History

In order to understand the history of Sant Jeroni de Cotalba (St. Jerome of Cotalba), you have to go back to the middle of the 14th Century when a group of hermits dwelling on the plains of Xàbia founded a Hieronymite monastery in 1374, after authorisation was granted by Pope Gregory XI. It was established under the patronage of Alfonso of Aragon, Duke of Gandia and Marquis of Dénia, grandson of King James II, who would become known by history as Alfonso the Old.

In 1387 the monastery was sacked by Berber pirates and all the monks were kidnapped, after which Duke Alfonso paid an enormous ransom of 2100 doubloons for their lives.

As the monks were terrified of returning to where they had been kidnapped, in 1388 Alfonso the Old bought the hamlet of Cotalba from the Muslims dwelling in the area and donated this land to the Hieronymite community of Xàbia so that they would have somewhere to move.

According to the chronicle by Father Castillo, it was the Duke's butler Pere March, father of the poet Ausiàs March, who was sent to design the building, oversee the work and arrange the finishing touches, although we are now unaware of whether the building's plans were really drawn up by March, or whether he merely represented the Duke during the course of the work. This close relationship between the March family and Cotalba was expressed through the building of a chapel in the church, where several family members are buried.

Based on the blurry distinction between history and legend, it is believed that St. Vicent Ferrer preached in the monastery and praised the figure of St. Jerome in some of his sermons.

The religious and spiritual vitality of this community is reflected in the founding of a monastery in the Valley of Hebrón, Barcelona, in 1390, and of the monastery of Santa María de la Murta, close to Alzira, in 1401.

In 1424 the manors of Alfauir and Rafalet de Bonamira were finally donated to the monastery. These, together with many other donations, were left by Alfonso the Old in his will. To these were added the Orriols Manor, which came from the inheritance of Pere Orriols in 1475, and the Tavernes Blanques Manors, acquired in 1515.

During the 16th Century, Sant Jeroni enjoyed the protection of the Dukes of Gandia, the Borja family; the Duchess María Enríquez was the principal protector of the monastery. Towards the end of this century, in 1586, Philip II of Spain paid a visit lasting several days, accompanied by the heir to the throne and his beloved daughter, Isabel Clara Eugenia. Another royal visit was hosted on the occasion of the marriage between Philip III of Spain and Margaret of Austria. These visits represent hard proof of the royal protection enjoyed by the Hieronymite order right from its beginnings, especially that bestowed by the House of Hapsburg. Prior to this, both the order and Sant Jeroni de Cotalba were also favoured by the Aragonese monarchs, as Martin of Aragon and Ferdinand II of Aragon made numerous donations and instituted exemptions from tributes.

Throughout the 17th Century, and particularly during the course of the following hundred years, there was a gradual relaxation of the customs practised by the members of the community. This led to the reform of the monastery's governance in 1743.

A notable event occurred in 1751 when the monks were plagued by an epidemic and commended themselves to the Onil Virgin of Health, whose image was carried to the monastery. The intercession of this figure of the Virgin Mary was so decisive in curing the monks that they built a chapel in her honour, and their dedication led to her being made the patron Saint of Rótova.

This moral and spiritual crisis is reflected in the general crisis suffered by the monastery in the 18th Century. Despite architectural improvements, its economic situation was not as prosperous as expected and the monks resorted to charging feudal rent and collecting harvest taxes. The eighteenth century crisis seemed to affect all facets of the monastery, with its economic decline being mirrored by that of its ideological apparatus that maintained the status quo with society.

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