History

Luxury villa sleeping upto six people on the edge of Orba village. Well equipped not a basic holiday villa, with Wi-Fi, air conditioning, private pool, ample garden furniture, shady areas and gas BBQ.

Casa Alegria - Orba

Alicante - Costa Blanca, Spain

History of Orba

 

Historic Beginnings

The recorded history of Orba and district starts with the finding of prehistoric Bronze and Neolithic human and animal remains in the nearby caves of Benidoleig or Las Cuevas des Calaveras (Cave of skulls). Cave finds have been dated up to about 50,000 years old. The 12 skulls discovered in 1768 are thought to be those of early Moors.

 

The area has been subjected to numerous invasions. The original inhabitants, the Iberians, were occupied in turn by the Greeks, the Carthaginians, the Visigoths, the Romans and the Moors.

 

One of the earliest names was Ur-obia (“the place where water at the bottom of the mountain flows”). The Berber tribe Auraba are said to have settled here which seems to have then changed to Awraba and finally today Orba.

 

There are significant Roman remains around Denia, (known to the Romans as Dianium, after Diana goddess of hunting, woodlands and female fertility) but we are not aware of any in Orba itself.

 

Evidence of the occupation by the Moors is still all around Orba. They arrived in the 8th century and brought with them their techniques and skills for maximising the use and conservation of water by terracing hillsides and building watercourses and for their introduction of citrus fruits and rice into Spain. Mining for iron ore took place in Orba in Roman times.

 

The Moors dominated of this part of Spain for about 500 years until the Christians started their protracted takeover. James the First of Aragon was the liberator and he divided the conquered land and granted it to the settlers. In the populous areas some Moors were tolerated (Mudéjares) presumably because of their positive contribution to agriculture and wealth.

 

Then the Moors were required to become Christianised and known as Moriscos. Those who did not yield were systematically driven into the more remote inland mountain areas. The Spanish nobility landlords condoned many Moors remaining because of the income that they provided and there is an old saying that translates to “whoever has Moors has gold”. Some Moors were enslaved. For many years there were repeated raids by Berber Moors from the Mediterranean coast. The last stand of the remaining Moors in this area took place on the Green Horse ridge (Cavall Verd) at the head of the Val de Laguar.

 

Coincidental with the decline of the power of the Moors, agriculture in Spain went into decline in the 14th and 15th centuries. Those Moors still living in the mountains constructed stepped mule paths to link their remote trading communities together. It is a tribute to their skills and labours that these Mozarabic trails still exist today and there are fine examples to be seen near to the village of Benimaurell, above Orba.

 

However the Church in Spain was determined to have Catholic religious unity and the remaining Moors had to go. The final expulsion of the Moors from Valencia region came in 1609 when they were forced to leave via Denia port. Even then it took until 1616 to complete the process. In the Orba valley in 1609 there were 70 “Christian” houses. At the end of 1609 there were none.

 

After repeated appeals to re-populate, in 1611 there came the “Letter of Population” which defined how land would be re-distributed. Migrants from surrounding villages and from Mallorca were brought in to re-establish a viable population and traces of Mallorcan culture are still to be found today in architectural details and food (e.g. ensaimadas).

 

The Moors left their mark not only on the landscape, but on the way that the law operates. Even today, Valencia holds a special open court that rules upon the distribution of water and settles disputes between users, or irrigators, and this operates using the principles laid down in Moorish times.

 

A major outbreak of leprosy in Parcent occurred in 1850 and by 1887 some 20% had the disease. This spread to the nearby villages and towns including Orba in 1873, and although the population of Orba in 1887 was only 160, some 18 people (11%) had the disease.

 

Spain also had high mortality from smallpox amongst children and inoculation with cow-pox was being used to control it. It is thought that the methods used were contributing to the spread of leprosy. The necessity for a hospital was realised and a Commission visited the area to locate a suitable site and one was offered free by the local municipal body.

 

The Fontilles sanatorium opened in 1905 and was founded with Government and Jesuit Church money. This is the only hospital dedicated to leprosy in Europe, (from which it is now effectively eradicated), so work continues to help the rest of the world.

 

Perhaps it is no coincidence that the Font de Dalt (High well) was constructed in 1893 as clean water must have been a major requirement in the control of disease. The Font de Baix (Low well) followed in 1904.

 

Orba still has its own castle, now a ruin, originally built by the Moors before being taken over by the Christians around the 13th century and known locally as the El Castellet.

Orba Church

 

The church (iglesia), situated at the plaza, was built on the site of an old mosque. It is not much to look at from the outside but the inside is a delight.

There were several paintings by local artist Carlos Ruano Llopis added when the church was extended and restored in 1917. Unfortunately the ravages of the Spanish Civil War in 1936 destroyed them all except what is now the altar piece (The prophet Abraham).

 

The bell tower (torre campanario) built earlier, around 1850, is said to have been designed by Toribio Iscar Saez who was also the architect of the unsuccessful dam (known as Isbert’s folly) in the Barranc I’Infern near Fleix, (a village above Orba).

 

The bell gallery is faced with yellow Tosca sandstone and holds 3 bells, La Grosa 108cm 729Kgs east (1917), La Menuda 70cm 198Kgs north (1941) and La Mitjana 90cm 422Kg south (1978). The earlier bells were made by Manual Roses Vidal and La Mitjana by Salvador Manclus both being from Valencia.

 

You will never hear them rung in harmony. The tower also houses the town clock and the bells strike on the quarters and on the hour, which is repeated after a short interval (to confuse the devil or to give you a second chance to count the strikes – take your pick).

 

Orba Ranch (El rancho, Yeguada Pereto)

 

On the outskirts of Orba, on the road beyond the filling station (gasolinera) there is a horse ranch that has been featured several times on British television. Created by Snr. Vicente Pereto as a hobby, it has grown over the last 20 years to become an internationally recognised establishment for the breeding and training of magnificent Spanish Andalusian horses.

 

Not content with just breeding horses, he has recreated history with a Spanish blacksmiths, a carriage museum housing a fine collection of restored and working carriages, as well as impeccable stables and an air-conditioned tack room.