its curved body helps to protect from anyone scaling its body. The gate sits along the main ring road around the old city of Valencia, where the wall once stood, on Calle de Guillem de Castro, and needs to be constantly maintained due to the car pollution that runs right past this beautiful structure. It is one of only two gates left standing after the great screw-up of 1865 when the city wall was pulled down, due to its unique history and excellent design which resulted in longevity. Because Calle de Quart runs all the way to the heart of the city, by the cathedral, the gate has seen its share of battles.

When the French attempted to invade Valencia during the War of Independence, Valencia was ready to defend itself. On May 23, 1808, as Madrid and other cities had already fallen to the French, a man named Vicente Doménech (nicknamed The Palleter) started a revolution. Valencia decided to take up arms and defend their own city in defense of Spain itself. In Plaza Panses (now Plaza Compañia, behind the mighty La Lonja), as people gathered to read the papers and buy bread, Doménech cried “Yo, Vicent Doménech, un pobre palleter, li declare la guerra a Napoleó. ¡Vixca Ferran VII i mort als traïdors!” (I, Vicent Doménech, poor baker though I may be, hereby declare war on Napoleon. Long live Ferdinand VII, and death to traitors!) 

The French sent around 9,000 soldiers to ‘reclaim’ Valencia, but weren’t ready for the revolution behind the Valencian walls. With 20,000 men in the city, and another 7,000 outside the walls, when battle commenced on June 26, Valencia was able to defend themselves. The first battle took place four miles south from the city gates, and the Spanish were quick to defeat the invaders. The French attacked again on June 27, at the San José gate entrance and at the monstrous Torres de Quart on the west side of the city, which still has the cannonball-hole battle scars today, as she defended her city against the French. After a quick retreat, the French came back on June 28, and attacked Torres de Quart a second time, along with the smaller San José and San Lucia portals on the west side of the city, and were again defeated by the city’s walled and gated defenses lined with soldiers ready to fire. This caused a full retreat as the French moved west back towards Madrid with no success, and the Valencia region never succumbed to the French invasion in Spain. Valencia lost around 300 men, with around 800 more injured, and marked a turning point in the French onslaught. Vicente Doménech,  the leader of the crusade to Valencian independence against the French, was killed before the 28 June victory, although his final fate is disputed, and has a statue in his honour next to Torres de Quart (see photos).

Like her still-standing sister, Torres de Serranos, Torres de Quart also served as a prison, with its arch-way back filled in to house prisoners, most often female prisoners, from 1585 until 1887. Torres de Quart also saw a number of battles in the then-Spanish capital during the Spanish Civil War (see photos), but received very little damage. The gate underwent restoration in the 1950’s, and again in 1976 – 1982, when the top battlements were revived, as damage from the 1808 siege was still evident. The Torres de Quart received over 130 major wounds from the French and most remain. The early 1980’s also saw side stairs replaced for better access and 2007 saw another overhaul for tourists to enter the towers.

Torres de Quart was named a National Monument of Spanish historical heritage in 1931, and is regularly maintained to preserve her beauty. With its strong body still standing tall, anyone can enter the gate for free, Tuesday to Sunday, and is an absolute must-see. While many tourists flock up Torres de Serranos (with good reason), Torres de Quart is just as beautiful and far less crowded.

  Historical photos (collected by Juan Antonio Soler Aces) Click on the images to open slideshow.

Modern photographs –

Vicent Doménech ‘El Palleter’ –

El Palleter’s great speech was immortalised by the incredible Valencian artist Joaquín Sorolla y Bastida. (Artwork from Wikipedia). Behind the statue is the only surviving piece of the Valencian Wall, impressive yet tiny.

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