It is one of the names that this old castle receives, which of course we will have to climb to enjoy incredible views of the city. From the top you can contemplate the Mediterranean Sea, the beaches and the old city centre, all of the impressive stone mass that sits on the highest rock of Peñíscola, 64 metres.
In the 12th century, the first construction was built by the Muslims, who used it as a fortified post, later it passed into the hands of the Christians.
The Templars occupied it between 1294 and 1307, making modifications to turn it into a castle like those already built in the Holy Land.
The Templar Castle, (another of the names it receives) is an imposing and robust construction that still stands as a sign of the greatness and power of the order.
When the Templar Order was eliminated, the castle remained empty for years, until the arrival of Benedict XIII in Peñíscola. The “Papa Luna” (Pope Moon).
There he installed his seat and stayed during his pontificate from 1411 to 1423 when he died in isolation after the Western Schism.
The castle underwent reforms again to adapt it to the pontifical needs.
But how did Pope Luna get here?
In 1309 the decision was made to move the Holy See from Rome to Avignon, where seven popes will live until 1377, when the Papal See returns to Rome.
As soon as the pope had return to Rome, he died, and this caused a new conclave to be convened in 1378, this time in Rome, with many pressures because the electors wanted a Roman (or at least an Italian) Pope and the other part French; the chosen one is Urban VI, who would carry out reforms and a harsh criticism of the luxurious life of the curia, which is going to unleash conflicts to the point that the Pope loses the support of the cardinals who held a new conclave in September 1378. In this conclave, Clement VII is elected as pope and marks the official beginning of the Western Schism.
We already have two popes, one in Rome and the other living in Avignon, Christendom divided and the two popes excommunicated, since each one excommunicated the other.
The two popes die but far from ending the conflict the related cardinals elect new popes, so in Rome we now have Boniface the IX and in Avignon we have Benedict XIII.
Popes are dying in Rome while Benedict XIII (whose name was Pedro de Luna, hence the nickname) remains in Avignon.
Finally, in 1409, a council was held where the two existing popes were excommunicated and a third was elected. Far from ending the problem, there were now three popes.
After these events, and with the few supports that he had, mostly from the Iberian Peninsula, Benedict XIII decided to settle in Peñíscola in 1411.
The resolution of the schism came after the Council of Constance.
One of the Popes is arrested, the other resigns his position and Benedict, was deposed by the Council as a schismatic and heretic, he never renounced the papacy and died in his castle on May 23, 1423.
Once we know its history it is one more reason to enjoy this fortress castle and its wonderful bird’s eye view.
Ticket Price: 5 euros.
Address: Calle Castillo s/n.
ORANGE JUICE & PASTISSET.
The unique experience of sitting in front of the sea and enjoying a fresh orange juice is priceless!
In Peñíscola, almost everything is done on the way up to the castle, so while we walk, we can make a short stop, take a breath and enjoy a freshly squeezed orange juice with the soft sea breeze caressing our faces.
Thanks to the Mediterranean we have these citrus fruits from Africa that in turn had come from Asia and were spread by the Arabs in Spain.
Initially, the orange trees were for decorative use, many of them located in interior patios, the orange blossoms, known as azahar flower, had the function of perfuming the rooms, since this flower is known for its intense and pleasant aroma.
The name of the flower comes from the Arabic al-azahar, which means white flower, just as it is.
These bitter-tasting orange trees were used in some culinary recipes as condiment, the acid of the fruit helps to soften and flavour meat.
The first reference to the orange trees appears in the work of Alberto Magno, Vegetalibus et plantis from 1250. In it, the orange is called "arangus".
But the sweet orange that we know today, comes from the hand of Vasco da Gama and the trade routes started by the Portuguese, after their navigation around the African continent to the Indian Ocean and finally to India.
In fact, in the beginning it was from Lisbon where most of the oranges for the Iberian Peninsula came from.
So, we are going to try a good orange juice that in this case deserves to be accompanied by the typical sweet, a pastisset.
This kind of pie dipped in sugar is an authentic delicacy of Arab origin. The most common is filled with angel hair, a jam made by caramelizing the strands of the pulp of Cucurbita Ficifolia pumpkin.
But they can also be filled with sweet potato, cottage cheese, apple or whatever we can think of.
During Christmas many families follow the tradition of making them at home, taking these, the aroma of spicy and freshly baked dough.
They are called pastisset de Nadal (Christmas cakes) and generally on those dates they are filled with sweet potato.
We do not recommend any specific place because orange juice & patisset can be found in all the bars, cafes and bakeries of the city.
SHOPPING, MORE SHOPPING!
Peñíscola, is a city dedicated to tourism.
A city that lives of its visitors. Commerce and shopping drive a large part of the city´s economy and are the order of the day.
We could spend a whole day contemplating the thousand and one handicrafts that local vendors propose to us.
From the moment we enter the walled city through the Portal de Sant Pere, built by order of Pope Luna, commerce will be part of our journey.
This place was one of the access points to the castle from the harbour that today has disappeared due to the works to reclaim land from the sea.
As we move through the steep streets of Peñíscola, among the white houses with blue borders on the windows and wrought iron balconies, in addition to losing ourselves in the beauty of this place, we will also get lost among its shops, in winding streets and almost always upwards.
Above all we will discover the local crafts:
Hand painted hand fans; the hand fan, a fashion accessory, beyond its function of moving the air in hot weather, has been used for centuries in order with the way women dress.
Its origin is the East, with antecedents in the Egyptian flabel.
In Spain there are important factories especially in communities such as Valencia and Andalusia.
The first references to the hand fan in Spain are from the 15th century.
At first, they were used by men (smaller), women (larger) and the hand fan came to acquire its own language, a language of seduction to fall in love, to give opportunity or reject it. Language that had to be known if one wanted to know what was happening to the object of his desires.
So, in Peñíscola you will find authentic wonders of original hand fans painted by hand, which will alleviate the effects of heat in the Mediterranean summer or perhaps you want to recover this seductive habit of speaking through this beautiful accessory.
Pottery, a good part of them is dedicated to the sea, in blue tones reminiscent of the Mediterranean, plates, cups and trays with decoration and marine shapes such as shells, starfishes, and fish will not be missing. We will also find hand-painted ceramics, more original and a little higher in price. It all depends on what we want to buy.
And since we do not forget the little ones, for them we will find handmade toys alluding to the Templar history of Peñíscola.
So, you have many streets and shops with a truly original offer
Address: old town
THE SHELLS HOUSE
The house is known by the locals as the house of the les petxines, which means the house of the shells.
The care and dedication with which its owners filled the façade of this house with small shells, shows the absolute love they had for the sea.
The shells are perfectly placed and aligned, fitting together so as not to leave any empty space, it is the baroque of shells!
The most photographed house in Peñíscola belongs to a family that in the 50s, due to the bad economic situation they were going through, Justa, the wife and mother of three children, made the decision to get to know the historical places in depth, to work as the first tourist guide taking advantage of the fact that tourism was beginning to boom and travellers were beginning to arrive to contemplate the city.
With these visits and although the work was only paid for by the voluntary tips of the tourists, extra money would come into the house.
With the income generated they bought that little piece of land, where they built their own house. Instead of having a whitewashed house like the others, they began to cover it with shells, as Justa’s tribute to the sea. Many of them are the result of bartering with local fishermen, exchanging cigarettes for shells.
The house as three floors, with pointed windows and elements that recall that Peñíscola, that the Arabs called Banaskula or Baniskula.
By 1961 the house was finished and its owner, taking advantage of the waves of tourists, opened what would be the first souvenir shop.
This family like many others benefited from the increase in tourism, they went from being a fishing village, to one of the places that receives the greatest number of visits and which is also part of the most beautiful villages in Spain and one of the most beautiful towns in the world, certified by both associations.
So, on our way through the city of Peñíscola, we have to make a mandatory stop at this particular construction and of course take our precious photograph.
Calle Faraones, 11.
El BUFADOR (BLOWHOLE)
Peñíscola is an absolute monument in every rule, each step we take surprises us with a show, with something wonderful that will catch our attention: from the smallest street with its balconies, to the cliffs above the sea, and of course the imposing castle of Pope Luna.
But not all monuments of Peñíscola have been created by the hand of man, in this case the architect, is nature itself that shows us this wonder. The blowhole.
The blowhole is a natural tunnel at the base of the rock that supports the old town, which has been dug in a natural way and through which the water constantly seeps emitting snorts and thunderous noises as well as jets of water that come out of its hole, pending on the state of the sea.
This natural formation sometimes goes unnoticed, because the sea is calm and we can pass by it without realizing that it is there, since in those days it is very quiet.
But on other occasions we will get to discover that rocky hole without realizing it, only guided by its roar that comes out from the bowels of the sea, drawing our attention, or we will see its water elevations splashing all around the environment and many onlookers who come to see the snorting snort.
This formation is about six metres deep in the first part, to later communicate with another ten metres deep that is normally filled with sea water.
It may come to attention that it is more impressive when the sea is stormy and rough, its sound is capable of frightening anyone, and sometimes the Mediterranean comes out with great force soaking everything, the neighbours are already used to it and even enjoy listening to its roar.
Everywhere you look, in Peñíscola we will always find a window to the sea, and this is perhaps the most curious and noisiest window. The noise that comes out of it has served to inspire legends and drive away intruders, to this day, there are those who continue to affirm that the “Bufador” and the roar of him help to avoid unwanted visitors.
Address: Carrer del Bufador, 4
In this section we suggest you eat an animal that we are almost sure you have not tried.
The animal in question is a fish and its scientific name is Holothuroidea, although it is better known as sea cucumber, sea cunt, cucumbers of espadrilles.
Its shape is elongated and soft, at one end is the mouth surrounded by tentacles and at the other end is the anal opening.
Its size is highly variable from one centimetre to three metres.
They are provided with small feet, although only one part has a locomotive function, the other part has a sensitive function.
As you will see, it is very attractive.
It belongs to the family of sea urchins and starfish.
They live in many places but especially in the salty waters of coral reefs between 4 and 400 metres deep. There are about 1,200 apecies, but very few are used for human consumption.
It is a highly appreciated fish in some parts of the world such as Asia where different parts of the sea cucumber are used to make sushi or in some parts of Spain it is used as a shellfish for paella.
And in the Valencian community, especially, it is well known and highly appreciated.
Its fishing is done by divers with a bottle.
To prepare it, you have to cut both ends and remove the tube that surrounds it, so it ois completely white and cylindrical shape.
It can be cooked in a general way like squid; grilled, battered…
It is a delicacy high in vitamins and minerals and low in polyunsaturated fatty acids.
His discovery was important, mainly, for the tables of the Spanish Levante were the humble fishermen, cook discards that they found in their nets. Among them these molluscs that they could not sell in the markets and that they included in their traditional stews and paellas, later they began to cook them like squid and little by little they jumped to the tables of restaurants where they became an authentic delicacy due to their very nice flavour, it is difficult to catch and simple to cook.
So, we hope you enjoy a good sea cucumber.
As is evident when being in Peñíscola we are forced to talk of the most famous person in its history, Pedro Martínez de Luna, Pope Benedict XIII, known to wall as Pope Luna (Moon), which you already know, was declared a heretic, excommunicated and dismissed.
We have a statue of Pope Luna in front of the castle, a work of two metres high and 700kg that was that was made, curiously, by the singer Sergio Blanco, a member of the duo Sergio y Estíbaliz.
The bronze statue represents him in popes’ clothes, dresses in a cape and crown, his face old and friendly.
Born with the full name of Pedro Martínez de Luna y Pérez de Gotor on November 25 in the year 1328, into one of the noblest families of the time, in the Illueca castle located in the province of Zaragoza.
From young age, very intelligent, brilliant and stubborn, he decided to dedicate himself to religious life and of course to politics. His strong influence helped resolve various conflicts in the Crown of Aragon, such as the rise to the throne of Ferdinand I.
You may not know it, but we owe Pope Luna one of the most popular sayings in Spain, his stubbornness was such that, today when a person is very, very stubborn they are told “estar en sus trece” (to be in their thirteen) as a reference to number 13 that is in the name of Pope Benedict.
It is said that this man was correct, just, incapable of accepting a bribe, really a faultless man, but despite all his good qualities, the intrigues of the French King who ended up assuming that Benedict XIII was an insurmountable obstacle to his control of Europe and obviously the stubbornness of the Pope, ended up causing The Schism of the West.
According to some theories, Pedro Pedro Martínez de Luna refused to give in to the whims of the King of France and it was easier to persecute and besiege him than to fight against a Pope of indestructible moral rectitude. Thus, Pope Luna fled Avignon, secluded himself in Barcelona and later moved to Peñíscola at the age of 80, one of the fiercest accusations was maintaining pacts with demons that lived under his chair.
It is said that Pope Luna had in his possession a document, known as the Imperial Codex written by the Emperor Constantine himself.
According to some historians, this document could endanger the Church.
Sit is believed that the document, written on papyrus, was kept in a kind of gold tube.
At the death of Pope Luna, they tried to find him by turning the castle, especially the pontifical library, upside down, but they could never find it.
You already know although he was deposed, Benedictine continued living as a Pope until the end of his life. Let’s say, even though all the adversities and presecutions, he continued “living in his thirteen”.
PEÑÍSCOLA OF CINEMA
On our walk through the historic centre of Peñíscola we will find many locations used by the film production companies that have recorded here, in fact it will be very easy to follow this tour and find the most famous movie sets since many streets, squares and specific places are Signposted with information panels with the relevant data of the productions, the stills of the scene shot, the name of the film and the year of filming.
The old town and the elevation of the castle is the perfect setting to recreate cinematic magic, and let your imagination run wild.
The most glorious and remembered by the inhabitants is “El Cid Campeador”, starring Charlton Heston and the beautiful Sophia Loren in the role of Ximena.
The historical movie with a dramatic and warlike nature was made in 1961 by Anthony Mann, a film that received several Oscar nominations for best soundtrack, best production design and best song. And three Golden Globes, best film, best director and best soundtrack.
But the first film that was shot was Ana Kadova, in 1913, by the director Fructuos Gelabert, a spy film, set in a non-existent kingdom. Today lost.
The next film on the list, still shot in black and white, was Alegría del Batallón, in 1924 by Maximiliano Thous, based on a zarzuela libretto.
Filming was reactivated in the 50s, with films such as:
-La vida es Maravillosa, (Life is Marvellous) in 1955 by Pedro Lazaga.
-Calabuch, in 1.956 by the great Luis García Berlanga, director who repeated the scene with the film París Tombuctú, in 1999.
-Los Corsarios del Caribe, in 1961 by director Eugenio Martin.
-Todos eran culpables, in 1.962, from León Klimovsky.
-Mataharis, in 2007 by the award-winning director Iciar Bollain.
So far you already have a few plans to look out for.
But in recent years series have become very fashionable, so we are going to see that the most acclaimed by the public have also had their stage in Peñíscola.
Three Spanish series:
-El Barco. (Boat)
-El chiringuito de Pepe.(Pepe’s Chiringuito)
-El Ministerio del Tiempo.(The ministry of Time)
And the one that gets all the ovations for the number of people who have seen it around the world, Game of Thrones.
They filmed in the castle gardens, in the parish of Santa Maria, in the lighthouse, the Fosc portal, in the Phillip II ramp, in the Plaza de Armas (Main Square), and in the Paseo de Ronda (Surrounding Walk), on the wall.
Peñíscola also had a Film Festival. Festival that was held for the first time in 1988 and lasted until 2008, which was its last edition due to the high costs for the city council. The festival was characterized by the genre of comedy, and received great personalities from the seventh art. The Calabuch awards bore this name as a tribute to the Valencian-born director Luis García Berlanga and his masterpiece of the same name.
So now, it doesn’t matter which street in the historic centre you want to start your walk, wherever you go you will be on a movie set.
Address: Old Town
THE MEDITERRANEAN AT OUR FEET
One of the best things we can do is stop to contemplate the sea, from almost anywhere in the historic centre of Peñíscola we can see the majestic Mediterranean, its blue, its calm, sometimes its bravery…
The Mediterranean invites us to travel with it, with its history and with its names.
An inland sea that has been part of the history of many civilizations.
The Babylonians called it Upper Sea; from this period, we have a panel with the presence of King Nabucodonosor.
For the Aegean it was The Great Green or The Great Sea as well as for the Jews who drew great trade routes in it.
For the Turks the White Sea, alluding to the West not the colour of the Sea.
For the Greeks a Sea between Lands, MesogeiosThalassa.
Already in ancient times, characters like Homer or Hecateus tried to draw its outline.
The Romans called it the Mare Nostrum, (Our Sea), because it was their main mean of communication and for a time, we could almost say that they had absolute dominance over it.
But the origin of the current name comes from the Latin Medi Terraneum, hance its meaning, sea between lands.
The sea that has brought so many riches to these lands.
That has been and is the economic engine of this city, either by fishing or by tourism that is so attracted to this corner of the Mediterranean.
Well now that we have presented the object of our gazes, the place that seems to most beautiful to contemplate that marvel of the sea, its beaches, and its castle in the background and thus be able to make our break, is the Paseo Maritimo (Maritime Boardwalk) by the North Beach.
There are 5 km of beach with an average width of about 44 metres with golden sand that makes the place even more idyllic.
You have a good stretch of walk and sit on the beach or on the wall of the Paseo Maritimo to contemplate that view or walking a little more you will reach the area of restaurants and bares where you can sit, and feel the Mediterranean on your skin.
Address: Paseo Marítimo, Playa Norte
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