El Toro Town Hall, a structure of cultural interest
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El Toro Town Hall


El Toro

El Toro Town Hall is a building that corresponds to a typology of maximum interest within the civil construction work that emerged in the late Middle Ages and early Renaissance. It’s a building that combines the representation and duties of the new civil powers, the Casa de la Villa, or Town Hall, together with a space, the market, intended for a booming activity: trade. It’s built in ashlar and masonry with a single volume of great rotundity and three floors. The market is located on the ground floor overlooking the square, along with a large granary and a jail. On the two upper floors are the meeting room, along with the rest of the municipal offices. The main facade, of classicist influence, is of great beauty and sobriety with the three vaulted arches standing out, supported by columns with a truncated cone shaft. The windows are lintelled, all orderly and symmetric. Other town hall buildings of this same typology and declared as Sites of Cultural Interest under the Monument category in the Comunidad Valenciana region are Forcall and Alcoi. The building was built in 1576, as indicated by the carved stone on the facade. It corresponds to a social need that arose during the Renaissance due to the new economic and cultural processes in the cities. The progress of civil society with the rise of trade and the political powers protecting it required new places where they could engage in their duties. On the one hand, traders were seeking the most popular areas of the towns: the square, where they could be easily seen. This circumstance led to what are known as “lonjas” (marketplaces). Salvador Lara defines these marketplaces by three of their characteristics: -It is a building or part of it, with a tendency towards compositional autonomy, generally open and raised, built with the result of a diaphanous structure, modulated and eminently intended for commercial use. -Examples can be found throughout the cities in the area influenced by the Italian-Franco-Spanish Mediterranean, although they may transcend this border as they proliferated in the 13th to 17th centuries, reaching their greatest splendour in the 15th. Market places often had the space necessary for the town’s civil power duties meaning these buildings served two purposes - a market and a town hall. At El Toro, the market is embedded and aligned with the street, having emptied the ground floor of the building intended for the town hall. The second corridor of this floor had a central staircase that connected it with the upper floors, now gone, and the spaces used as a jail and granary. The entrance to the first or noble floor of the town hall, covered by a porch with large stone benches on the sides, is from the square where the temple is located. The entrance leads to the meeting room, where two large ashlar columns stand out supported by two large wooden beams, as well as the other municipal rooms. Next to the porch, adjacent to the back wall of the town hall and overlying the church square, is a building which is used today as the doctor’s office. The third floor or room of the town hall can be accessed from there via a recently-built staircase. The rectangular market features a portico with three drop arches; the interior dimensions are approximately 13.50 m x 5.50 m. The voussoir arches are 3.50 m wide and 1.50 m long and are supported by Doric columns with a stone base, shaft and capital. The total height of the ground floor is 4.00 metres. Constructively, the building is comprised of flat porticoes on load-bearing walls of plastered masonry of variable dimensions between 50 and 60 cm. The rest of the exterior enclosures were done using the same technique. The foundations are flat with wooden joists and fill. The granary, just like the hall, are covered with octagonal stone pillars supporting wooden girders to hold up the foundation. The jail is covered with sail vaulting. The exterior arches are made up of limestone voussoirs. The ground floor reflects well-crafted stonework while the upper walls are masonry with the gaps filled with ashlar. The flooring is comprised of large irregular stone slabs. The main facade is symmetrical and made up of a masonry portico with three openings on columns on the ground floor and separated from the upper floors by a thick rod. It has three large windows from where ordinances or declarations by the men governing the town were read. On the facade is the town’s coat of arms and the remains of another. The granary was in operation until the first decades of the 20th century. The main hall or meeting room is still in use and the jail area was used until the 1936 Civil War. Noteworthy in the cellar is a passageway that connects the town hall to the church of Our Lady of the Angels. In the 1990s, a search began for a hiding place known to exist in the town hall. It was located above the wash basins. Twenty-five files from the 15th to the 19th centuries appeared in addition to a large number of records on the granary as well as a chest with three keys. The different parts comprising this building: The Market, the Town Hall, the entrance porch, the town’s heraldic shield and the inscription of the year 1576 in ashlar stone.

 


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