Nicolás Bodin, in 1739, who best shows the pre-industrial landscape of El Grau of Valencia among 16 historical maps and engravings

Part of the Mapa de la situación y contornos del Grao de Valencia , work by NicoPart of the Mapa de la situación y contornos del Grao de Valencia , work by Nicolás Bodin (1739). Source: Servicio Geográfico del Ejército, núm 178.

The full professor of Geography at the University of Valencia Josep Vicent Boira has studied what the landscape of El Grau of València was like in pre-industrial times through 16 engravings and maps by different authors. The research, published in the journal Cuadernos de Geografía of the University of Valencia, encompasses the shape and elements of this territory from the sixteenth century to the alterations that occurred after the political and urban processes of the nineteenth century.

The document that best shows the pre-industrial landscape of El Grau of Valencia is the map by Nicolás Bodin from 1739. In it, everything from agricultural and livestock areas, to the beach and the traditional elements of the agricultural landscape, such as small bridges that cross ditches, appear or the laundry place. This plan represents a typical vision of the military engineering of the moment with a practical purpose, which makes it very faithful to reality.

Another historical source analysed is the plan by Anton van den Wyngaerde from the year 1563. It is a view of El Grau in which the bastion and the wooden quay appear, as well as the town centre. According to the article, these lines reinforce the idea that, already in the sisteenth century, the urban reality of El Grau was more developed in the northern sector than in the south. An engraving of Valencia from a book by Pere Antoni Beuter (1546) is also analysed from this period, in which, in addition to the bastion, the shipyards and a structure at the mouth of the Turia River that has not yet been identified appear. It is a structure that will appear again in a painting about the expulsion of the Moors by Pere Oromig in 1613.

Other representations in which elements of El Grau of Valencia appear, such as the church of Santa María or the port, are the plan by the engineer Joan Merich from 1787, that by José Serrano from 1824, the engraving by Tomás Enguídanos from 1795 and the one by Manuel Mirallas from 1800, among others.

In general, the cartography between the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries represents the duality between the urban landscape and the natural and agrarian landscape of El Grau. Although the last engravings from between the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries are quite simple, they try to offer a privileged view of the northern area of the urban centre where the most emblematic buildings were concentrated.

El Grau is an old independent municipality annexed to the city of Valencia in the second part of the nineteenth century, following the dynamics of other independent towns such as Campanar or Benimaclet. That annexation meant a drastic change in El Grau administration and completed a process of urban development and relationship with the port. As a consequence, new neighbourhoods and new communication routes altered the traditional landscape that surrounded El Grau, which had remained practically unchanged until now.

Article : Boira Maiques, J. V. (2022). ’El paisatge tradicional del grau de València als gravats i plànols històrics (segles XVI-XIX)’. Cuadernos de Geografía, 108’109 (1), 399’424 .