BENITAIA appears in texts with the variants Benitahar, Benitaher, Benitaer, Benitalla and Benitaya. It appears documented for the first time in Llibre de la col·lecta del morabatí de les valls de Gallinera i Ebo (1369). From the Arabic /Bani Tàhir/, a family name.

It is located at an altitude of 330 metres above sea level, on the right bank of the Gallinera River, and has 42 inhabitants, according to a 2019 census.

It sits on a long but narrow plain or hill in an east-west direction, about 20-25 metres wide. The village has three short streets, parallel to the valley: Carrer de Baix, Carrer de Dalt and Carrer del Mig (the lower street, the upper street and the middle street).

Near Benitaia, next to the mountain road that leads to La Foradada, lay the remains of the Franciscan convent dedicated to Saint Andreu de la Muntanya, founded by Carles de Borja i Centelles and Artemisa Doria, Dukes of Gandia, the day after the repopulation of the valley with families from Mallorca (11th of June, 1611).

The construction of the convent of Saint Andreu de la Muntanya in La Vall de Gallinera began on the 12th of June, 1611, under the patronage of the Dukes of Gandia who granted the Franciscans an initial funding of six hundred lliures, and then one hundred and fifty lliures per year and various properties. It was a small community throughout its history, but it had a major influence upon the area of the inland valleys. We know that in 1616 it had not yet been finished, but we have evidence of the celebration of a marriage in 1620. After that it was the usual place of the confirmation celebrations in La Vall de Gallinera, as it was the typical place to receive episcopal and other distinguished visits (Joan Baptiste Basset visited the convent in 1705, Antoni Cavanilles stayed in it, and also Basilio Sebastián Castellanos, in charge of preparing a descriptive report of the Duchy of Gandia for the Duke of Osuna, who passed through La Vall de Gallinera during the period 1851-1852).

Currently, after a brutal agrarian transformation, there is only a quadrangular enclosure, the old Calvary with cypresses that has been restored, the Frescatti with a fountain from 1742 —where the friars sat to spend the summer afternoons—, a wooden image of Our Lady of the Angels from the old convent and a little song that they sang in the Porrat dels Àngels every 2nd of August (“Oh, Reina dels Àngels! / Oh, Mare de Déu! / Guardeu-nos les terres / i al cel mos vorem!”), rescued by Juanjo Ortolà from the memory of Rosalia Alemany Parets and Angelita Alemany Alemany.

There are no miracles or valuable relics to mention, but the friars settled in a magical place where something marvellous takes place: the solar alignment. Twice a year, around the Feast Days of Saint Francis of Assisi (2nd, 3rd and 4th of October) and Saint Frances of Rome (8th, 9th and 10th of March), the sun’s rays pass through the arch of La Foradada (“Talaia de llum, arc tibant i ben traçat per l’atzar, ull fitant la mar, portal obert als solixents, les llunes i les brises marineres, la penya Foradada, grotesca, bella i gaudiniana”, wrote Joan Pellicer, which could be translated as follows: “Watchtower of light, taut arch well-drawn by chance, eye staring at the sea, portal open to sunrises, moons and sea breezes, the Foradada rock, grotesque, beautiful and Gaudiesque”) and illuminate the centre of what would have been the old cloister of the convent. When the observer looks at the wonder, the biblical passage from Jacob’s dream comes to mind: “dreaming, he saw a ladder that linked heaven to earth […] how venerable this place is! This is none other than the house of God; this is the gate of heaven” (Genesis, 28, 10-22). And that is when the revelation takes place, this is what they wanted to tell us; during the time that the alignment lasts we become aware of an important thing, and that is that this privileged, remote and authentic corner of the world deserves to be loved as the antechamber of heaven, and therefore as the door to paradise.

In front of the convent, on the other side of the road, we find the Cava area, referring to the Puig ice well (locally known as cava), located along the Benitaia cattle path. The ice well was built thanks to an establishment granted by the Duke of Gandia to Josep Bernat Puig (1635) which allowed him to build a lime kiln in order to be able to construct the ice well on a piece of land granted to him in the Benitaia ravine. This deposit has since disappeared, but the name has been fossilised in the toponymy.

The Puig family were a family of knights originally from Ontinyent, who worked in the snow business and went on to serve the Dukes of Gandia, became the wardens of the Gallinera Castle and got married in Pego. In fact, throughout the 17th century they lived either in Pego or Benitaia. In his will from the year 1674, Bernat Josep Puig left oil for the lamp in the Benissivà sanctuary and promoted the repopulation of Benissivà at the end of the 17th century. The presence of the family line in La Vall de Gallinera survived for a long time through a granddaughter of Bernat Puig i Pasqual, Vicenta Maria Pastor i Puig, married to Vicent Tallada from Valencia.

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