Monument

Although there are no specific data that could help us establish a constructive chronology of the building, the experts agree that the construction of the palace started in the first half of the 14th century when Pedro de Ribagorça receives from his father, King Jaime II, the domain of Gandia. To build his residence, Prince Pedro chose the “Tossal”, the highest point of the town where, in the days before the Christian conquest, there used to be a necropolis and a watchtower. The Ducal Palace was built on these remains from the Muslim period. Later, the Duke Alfons el Vell (1355-1412) enlarged the palace during the medieval era.

During the first three centuries one should imagine the palace as an authentic castle whose initial aspect was rather that of an urban fortress with two defensive towers at each corner. It was a self-supplied building with its own farm, garden, forge, carpentry, warehouse and cistern built in the 16th century and situated right underneath the so-called Cistern Garden.

Over time, the castle slowly became a fortified palace, more and more comfortable and ostentatious and each of the eleven dukes of Gandia contributed to its enlargement and adapted it to his own necessities.

The acquisition of the palace by the Borgia family represented a new beginning in terms of enlargement and remodelling of the building, mainly by Pedro Luis de Borgia and Maria Enriquez, Francis Borgia’s grandmother. It was precisely during the saint duke’s life when one of the most important works of restoration was done, the remodelling of the Crowns Assembly Hall and the annexed office.

 During the 17th century the structure of the palace suffered many transformations, so many that the aspect of the actual palace is still based on those transformations. Good examples are the replacement of the Gothic windows by balconies both on the exterior front and inside the courtyard and the decoration of the Eagles Assembly Hall with a beautiful cornice made of plaster and covered with gold-leaf. The most outstanding work done in the palace during the 17th century is, by far, the Golden Gallery, an authentic jewel of the Valencian Baroque. When the 11th duke of Gandia died without any successors, the duchy was inherited by a series of noble families, the most important of them being the Osuna family who abandoned the palace after emptying it. The abandoning of the palace for almost a hundred years provoked the ruining of the building until the point of taking into account its demolition. The acquisition of the palace by the Society of Jesus was another milestone in the history of the building for having avoided its disappearance and for the important restorations undertaken. In those interventions were redesigned: the layout of the stairs of the courtyard, the States of Sardinia’s room and Carroz and Centelles’ room, rebuilding windows which imitated the only original Gothic window remaining in the palace in the Crowns’ Assembly Hall. Also here, works of demolitions were carried out, restoring the wooden ceiling and replacing the windows giving onto the river Serpis by others of Neo-Gothic style, rebuilding the skirting board made of tiles etc. Between 1895 and 1896 the saint’s office was restored and the next room to be restored was the saint’s chapel in 1898.

THE MAINT FRONT

One of the few remaining vestiges of the original construction of the palace is the round arch in the hallway (built during Alfonso el Viejo’s reign) and the bolt that locks it from the inside which still preserves the coat of arms of Aragon in memory of its former residents.                                                                                                                                                         


The Borgia family put on top of the big door at the entrance their own coat of arms made of stone and within a small niche flanked by two primitive men with very long beards. This main front of the palace is made of masonry covered with lime and sand mortar.

ARMS COURTYARD AND GROUND FLOOR

The hallway, covered by a wooden ceiling decorated with nacre and bones, is separated from the courtyard by a segmental arch. Today, the north side of the courtyard, formerly used for stables, is occupied by the Jesuit Church.



A distinguished staircase leads to the Crowns Assembly Hall which preserves the only Gothic window remaining in the palace. The windows of the most important rooms of the palace open into the Arms Courtyard. From where one can easily have access to the old armoury (today a private chapel). The other courtyard of the palace is known as the Cistern garden, also known as the Bamboo Garden.


FIRST FLOOR ACCESS

The Duchess’ Room is to be found on the first floor. It is supposed to be the room in which Francis Borgia was born. The floor of this room is decorated with tiles from Manises from the 15th century. The pattern shown on the tiles is Moorish and it is called “chained”. Next to the Duchess’ Room we find the Eagles Assembly Hall, whose name is given by the numerous eagles decorating the cornice of this room, made of plaster and painted with gold-leaf. From one of the biggest rooms in the palace the visitor steps into a smaller one: the States of Sardinia’s Room. The name of this room is a reference to the domains and properties that the Borgia family inherited in the island of Sardinia, after the marriage of the fifth duke of Gandia Carlos with Magdalena de Centelles. The next rooms to be found are the Green Hall and the Turret Chamber (attributed to Maria Enriquez) where we find one of the oldest floors of the palace, made of hexagonal-shaped compositions, using “alfardó” tiles from the beginning of the XV century.


FROM THE CROWNS ASSEMBLY HALL TO THE SAINT’S CHAPEL

The name of the most important room of the palace is given by the double-crown pattern painted on the original wooden ceiling. The significance of the double-crown is the existence of two popes in the Borgia family. Alexander 6th used it as his own symbol when he became a pope and his children adopted it as a personal and distinctive sign. The room preserves on the upper part of the wall the inscription in Latin “Run to understand that it will only be crowned the one who fights according to the law”.



The Jesuits had to make reproductions of the missing tiles but this room still preserves one skirting board which is entirely original from the 16th century. Unlike the other tiles found in the palace, every tile in this room is raised. Today, the walls of this room are decorated with eight canvases painted by the Jesuit Martin Coronas and which represent different important scenes of Francis Borgia’s life. The duke’s portrait, dressed like a knight of the Military Order of Santiago, preside the room.

  
The same Jesuit brother Martin Coronas decorated the Neo-Gothic Chapel, the Duke’s former office. This chapel preserves Francis Borgia’s original crucifix.

Francis Borgia’s private chapel, a small room with the shape of a coffin, still preserves the original mural paintings which represent the fifteen mysteries of the rosary and which were painted by Filippo de San Leocadio (Paolo de San Leocadio’s son). The chapel underwent a massive restoration at the end of the nineteenth century when the Jesuits acquired the palace.


THE GOLDEN GALLERY

Also known as "Obra Nova", the construction of the Golden Gallery contributed to the embellishment of the building and turned it into the most representative part of the palace. The duke in charge of the construction of the gallery was Francisco Pascual de Borgia who celebrated the canonization of his predecessor Francis Borgia by building a gallery on top one of the terraces around the Cistern Garden. The gallery is made up of a succession of five rooms divided by carved porticos and decorated with gold-leaf.



The very name of the gallery is given by the amount of decorative elements painted with gold-leaf which at the same time offer a perfect architectural “trompe l’oeuil” which makes the gallery seem larger than it actually is. Each room of the gallery has a different canvas stuck to the ceiling and they give each room a different name: The Heraldry of the Borgia family Room, The Ornamental Room, The Glorification Room, The Holy Family Room and The Four Elements Room (with the Baroque mosaïque of the four elements). Both the length and the complexity of its paintings turn this gallery into a milestone within the late Valencian Baroque. Although the canvases have always been attributed to the painter Gaspar de la Huerta Martinez, recent studies reveal that the painter Esteve Romaguera might have contributed to the painting of the first two. The exterior front of the Golden Gallery is painted with red and grey floral patterns. A special focus was put on the strong colours used for the tiles that cover both the roofs of the balconies and the roof of the entire gallery: blue and white for the balconies and alternating blue, yellow, white and green for the roof of the gallery. This is perhaps the most striking side of the gallery.