Elche[a] (Valencian: Elx)[b] is a city and municipality of Spain, belonging to the province of Alicante, in the Valencian Community. According to 2014 data, Elche has a population of 228,647 inhabitants,[5] making it the third most populated municipality in the region (after Valencia and Alicante) and the 20th largest Spanish municipality. It is part of the comarca of Baix Vinalopó.

Elche (Spanish)
Elx (Valencian)
Panoramic view
Palm trees
Replica of the Lady of Elche
Flag of Elche
Coat of arms of Elche
Location of Elche
Elche is located in Province of Alicante
Location in the Province of Alicante
Elche is located in Valencian Community
Location in the Valencian Community
Elche is located in Spain
Location in Spain
Coordinates: 38°16′1″N 0°41′54″W / 38.26694°N 0.69833°W / 38.26694; -0.69833
Autonomous communityValencian Community
ComarcaBaix Vinalopó
Judicial districtElche
FoundedIberian settlement; 5th century BC
 • MayorCarlos González Serna (2015) (PSPV-PSOE)
 • Total326.10 km2 (125.91 sq mi)
86 m (282 ft)
 • Total234,765
 • Density720/km2 (1,900/sq mi)
Demonym(s)Ilicitano, ilicitana
Time zoneUTC+1 (CET)
 • Summer (DST)UTC+2 (CEST)
Postal code
Dialing code966 - 965
WebsiteOfficial Website
Official tourism Website

Part of the municipality is coastal yet the city proper is roughly 15 km (9 mi) away from the Mediterranean Sea. A small creek called Vinalopó flows through the city. Elche is the centre of the footwear industry in Spain.[6] The main airport of the province of Alicante (Alicante–Elche Miguel Hernández Airport) is located inside Elche's municipality, and it serves both Elche and Alicante, being the fifth-busiest airport in Spain.

Together with Alicante and other municipalities, Elche forms a conurbation of some 800,000 inhabitants. The city is noted for its urban Palm Grove, designated as World Heritage Site.

History edit

Miniature of the Cantiga #133 accounting for an alleged miracle that took place in Elche (13th century), entailing, together with Cantiga, #126 the first graphic representation of a palm tree in Elche[7]

L'Alcúdia is 10 km from the current city's location and the immediate predecessor of current day Elche. This original location was settled by the Greeks and then occupied by Carthaginians and Romans. Greek Ionian colonists from the Achaean city Helike established their new colony, naming it Helíkē (Greek: Ἑλίκη) around 600 BC. It was a point of resistance against Carthaginian advance in Spain between the First and Second Punic Wars.[8][9] The Romans called the city Ilici or Illice and granted it the status of colonia;[9] after a brief Byzantine rule, the Goths took over, establishing an episcopal see.

In 1905, archaeologists uncovered a synagogue in Elche dating back to the fourth to sixth centuries CE. This dating marks it as the earliest known synagogue in Spain.[10]

19th century photograph of Elche by Jean Laurent

Elche lost importance during the period of Moorish occupation, when it was moved slightly north to its present location. James II of Aragon took the city from the Moors in the 13th century, during the Reconquista.[9] The city grew throughout the 18th century[11] and became more important during the 19th century with the arrival of the railway and a booming industrial development of what used to be the traditional footwear industry.

Many archaeological remains have been found in Elche, with the stone bust of the Lady of Elche (Dama de Elche/Dama d'Elx in Spanish and Valencian, respectively) being the most important. This may date from the Iberian period (4th century BC). The original is in the National Archaeological Museum of Spain.[12][13]

Elche was granted the title of city by King Amadeo in 1871.[14]

The espadrille industry developed in the 19th century, eventually becoming the leading Spanish municipality at producing textile footwear.[15] By the late century, local entrepreneurs began to invest in leather footwear factories.[16] The footwear industry grew during the Great War and thereafter.[16]

Geography edit

The city is known for the Palmeral de Elche, that is an UNESCO World Heritage Site and is the only palm grove in Europe with North African origins and the largest on the continent.[17] The Palm Grove also constitutes the northernmost and one of the largest palm groves in the world.[18] Today, the city of Elche contains 97 orchards composed of 70,000 date palms, concentrated in the east bank of the Vinalopó.[19] Outside the Elche city domain, other large plantations contain approximately 130,000 date palms. In total, Elche and its vicinity hold 200,000 palms. The Palm Grove ranges over 3.5 km2 (1.4 sq mi), including 1.5 km2 (0.58 sq mi) within the city of Elche.[19] The Palm Grove of Elche comprises the National Artistic Garden, Palm Grove Museum, Route of El Palmeral, and Municipal Park.

Date fruit from date palm trees within the National Artistic Garden

It shares borders with Santa Pola, Guardamar del Segura, San Fulgencio, Dolores, Catral, Crevillent, Aspe, Montforte del Cid and Alicante. The most remarkable landform is Vinalopó River.[20]

According to the Spanish Statistical Institute, there are 20 localities in the municipality besides the main town. The main town had a population of 190,821 in 2019 The number of people living in the other localities came up to 41,821 in the same year. Algoda was home to 2,650 people, Algorós has a population of 638, Altabix was inhabited by 2,829 people, El Altet was home to 5,750 people Atsavares was home to 1,328 people, Asprella had a population of 403, Las Bayas was home to 2,975 people, Carrús was inhabited by 1,300 people, Daimés had a population of 1,190, El Derramador was home to 419 people, La Foia was inhabited by 2,804 people, Jubalcoi had a population of 1,215, El Pla de Sant Jose was home to 2,411 people, Maitino was inhabited by 890 people, La Marina had a population of 2,008, La Perleta was home to 1,376 people, Puçol was inhabited by 900 people, Torrellano had a population of 7,480, Vallverda was home to 1,767 people and Los Arenales del Sol was inhabited by 2,019 people.[21][22]

The local government also acknowledges Matola, which is part of Algoda according to the Spanish Stadistical Institute; Penya de les Àguiles, which is part of El Pla de Sant Josep according to the same institution, and Santa Anna, which is not recognised by the Stadistical Institute.[23]

Demographics edit

10.497% inhabitants are foreigners – 3.267% come from other countries of Europe, 3.369% are African, 2.46% are American, 1.139% are Asian and 15 people from Oceania and stateless people reside in the municipality.[24] The table below shows the population trend of 20th and 21st centuries by the beginning of their decades.[25]

1900 1910 1920 1930 1940 1950 1960 1970 1981 1991 2001 2011
Population 27,308 30,511 33,167 38,013 46,596 55,877 73,320 122,663 162,873 188,062 198,190 230,354

Economy edit

The economy of Elche is based, in large part, on the footwear industry, with over 1,000 shoe factories, being one of the most important footwear centres in Spain and the rest of Europe with brands like Pura Lopez, Kelme or Panama Jack [es].[26] There are other economic activities in Elche: agriculture (dates, olives, cereals and pomegranates), although it has lost importance in recent years; rubber industry;[27] trade, which employs 20% of the workforce; aerospace (PLD Space); and tourism.

Elche has a conference centre (called Ciutat d'Elx), an international airport (Aeropuerto de Alicante) a public University, Universidad Miguel Hernández, and a private University, Universidad CEU Cardenal Herrera.

Climate edit

Elche has a hot semi-arid climate (Köppen climate classification: BSh) close to a desert climate (BWh)[28][29] with mild, dry winters and hot, dry summers. The city enjoys between 2,900 and 3,000 hours of sunshine per year and the rainfall is scarce year-round.[30]

Elche's annual average temperature is above 18 °C (64 °F). The hottest temperature ever recorded was 43.2 °C (109.8 °F) on 12 July 2021[31] while the coldest temperature ever recorded was −5.0 °C (23.0 °F) on 12 February 1956.[32]

Climate data for Alicante–Elche Airport, 1981-2010 normals, 1967-2023 extremes
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 28.3
Mean daily maximum °C (°F) 16.7
Daily mean °C (°F) 11.6
Mean daily minimum °C (°F) 6.5
Record low °C (°F) −7.8
Average rainfall mm (inches) 21
Average rainy days (≥ 1 mm) 3.6 2.9 3.1 3.7 3.7 1.6 0.7 0.9 3.3 4.1 3.8 3.7 35.1
Average relative humidity (%) 61 61 60 57 59 58 59 61 63 64 63 61 61
Mean monthly sunshine hours 184 179 221 251 291 316 344 313 243 218 174 165 2,953
Source: Agencia Estatal de Meteorología[33][34]
Climate data for Baix Vinalopó, 1981-2010
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 26
Mean daily maximum °C (°F) 15.0
Daily mean °C (°F) 10.3
Mean daily minimum °C (°F) 5.6
Record low °C (°F) −5
Average rainfall mm (inches) 17.3
Average rainy days (≥ 1.0 mm) 3.6 2.9 3.1 3.7 3.7 1.6 0.7 0.9 3.3 4.1 3.8 3.7 35.1
Source: Ayuntamiento de Elche[35]

Main sights edit

Basilica of Santa María de Elche
Palmeral of Elche ("The Palm Grove of Elche")
Old part of the city, Barrio del Raval
  • Palmeral of Elche ("The Palm Grove of Elche", Palmerar d'Elx in Valencian). It is an orchard of over 200,000 palm trees that was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2000.[36]
  • Altamira Castle, also known as Alcázar de la Señoría, located next to the Municipal Park (which, in turn, is a part of the Elche Palm Grove). It was originally built in Almohad times (12th-13th centuries), and was later renovated with brick exterior in the 15th century. A former fortress, in 1913 it became a fabric plant, it has also been used as the town hall and as a prison during the Spanish Civil War, while today is home to the Elche Archaeology and History Museum.[37]
  • Baños Arabes (Arabic Baths), which re-uses old Roman baths.
  • Basilica of Santa Maria: The current temple was built in 1672. Previously, there were other temples in the same place, but they disappeared owing to several factors. It has a la Latin-cross plan, a large nave and four side chapels. A large dome has been constructed over the crossing.[38][39]
  • Calahorra Tower, of rectangular plan and Arabic origin, it represents the last relic of the old city walls.[40]
  • Municipio (Town Hall): it includes a tower named la torre del consell, and it is the most ancient structure in the south of the Valencian Community. It was built in the mid-15th century.[41]
  • Convento de la Merced: it was built in a place where there were Arabic baths. It dates back to 1270, when the prince Juan Manuel bestowed the baths to the grand master of a religious order.[42]
  • Huerto del Cura: it is part of the Palmeral of Elche and hosts nearly 500 palm trees. There are individuals of the imperial palm species.[43]
  • Elche Palaeontological Museum: more than 1,200 fossils are on display in the museum. Some elements such as remains of mastodons and replicas of dinosaurs are placed in the building.[44]
  • Elche Municipal Festa Museum: it was built in 1997 and it hosts elements about the Misteri d'Elx performance.[45]
  • Palm Groves Museum: This museum is allocated in a traditional 19th century building. This museum is devoted to the history, the evolution and the characteristics of the Palmeral of Elche.[46]

The Mystery Play of Elx (better known as Misteri d'Elx, in Valencian) is a sacral-lyrical medieval drama, dated from the 15th century, which was declared a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO in 2002. It is played every year in mid August, in the context of the local holidays dedicated to the Assumption of Virgin Mary.[47] Also as a part of this celebration, on the 13th of August is the date of a celebration in Elche called Nit de l'Albà (Night of the Dawn) in which a citywide night-long show of fireworks takes place.

Transport edit

The Alicante–Elche Airport, the fifth-busiest in Spain is located in the municipality of Elche, around 10 kilometres (6.2 miles) east from the city centre. The Autopista AP-7 serves the outskirts of the city, and the railway linking Alicante and Murcia del Carmen runs through a tunnel underneath the city, with two underground stations; Elche-Parque (Valencian: Elx-Parc) and Elche-Carrús (Valencian: Elx-Carrús).[48] These are served by line C–1 of the Cercanías Murcia/Alicante commuter rail service, along with Media Distancia trains between Valencia Nord station and Murcia.

The Madrid–Levante high-speed rail network was extended to reach a new station named Elche-Matola in 2021, branching off from the line to Alicante near Monforte del Cid. The new AVE station contains parking space for 500 cars and 50 motorcycles.[49]

Festivities edit

  • Holy Week: as generally in Spain, several processions (festive religious parades) occur during the festive period.[50]
  • Moros i Cristians: it occurs in the first fortnight of August. The theme of this festivity is the Muslim rule that occurred in the High Middle Ages and part of the Late Middle Ages and the battles which took place between Christians and Muslims as a consequence of this occupation. A more specific subject of this festivity is the Reconquista.[51]
  • Nit de la Roà: it takes place in mid August.[52]
  • Christmas: A nativity scene is placed in the town and a living nativity scene also occurs during the festive period. A parade which theme is the Three Wise Men is also performed in the Epiphany's Eve (5 January).[53]

Notable people edit

Twin towns edit

Culture edit

Cultural theatrical spaces edit

The Grand Theater edit

The Elche Grand Theater is a theatrical space constructed at the beginning of the 20th Century, created by the architect Alfonso Garín. It was opened in 1920 with the name Kursaal Theater. The interior of the room is in a horseshoe shape, where an orchestra section in front of the stage and two amphitheaters with box seats on the sides can be found. At the beginning of the 90s, the building was acquired by the local government, becoming municipal property. After a reform, the theater was reopened on May 16, 1996, by Queen Sofía. The theater is found in the historical area of the city, very close to the Glorieta. The Grand Theater houses all types of theatrical, dance, and musical performances.

L’Escorxador Center for Contemporary Culture edit

Opened on November 7, 2008, in the installations of the old Elche Slaughterhouse - constructed in the decade of 1940 - is a 5000 m2 space oriented to the young public. The complex is divided into four pavilions: in the first one there is a theatrical space with more than 150 chairs, allocated for housing theatrical, resonant, and visual art shows; the second pavilion, called The Nave, is home to the multipurpose room where plastic art exhibitions, as well as open essays and special representations of performance, theater and music, are celebrated; in the third, rehearsal rooms that are available for rent, loan or assignment for the sound arts can be found; the fourth pavilion is the most spacious of the four, and houses the different studios that the center has as well as a small room of temporary exhibitions called Sala Lanart. In addition to the pavilions, the center has - since 2009 - a terrace in which performances and projections can be carried out outside.

La Llotja Cultural Room edit

The room is located in the remodeled installations of the old fruit and vegetable market from the Altabix neighborhood constructed between 1941 and 1942. It was opened on April 12, 2008, and is a place where dance, theater, and music shows intended for young audiences are carried out, as well as school graduations and other events that can take place in it. In the time of elections, it is used as an electoral college.

Museums edit

Alejandro Ramos Folqués Archaeological and History Museum of Elche edit

The Alejandro Ramos Folqués Archaeological and History Museum of Elche has been turned into an archaeological cultural model at a regional level of great importance. Situated in the interior of the Altamira Palace - in the Elche historical center and very close to Saint María basilica - it was opened on May 18, 2006, with a grand exhibition about Iberic culture, among where the Lady of Elche was found - one of the most significant pieces of Iberic art, transferred temporarily by the National Archaeological Museum for six months (from May 18 to November 1 in 2006).

Like a permanent exhibition, the museum offers a general overview of the distinct stages that have been taking place in the city, such as the Neolithic, the Copper Age, the Bronze Age, the Iberian stage, the process of Romanization, the Visigothic era, and the Islamic settlement (current site of the city) until the present.

The archaeological remains come from, among others, the Alcudia site, Elche Park (situated in one of the gardens in the city and which has provided important sculptural remains) and El Arenero de Monforte del Cid.

Festa Museum edit

The Festa Museum, about the Mystery of Elche, originated with the intention of showing La Festa to the visitors that come to the city throughout the year. The museum is made of two rooms: the first is where scenic tradition that involves the Mystery is collected, which can be posters, sketches, crowns, costumes, guitars...and the other is a more dynamic room, where new technologies are used, combining many visual images like typical smells and sounds from La Festa. Part of the museum is located in what was Saint Sebastian's Shrine, which is also closely linked to Assumptionist drama and was restored for the purpose of creating the museum.

Palm Grove Museum (Palmeral Museum)

Museo del Palmeral edit

The Palm Grove Museum, found in a traditional house of the Garden of Saint Placidus (Huerto de San Plácido), close to the Garden of Healing (Huerto del Cura). The museum is dedicated to recognizing the municipal relationship with the palm groves. It shows the origins, history, culture of the palm grove, as well as the uses and its evolution. In the rooms, an overview of the history of the Palm Grove is shown through videos, panels, demonstrative elements and sounds, which continues with a visit to its own garden outside.

The Traditional Culture Center Pusol School Museum edit

The Traditional Culture Center Pusol School Museum was created in the year 1969 as an activity linked to the Pedagogical Project “The School and its Fear,” which developed the study of the purposes and traditions of the Field of Elche (Campo de Elche). In the museum, unique collections are housed that show distinct ethnological aspects (agriculture, business, industry, folklore, traditions, etc.) available for scientific studies at all levels. In 2009, it was included by UNESCO in the Register of Good Safeguarding Practices for Intangible Cultural Heritage.

In addition to these, other museums and places of interest exist in Elche:

  • Paleontological Museum in the plaza of Saint Juan Church.
  • Alcudia Museum, situated in the archaeological site where the Lady of Elche was found.
  • Museum of Contemporary Art, in the Raval neighborhood.
  • Museum of the Assumption of the Virgin, Patron Saint of Elche Museum dedicated to the Assumption of the Virgin.
  • Visitors center in the Municipal Park, with audiovisual projections about the city.
  • Municipal Center of Exhibitions, with seasonal nature exhibitions.
  • The Center of Exhibitions of the Lonja, which is situated on the first floor of the Town Hall, occasionally houses exhibitions, primarily with themes related to the city.
  • Espai d’Art, which is a walk near the Municipal Park where we can contemplate contemporary art sculptures.
  • Arabian baths, which are found in the inside of the Clarisas Convent.

See also edit

Notes edit

  1. ^ /ˈɛl/,[2] Spanish: [ˈeltʃe]
  2. ^ UK: /ɛl/,[3] US: /lʃ/,[4] Valencian: [ˈɛʎtʃ]

References edit

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  3. ^ "Elx". Collins English Dictionary. HarperCollins. Archived from the original on 9 February 2016. Retrieved 19 May 2019.
  4. ^ "Elche". Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary. Retrieved 19 May 2019.
  5. ^ Elche supera ya los 228.300 habitantes, INFORMACION.es, December 31, 2008, Editorial Prensa Ibérica
  6. ^ Marco Lajara et al. 2021, p. 189.
  7. ^ Castaño, Joan (20 December 2013). "Elche en las Cantigas de Santa María". Información.
  8. ^ "Roman Policy in Spain", Harvard Studies in Classical Philology, p. 209 Archived 2018-11-30 at the Wayback Machine.
  9. ^ a b c "Historia – VisitElche". VisitElche – Portal oficial de Turismo de la ciudad española de Elche. Archived from the original on 2021-01-14. Retrieved 2021-01-15.
  10. ^ B. Mann, Vivian (2019-10-18), "Synagogues of Spain and Portugal during the Middle Ages", Jewish Religious Architecture, Brill, pp. 151–152, doi:10.1163/9789004370098_010, ISBN 978-90-04-37009-8, retrieved 2024-05-05
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  14. ^ Abril, Mario (16 March 2021). "Elche cumple 150 años como ciudad". Cadena SER.
  15. ^ Miranda Encarnación 1993, p. 22.
  16. ^ a b Miranda Encarnación 1993, p. 26.
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External links edit