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Cartagena and Orihuela, the old Visigothic centres,
declined, and Murcia, practically a Mohammedan
foundation, took their place. The city rivalled Toledo
and Cordova as a manufactory of arms and munitions
of war. It underwent the usual vicissitudes of Moorish
states, forming now part of one kingdom, now of
another, at times independent, more often subject to
Valencia, Granada, or Cordova. Finally, in 1243, Abu
Bekr, the titular amir of Murcia, acknowledged the
suzerainty of Castile, only to repudiate it in 1252.
The war lasted some time, but the desertion of Al
Ahmar of Granada left Abu Bekr at the mercy of the
Christians. Murcia was taken in 1266 by Don Jaime
of Aragon, who immediately handed over his conquest
to his son-in-law, Alfonso of Castile. The step, though
probably not dictated by motives of policy, was a wise
one, for it left a sort of buffer state between Aragon
and Granada, and preserved the frontiers of the former
kingdom from molestation by the Moors for the next
two centuries.


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The town of Murcia has completely rid itself
of all outward evidences of its erstwhile subjection
to Islam. Gone is the Alcazar, where the amirs
mimicked the state of Cordova and Toledo, gone is the
wall which kept the Christian out, gone is the mosque
wherein thousands of turbaned heads were bowed daily
towards Mecca. Yet in the narrow dark streets like
the Sierpes of Seville, across which awnings are
stretched, we might recognize something of the East,
were not such thoroughfares equally characteristic of
the Christian South. The Calles de la Traperia and de
la Plateria, however, irresistibly recall Smyrna. They
lead into one of those dazzling white, dusty squares
which every Southern and Eastern city boasts, and
which is always named in Spain after the Constitution,
in Italy after Victor Emmanuel, and in France after the
Republic. Murcia is hotter than Seville, and the
passage of this plaza between eleven in the forenoon
and five in the afternoon requires the courage of a
Mutius Scaevola. In the evening you may join the
citizens in their promenade upon the Malecon, which
affords a charming view of the rich " huerta " or vale
of the Segura. This is described by Mr. Brunhes as "an
admirable zone of model agricultural establishments.
The soil is levelled and prepared for irrigation with
geometrical precision. To each particular crop corre-
sponds a design with little shelving beds of special
forms." Not an inch of ground is wasted ; on the
summit of the slopes, for instance, sweet potatoes are



The Kingdom of Murcia

planted at regular intervals. The cereals and vegetables
are tended with special care, almost individually. The
melons are protected by coverings. No one can visit
the environs of Murcia without being impressed by
the extraordinary industry and thriftiness of its people.
And field labour in this climate must be arduous in the
extreme. But no doubt the mythical "dolce far niente"
Spaniard will continue for many years to haunt the
back streets of literature in company with the big-
toothed English girl, her red-whiskered parent, and
other creations of ignorance and prejudice.

Murcia cannot be called an interesting town. It has
only one " sight " — and that not of first-class interest —
the Cathedral. This occupies, as usual, the site of the
mosque, and dates in its oldest part from 1368. The
west front was restored in the seventeenth century,
fortunately before the decay of Spanish art had become
too conspicuous. The interior produces a good effect,
though robbed of much of its interest by a fire some
sixty years ago. The choir stalls are good, as they
generally are in this country of clever wood-carvers, and
came from a suppressed monastery in the neighbour-
hood. The reredos is modern and poor. With a
glance at the urn containing the internal organs of
Alfonso the Learned, we pass on to the beautiful and
interesting Junteron Chapel. This was founded in
1 5 1 5 by the Archdeacon of Lorca, Don Gil Junteron,
and is in the most exuberant Renaissance style. It is
astonishing that where the figures and designs are so


Southern Spain

numerous, so intermingled, and so complicated, each
should be sculptured with such exquisite skill and
correctness. The Velez Chapel is a little earlier, and
was evidently modelled on the Constable's Chapel at
Burgos. The style, as might be expected, reminds
one also of the Chapel Royal at Granada. Parts of it,
says Don Rodrigo Amador de los Rios, evidence the
painful caprices and aberrations which announce the
death agony of a powerful art in its decline. It would
be dangerous to express such an opinion in Murcia,
where the chapel is accounted the eighth and greatest
wonder of the world. In somewhat more restrained
terms the sacristan will call your attention to the
panelling and lockers in the Sacristy, which occupies
the centre of the graceful steeple, and certainly deserves
the epithet of sumptuous, so liberally bestowed in Spain.
Much older than Murcia, Cartagena has preserved
even fewer monuments of antiquity, though it has not
lost the military character first impressed upon it by
its founder Hasdrubal. For this is the first arsenal of
Spain, and perhaps its strongest fortress. Its splendid
sheltered harbour is defended by powerful forts and
formidable batteries. Their fire has not always been
directed upon the enemies of Spain. For many months
in the year 1873 over them waved the red flag of the
"Intransigentes," the extreme communistic republicans,
who, simultaneously with the Carlists of the north,
threatened ruin to Castelar's government at Madrid.
The acquisition of the great national arsenal without



The Kingdom of Murcia

firing a shot was, of course, of the utmost advantage to
these determined revolutionaries. They disposed of
583 pieces of ordnance, including twenty-eight Krupp
guns, with 180,000 shells and 4,332 quintals of powder.
In addition they were supported by the ironclad
frigates Numancia, Vittoria, Tetuan, and Mendez
Nunez. The garrison, in addition to the enthusiastic
population, included several revolted battalions of
regular troops under the command of General
Contreras. The communist Junta was presided over
by Don Antonio Galvez.

Against this terrible stronghold of the revolution.
Genera] Martinez Campos advanced with an army from
Madrid with orders to reduce the place with the
utmost despatch. This was easier said than done.
Supplies were lacking ; the advantage in artillery lay
entirely with the besieged. The Carlists effected
diversions in favour of the Intransigentes — an odd
coalition. Meantime, three of the revolutionary vessels
were seized by the Prussian squadron as pirates — an
utterly unjustifiable interference with the domestic
affairs of another State. We might as reasonably have
seized the vessels of the Confederate States in 1864.
The Prussians and Italians exacted, moreover, a war
indemnity of 50,000 pesetas from the Cantonal Junta,
which body became a prey to internal dissensions. One
of its members was assassinated. Taking advantage of
these embarrassments of the besieged, the republican
troops redoubled their efforts. Senor Castelar came


Southern Spain

down from Madrid to assume the supreme command,
and Martinez Campos was superseded by General
Lopez Dominguez. An incessant bombardment was
kept up, the besieged responding shell by shell. In
January the frigate Tetuan was burnt to the water's
edge, and a day or two later the explosion of the gun
park destroyed hundreds of the garrison. The end
was near. The city had for half a year defied almost
the whole kingdom, and withstood the covert attacks
of foreign Powers. Among the revolutionaries were
men who burned to emulate the Numantians, and to
make of themselves, the whole population, and the
city, one vast blazing hecatomb. Before this desperate
resolution could be executed, the Government troops
forced their way into wretched, blood-drenched Carta-
gena. Galvez, Contreras, and the leaders of the
cantonal movement escaped by sea in the ironclad
Numancia, which far exceeded the Government vessels
in speed, and took refuge in Algeria. Thus collapsed
a movement which was, after the Commune of Paris,
the most determined organized attempt ever made to
subvert the existing constitution of European society.

I have given at some length this chapter in the
history of Cartagena, partly because the town has little
interest in itself, and partly because these events, though
so recent and so significant, are never so much as
alluded to by most writers of travel books. Out of so
much evil good came at last, for these wellnigh fatal
disorders opened the eyes of the Spaniards to the



The Kingdom of Murcia

instability of the Madrid Government, and formed the
prelude to the reign of peace inaugurated by the
accession to the throne of King Alfonso XII.

Apart from its historical associations, Murcia repays
the attention of the traveller less than any other
province of Spain. Fortunately, almost the only
places of interest it contains — the ones I have men-
tioned — lie on or close to the direct route from
Granada into the old kingdom of Valencia.




The southernmost position of the ancient kingdom
of Valencia belongs geographically and historically to
Murcia. The huerta in which Orihuela stands is a
continuation of the huerta of Murcia, and in the town
itself we recognize the Aurariola which was the capital
of the latter kingdom. I did not stop at Orihuela, but
I understand that it remains distinct from all other
towns in Valencia, in that its people speak pure
Castilian. For that variety of the Romance tongue
which I may denominate Catalan is spoken with local
modifications all along the eastern coast of Spain, from
the mouth of the Segura to the frontier of Rousillon.
It is not, of course, a mere dialect of Castilian. It is a
distinct language, believed by most authorities to have
been the language of those Romanized Spaniards who
were driven north of the Pyrenees by the Arabic
invasion, and who reintroduced it on their reconquest
of this portion of their old territory. Before Valencia
was recovered by James I. of Aragon — Jaime lo Con-
queridor — the Christians of the province probably



In the Old Kingdom of Valencia

spoke Castilian or a tongue akin to it. Catalan was
simply the language of the new rulers, which the people
soon acquired. In the province of Aragon itself
Catalan, or Limousin as some call it, was never spoken.
This circumstance no doubt powerfully contributed to
the adoption of Castilian, in preference to the sister
tongue, upon the unification of the two kingdoms.
But for some reason unknown to us — unless it was
merely the proximity of Murcia — Orihuela resisted the
Catalanizing influence of its conqueror,

Elche, our first stopping-place, famous in its way, is
very often described and compared to half-a-dozen
localities in Asia and Africa. I also will venture on a
comparison, and say that from certain points of view it
reminded me of Ismailia. It is completely surrounded
by magnificent date-palms, the number of which a
French author estimates at 80,000. In the shade of
the avenues formed by these majestic trees flourish the
laurel, the rose, and the geranium ; beyond extend
crops of lucerne and wheat, watered by the carefully
regulated Vinalapo. For all the shade dispersed by
the palms, Elche merits its sobriquet, " the frying-pan " !
The temperature completes the resemblance with Africa.
From the summit of the hill on which it is built, the
town is seen to be situated in a real oasis. Beyond the
outer ring of cultivation extends a desert as white and
as saline as that which borders the Suez Canal. The
eye rests lovingly on the not far distant sea.

Elche makes an agreeable impression on most


Southern Spain

travellers. Gustave Dor6 has left us his impressions
of it — over-imaginative as usual. Mr. Frank Barrett,
that entertaining novelist, introduces the town into
English fiction. In Spain it is not more celebrated for
its palms (which are exported for religious uses) than
for its Passion or Mystery Play, the only one of the
kind in the kingdom. This institution is explained by
the following legend. On the night of December 29,
1370, a mounted coastguard named Francisco Cant6,
while patrolling the shore, encountered a man seated
on a huge coffer. This stranger entreated the guard
to carry his burden to Elche, and to deposit it at
the first house where he saw a light, and having
obtained his reluctant consent, abruptly disappeared.
Canto, in accordance with the mysterious man's in-
structions, left the chest at the Hermitage of San
Sebastian. On opening it, it was found to contain an
image of the Virgin and the words and music of the
play as now performed. The image was regarded as
miraculous, and resisted all attempts to remove it from
the hermitage. It was not my good fortune to see the
play, which takes place every year in the Iglesia Mayor,
transformed for the purpose into a theatre. The
representation lasts two days, the subject being the
Assumption of the Virgin. The words, in the old
Valencian dialect, are wedded to old Gregorian music.
I understand that with a naivete characteristic of
medieval institutions, the Supreme Being Himself is
personified on the stage.


In the Old Kingdom of Valencia

A spectacle equally curious but not so picturesque
is the daily sale of water, which takes place here as at
Lorca, but with official calm and with none of the
excitement to be remarked at the latter place.

From this sweltering climate we hasten to the sea-
shore, where at rare intervals a refreshing breeze may
be felt. Alicante, the second town in the kingdom of
Valencia, is modern, commercial, and thriving. The
land-locked harbour is bordered by broad white quays,
glistering in the sun's rays, with heaps of tarry cordage,
and canvas distilling characteristically marine odours.
Trains of mules pass by dragging enormous loads of
oranges. In the harbour women are busy loading an
English craft which flies the Blue Peter ; they swarm
up and down the side like ants, or rather like the
colliers so familiar to passengers through the Suez
Canal. The background to this scene of light and
animation is formed by the enormous rock, comparable
to Gibraltar, which is crowned by the ancient castle of
Santa Barbara — so called after the saint on whose
festival, in the year 1248, it was taken by the Castilians.
Four years later it was stormed by the Aragonese,
King Alfonso the Battler being the third to enter the
fortress. The Castilian governor, with his sword in
one hand and his keys in the other, fell pierced with
wounds at the conqueror's feet. The possession of the
town, as of Orihuela, was afterwards confirmed to
Aragon by treaty.

Alicante is resorted to for sea-bathing during the


Southern Spain

summer. The water, I am told, is then lukewarm —
hot enough, according to one account, to shave with !
The thought of the place in August makes the
Northerner reach for a cooling drink. But I am
assured that the heat is tempered by refreshing
breezes from the sea, and that in the long shadow of
the castle rock delicious evenings may be enjoyed.

So we journey northward. The country reveals the
results of the most systematic and intensive culture.
We are told that the Valencians are lazy, but if so it
must be because the most cleverly devised schemes of
irrigation and cultivation have set them free of labour.

The province of Alicante — the southernmost of the
three into which the ancient kino^dom is divided —
contains several important towns. There is the beau-
tifully-named Villajoyosa, Benidorm — so Proven9al in
sound — and Alcoy, a busy, industrial centre, situated
in a blooming orchard country. Here is celebrated
every April the festival of St. George, when a sort of
sham fight takes place between peasants arrayed res-
pectively as Moors and Christians. From Alcoy a
short line runs to Gandia on the coast, the cradle of the
famous house of Borgia.

Every town and village in this thickly peopled
region has its historical memories. Villena recalls the
famous family to which it gave the title of marquis ;
Jativa, a desperate struggle during the War of the
Spanish Succession, in which much English blood was
spilled. This latter town was the birthplace of Ribera,



In the Old Kingdom of Valencia

and, as some say, of Alexander Borgia. It is situated
in a country which might be described as a veritable
Mahomet's paradise. The cottages in the neighbour-
hood are almost suffocated by the palm and orange
trees. Beneath the golden fruit we find our way to
the castle, or rather castles — the new and the old —
built side by side upon a hill. Part of the fabric dates
from the time of the Moors. Later, the stronghold
served as a state prison. Within its walls languished
and died the unhappy Count of Urgel, a pretender to
the throne of Aragon, and here passed a ten years'
captivity (1512-22) the Duke of Calabria, the rightful
heir to the throne of Naples, to leave his prison on
his appointment to the viceroyalty of the fair province
he surveyed from its windows !

The custodian of the castle shows the usual under-
ground chambers, which may have been, as he alleges,
dungeons, but were quite as likely (as they generally
were with us) store-rooms and wine cellars.

At Alcira we cross the Jucar, after the Ebro the most
important Spanish river running into the Mediterranean
Sea. It rises within a few miles of the source of the
Tagus, in the Montes Universales, on the borders of
Aragon and New Castile, and flows south through
the plains of La Mancha till it enters the province of
Albacete, when it takes an easterly course. In the
same province of Valencia it has excavated some
magnificent gorges. It is indeed a strong, impetuous
stream, bursting its banks again and again and levying


Southern Spain

a heavy tribute on the surrounding country. Each
time it makes for itself a new channel, sweeping away
whole villages. The village of Alcocer stood on its
banks, near its confluence with the Albaida. After
countless harvests had been devastated and inestimable
damage to some extent repaired, the two streams
swelled with fury and in one day reduced a vast extent
of country to a flat stretch of mud. Then, by another
shifting of its bed, the terrible Jucar laid bare the
foundations of the homes it had ruined. There is no
security of tenure within its valley ! Where your
house stands to-day, ships may ride to-morrow. Yet
here as everywhere else along the prolific shore, the
waters form the great source of wealth, fertilizing vast
rice-fields and heavy-laden orchards. The marshy and
unhealthy lagoon of the Albufera, from which one of
Napoleon's marshals took his title, is being gradually
filled up by the debris brought down from the
mountains by the rivers, and will ultimately form a
" huerta " of untold fertility. Meanwhile every effort
is made to encourage the afforesting of the rugged
hill-sides, in order to check the violence of the floods
and the denuding of the arid, desiccated soil. As a
result of these wise measures, the kingdom of Valencia
will within a short period become one of the two or
three richest agricultural districts in all Europe.

The history of the land is that of its capital.
Valencia is first mentioned as having been granted by
the consul Junius Brutus to the warriors of Viriathus




In the Old Kingdom of Valencia

upon the death of their chief, and their consequent
surrender. The history of few Roman colonies, as it
has reached us, is of interest. The province had the
usual martyrs under the persecutions of Diocletian and
Decius, and was the place of banishment of the zealot
Ermengild. It remained under the Moorish yoke for
over five hundred years, at one time forming part of
the khalifate, at other times constituting one or more
petty kingdoms.

Don Teodoro Llorente speaks of " The slave kings "
of Valencia, and thus describes the rulers of uncertain
and various origin who, like the Janissaries of Turkey,
had begun as slaves in the palace of the khalifa and won
power for themselves with their swords. One of these
princes added the Balearic Isles to his realms, and
unsuccessfully attempted the conquest of Sardinia.

The kingdom thus founded by military adventurers
was overthrown by the most famous of that warlike

The history of the events which brought about the
conquest of Valencia by the Cid is extremely complex.
The king or amir, Kadir, was the puppet of the rival
powers which aspired to the possession of his dominions,
and was alternately upheld on his tottering throne by
one and the other. Weary of this dishonourable
tutelage, the people arose under the leadership of Ibn
Jahhaf. Kadir fled disguised as a woman, but was
detected and beheaded. That strange anomaly, a
Mohammedan republic, was formed. In other words,

193 25

Southern Spain

Valencia was governed by an assembly of notables
called the Al Jama, of which Ibn Jahhaf was the

The people which arrogates the right to choose its
ruler has ever been considered a sort of pirate among
the nations, and fair game for more powerful states,
Kadir at the moment of his deposition had been nomin-
ally under the protection of the Cid. That redoubtable
warrior, under the pretext of avenging his protege's
death, advanced on Valencia. The Almoravides came
to his assistance, but precipitately retired. Distrusting
these allies almost as much as the Christians, Ibn
Jahhaf amused the Cid with negotiations, but mean-
while made preparations for defence. He became the
special object of the famous warrior's hatred, and when
the city fell, was burnt to death at the stake before the
eyes of his horrified countrymen. The Cid now ruled
Valencia as absolute lord and despot till his death, five
years later, in 1097. The legend need not be related
here, how his wife defended the city for two years after
his death, and finally, setting his corpse fully armed
upon his warhorse, won a victory over the terrified
Moors and thus took him to his last resting-place at

Valencia was not finally wrested from the yoke of
Islam till the memorable 28th of September, 1238,
when the standard of the victorious Jaime I. of Aragon
was hoisted over the tower of Ali Bufat. In the
history of Aragon the conquest ranks with the taking



In the Old Kingdom of Valencia

of Seville in the history of Castile. Granada was the
joint conquest of both kingdoms. It is curious to
compare the ready submission of the Moors, and their
surrender of whole kingdoms to the Christians, some-
times as the result of a single battle, with the tenacious
resistance offered by their descendants in Algeria in
modern times. Enervated by the climate of Spain, the
Mussulmans of that country were absolutely incapable
of maintaining a prolonged guerrilla warfare. If a
fortified capital was taken they at once handed over
the whole kingdom to the conqueror. They were not,
of course, peculiar in this respect. The sentiment of
nationality and physical courage are characteristic far
more of the modern than of the ancient world. We
have only to compare the resistance of the Anglo-
Saxons to the Normans with that of the Boers to the
British, of the French in the Hundred Years' War
with that of their descendants in 1 8 7 1 , to realize how
much more of manliness and endurance we possess
than did our ancestors. We must go back to the days
of Leonidas and Regulus to find parallels for the
exploits of our own Indian army ; to Numantia and
Saguntum for parallels to Saragossa and Gerona.
National and individual self-respect withered under
feudalism, and revived only on the introduction of
free institutions.

Valencia to-day, as befits the capital of a rich, pros-
perous province, is a handsome, modern progressive
city. There is little or nothing about to remind one


Southern Spain

of its erstwhile masters, the Moors, and it has not
retained more monuments of its past than most other
cities. Interesting it is not from the sightseer's point
of view, nor convenient from a stranger's, since indica-
tions of the names of the streets are few and far between.

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