The Cathedral of Valencia has three distinct entrances as it was built over an extended period of time when different architectural styles were in vogue. First came the romanesque Puerta de la Almoina (Alm’s Door), then the gothic Puerta de los Apostoles (Apostle’s Door) and finally, the most recent of them all, the baroque Puerta de los Hierros (Iron Gate Door).
The Puerta de la Almoina has been dwarfed in comparison to the other grander and more elaborate entrances. However, there is more than meets the eye; it is the guardian of these following secrets:
1 MASON’S MARKS
The Puerta de la Almoina is a mystery because there is no real proof as to who actually built it. There are those who believe it was built by craftsmen from Lleida because the Puerta dels Fillols (Fillols Door) of the Old Cathedral of Lleida is strikingly similar. On the other hand, and perhaps the most likely scenario, is that it was built by craftsmen from Huesca because the mason’s marks found on the Puerta de la Almoina have been identified as those found at the Iglesia de San Miguel de Foces in Huesca.
2 THE MYSTERIOUS 7 MARRIED COUPLES
Legend has it that there were 7 married couples from Lleida (Catalonia) who brought 300 maidens to Valencia so that they could marry the soldiers who fought alongside James I of Aragon to reconquer Valencia from the Moors in 1238. The faces of these mysterious couples are carved in stone above the entrance along with the following inscriptions:
|: EN : P: AM NA
: M : SA MULER
|: EN : G : AM NA:
B : SA MULER
|: R : AM NA DO:
LÇA : SA MULER
|: EN : P(ERE): AM NA
: M(ARÍA) : SA MULER
|: EN : G(UILLEM) : AM NA:
B(ERTOMEUA) : SA MULER
|: R(AMOM) : AM NA DO: LÇA : SA MULER|
|Sir Pere and his wife Lady Maria||Sir Guillem and his wife Lady Bertomeua||Sir Ramon and his wife Lady Dolça|
|: BETRÁ : AM NA
BERGRA SA MULR
|: D : AM NA : RA
MONA : SA MUR
|: F : AM NA RA
MONA : SA MULER
|: BE(R)TRÁ(N) : AM NA
BER(EN)G(UE)RA SA MUL(E)R
|: D(OMÈNEC) : AM NA : RA
MONA : SA MU(LE)R
|: F(RANCESC) : AM NA RA
MONA : SA MULER
|Sir Bertran and his wife Lady Berenguera||Sir Domènec and his wife Lady Ramona||Sir Francesc and his wife Lady Ramona|
|: BERNA : AM NA
: FLORETA : SA MUL
|: BERNA(T) : AM NA
: FLORETA : SA MUL(ER)
|Sir Bernat and his wife Lady Floreta|
The truth however has been clouded in mystery and no one really knows who these people were. The most accepted theory is that they were philanthropists who financed the construction of this door. But as always, legends are always far more interesting.
3 THE EXECUTIONER’S AXE MARKS
Medieval Valencia was a dark place where bloodthirsty mobs would cheer executioners on to carry out their gruesome sentences. Most criminals meet their demise at the public gallows located where the Central Market now stands, such is the case of 15th Century Margarida Borràs: click here to find out about her untimely death. However, the area surrounding the cathedral was reserved for the beheading of nobles as it was a more “dignified” way to meet their maker. This could explain why there is a slab of stone on the Puerta de la Almoina that has deep vertical marks where the executioner would have sharpened his blade. Is it another legend? Probably but it sure does make for a more intriguing story, one that may not be that far from the truth.
4 THE SECRET CHALICE
If you look very closely you can just about make out the outline of a chalice and two dates along with another mysterious number: 1830, 1731 & 180 What do these numbers mean? No one knows; it shall forever remain a mystery.
The cup itself is also a conundrum but it most likely refers to the Holy Grail that was kept away from the public eye in the cathedral’s reliquary. Nowadays you can admire the real McCoy at the Chapel of the Holy Grail (Capilla del Santo Cáliz).
5 THE LOST DOOR KNOCKERS
Today there are only two door knockers on the wooden door but there used to be another two below them. The ones that remain are high up because they were used by those who were horseback but the lower ones, used by those on foot, have mysteriously disappeared. However, you can still see the round impressions on the wood where they would have been.
6 THE FORGOTTEN MOSQUE
You may be under the impression that the Islamic heritage of Valencia has been completely stamped out but there is more than meets the eye. Most is so ingrained in Valencia that you might not even associate it with Islamic Valencia. Rice, for example, was brought to Valencia by the Moors and it was cultivated using an irrigation system perfected by them known as acequias. Can you imagine Valencia without rice to make our most famous dish Paella? Unthinkable!
Architecture wise there is nothing that stands out to the eye but this door was, in theory, built on the site of the mihrab of the Great Mosque of Valencia while it was still a mosque. This could explain why the main entrance at that time of the cathedral is on the east instead of the west side where Catholic Church entrances are typically located.
It is also thought that the marble at the base of the columns of this door could have belonged to the mosque because it is in contrast to the rest of the stone used. This rose coloured marble, perhaps even belonging to the mihrab itself, could have been recycled and used as a base. Only God knows.