HISTORY AND CHARACTERS
The history of this building is marked by those who were its consecutive owners: the House of Aragon, the Borgia family, the count of Benavente and finally the Osuna family. The decay of the latter will eventually lead to the acquisition of the palace by the Society of Jesus in 1890 which will take care of its restoration and maintenance, emphasizing the character of Saint Francis Borgia as the fourth duke of Gandia and the third Father General of the Society of Jesus.
The story of the palace begins in 1239 when Jaime I conquers the Bayren territory. From this moment on the territory will become part of the royal heritage of the Kingdome of Aragon. The Muslim population until then scattered in farmhouses was now unified under Christian dominion in various centres of population, among which the town of Gandia. In the year 1323 Gandia became the dominion ruled by Pere de Ribagorça, son of the king James II and reached its height during the formation of the royal duchy of Gandia.
This was the first time that someone who was not the king’s son was appointed duke. Alfonso de Aragón, who was Marquis of Denia, Marquis of Villena, Count of Ribagorça, Duke of Gandia, Constable of Castilla, carried out important ventures in Gandia during his dukedom such as the enlargement of the palace and of the Santa Maria church. Outside the walls of Gandia he built the monastery Sant Jeroni de Cotalba. During this time many artists, writers and poets such as Ausiàs March and Joan Martorell frequented the palace.
Alfonso el Vell died in 1412 and after the short succession of his son, Alfonso el Joven, the duchy of Gandia went back to the royal dynasty in 1425. Later, in 1470, Juan II mortgaged Gandia to the city of Valencia in order to obtain economic resources that could finance the cost of the Catalan civil war. Without its dukes, the town of Gandia and its court slipped into decay coinciding with the exodus of its most important families (The Vic, Vilarig, Marc, Martorell, Roís de Corella, etc.) to Valencia which at that time was living its golden age under the reign of Alfonso V el Magnánimo. The territory of the old duchy of Gandia, fragmented into small seigneurial jurisdictions, was undergoing a process of depopulation and debt that the creation of the new duchy of Gandia was going to recreate.
With the formation of the new duchy in 1485 Gandia knew a long period of splendour. The interest of Rodrigo de Borgia in this little domain was justified: the town had a great history behind which went back to the Catalan-conquest and had a thriving business based on the production and trade of the sugar cane. Rodrigo de Borgia planned thus the future of his heirs by approaching them to the nobility from Valencia and strengthening their ties with the royalty. Pedro Luís de Borgia, Rodrigo de Borgia’s first son, paid 120.000 sueldos to become the first Duke of Gandia. After Pedro Luís’ death in 1488, his stepbrother Juan inherited the duchy. He will marry María Enríquez who initially had been promised to Pedro Luís. Thus, the marriage supposed the union between the Borgia family and the Castilian-Aragonese dynasty. In 1497 the Duke Juan de Borgia was murdered. A new era for the city and the Borgias began with the regency of María Enríquez which ran until 1511. With the complicity of her cousin Ferdinand the Catholic, the Borgias from Gandia strengthened their relationship with the royal court and became more and more independent from their relatives in Rome, even though the connection between the two sides of the Mediterranean kept existing.
The successive dukes of Gandia always needed the support of the Crown in order to keep their possessions. At the same time the Crown needed loans from them and entrust them with political and diplomatic missions. The relationship became one of loyalty and mutual interest and would convert the dukes of Gandia into one of the most influential families of the Spanish nobility. The connection with the Castilian Court is re-established with the help of the third duke of Gandia, Juan, who will collaborate militarily and economically with the emperor Charles in the “Germanías” war. The territory of Gandia became thus a battlefield and in 1521 the duke is defeated by the army of Vicent Peris, who attacked the palace and burned its famous archives.
The importance of Saint Francis Borgia in the evolution of the duchy was marked by three transcendental aspects in the life of the saint duke. It should be noted in the first place the relevance of his going to the Court, sent by his father in February 1528 and without having reached 18 years of age, as a new family strategy. Not of less importance was the manner in which he ruled his duchy during the years of decay (caused by the sending off of the Moors in 1609) and the decisive role played by Saint Francis Borgia claiming the historical memory oh his great-grandfather the pope Alexander the 6th. After the death of his wife, when he was forty years old, Francis Borgia left behind his life at court end joined the recently created Society of Jesus where he became General in 1564. Francis Borgia died in Rome and he was buried there in 1572. Later on, due to the pressure exercised by the Spanish nobility, his remains were brought to Madrid and buried in the Jesuits’ Church. Francis Borgia was beatified in 1624 by the pope Urbano VIII and canonized in 1671 by the pope Clemente X.
In 1740, Luís Ignacio de Borgia, eleventh Duke of Gandia, died without any successors and his sister María Anna de Borgia inherited the duchy and the title of duchess. But when María Anna de Borgia also died without any successors in 1478 the duchy of Gandia became the property of Francisco Pimentel y Borja Vigil de Quiñones, tenth duke of Benavente. His heir, María Josefa Alfonso Pimentel y Borja who was married to Pedro Alcántara Téllez Girón y Pacheco, Duke of Osuna, inherited the duchy in 1832. In this way, the title and the states that had belonged to the Borgia family were passed to the Osuna family. That is why many documents about the duchy of Gandia can be found today in the archives in Osuna. Mariano Téllez Girón and Beaufort, Pedro Alcántara’s nephew commissioned in the first half of the nineteenth century a report about the states which had belonged to this predecessors: The Borgia family.
The Borgia family in Gandia was a witness and many times a real protagonist of the big changes that define modern history: from the dynastic union of the Hispanic kingdoms to the absolutism of the Borbon dynasty; from the conquest of America to the first independence movements; from the sending off of the Jews to that of the Moors; from the time of Humanism and Erasmianism to the Counter-Reformation; from late Gothic to the Baroque; from the Golden Age of the Catalan literature to the official prohibition of the language. This great family could perfectly be the paradigm of the Spanish nobility throughout the three centuries in which they ruled.