Art, History and Commerce
Since the 15th century, the striking monument of La Lonja houses a trade based on the good faith of its merchants
La Lonja is one of Valencia’s emblematic buildings. Its imposing stone walls carry within it the history of a trade based on its merchants’ good faith, that even many Valencians are unaware of and that we will speak about shortly. Before, a brief note about this architectural combination, regarding an example of European Gothic art.
Declared National Historical-Artistic Monument in 1931 and World Heritage of Humanity in 1996, “La Lonja de Valencia”, also known as the “Lonja de los Mercaderes” (Merchants’ Market) or the “Lonja de la Seda” (Silk Market), consists of three sections. From Mercado square, from right to left, the Lonja as such -from the Italian “loggia”- and the “Torre central” (Central Tower) can be seen. The third element is known as the “Pabellón del Consulado”.
From its practically flat facades, the magnificent work of the stonemasons stands out. It is laden with medieval symbolism such as the anthropomorphic or zoomorphic gargoyles, or the 40 medallions on the frieze of the facades that overlook the garden, Cordellats street and Mercado square, where kings like the then reigning Charles I or their ancestors the Catholic Kings were sculpted along gods from Greek mythology.
From its interior, the “Salón de Contratación” or “Columnario” especially impresses. It is a spacious and high rectangular hall, divided into three longitudinal naves, with eight helical columns that support a 17.40 meters high vault and 16 other columns attached to the walls. The first Mercantile Contracting Center of Valencia was established in this Hall. Equivalent to the “Bourse de Commerce” in Paris or the New York Produce Exchange.
La Lonja Consulate
In the thirteenth century, with only one wooden quay, Valencia was already a center for active maritime traffic linked to commerce. Proof of this is that in 1283, King Pedro III “El Grande” granted the city the royal privilege which established the “Consulado del Mar” (the Sea Consulate), a court of commerce based on those of the Italian republics of the time which until the eighteenth century compiled and executed the mercantile and marine customs.
The inheritor of this institution is the current “Consulado de La Lonja”, whose primary objective is to coordinate the interests of the different agricultural sectors, of enormous relevance to the Valencian economy, while maintaining relations between traders, industrialists and commercial agents.
Among its highlighted services is the publication of the price of about 150 products listed in “La Lonja de Valencia”, including pig livestock, eggs, rice, cereals, leguminosae, flours, bran, carob pods, legumes, nuts, potatoes, onions and citrus fruits, and whose bulletin consists of 24 varieties.
As a contracting center, thanks to the guarantee offered by its contracts, it is also worth noting the importance of other products such as wines or green coffee and, as an exception of the agricultural sector, the philately and the numismatics of which the tourist can enjoy Sundays and holidays. But, undoubtedly, the most characteristic element of La Lonja Consulate is the use of Arbitration in Equity to resolve the possible disagreements in hiring, based on trade in good faith.
In the Hall of Contracts, the tables where negotiations would take place were changed by the new technologies a few decades ago, but guild meetings, assemblies and other events continue to be held in the Consulate Pavilion. Do not be surprised, therefore, to see these businessmen during your visit to “La Lonja”.