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Friday, August 29, 2008

Tribunal del les Aigües

1865 painting of the tribunal by Bernardo Ferrándiz Bádenes (1835–1885),


The tribunal today at the door of the Apostles in the cathedral.

Tribunal del les Aigües* - Valencia's Water Tribunal

Something you come across in almost any guide book about Valencia is the weekly meeting of the Valencia Water Tribunal. This is ancient guild is probably the oldest judicial system still active in all of Europe, going back to no-one-knows-when. It is believed to have evolved from the time of Roman rule and was further developed during the Arab occupation. The tribunal resolves water rights issues for the Valencia community. The decisions it makes are final and there is no higher authority for appeal.

This court is strictly oral so you won't see any briefcases or legal pads—definitely no palm pilots or Blackberrys. Precisely at noon every Thursday, as the bells chime in the great tower of the Cathedral of Valencia, the moderators representing the eight water regions of Valencia are lead out by the bailiff. They all sit in their assigned leather chairs in the doorway of the Door of the Apostles of the great Cathedral of Valencia. The bailiff will ask for each of the eight regions if anyone has come to make a complaint on water rights. Most of the time there are no complaints and the tribunal is adjourned. Not a big deal, I know, but it draws quite a crowd of tourists.

I suppose that this tribunal could be done away with and replaced by a more modern apparatus—whatever the hell that means. Like so much else here in Spain, they respect and treasure their past and do everything in their power to maintain it. The same reason they don't dissolve the Tribunal del les Aigües is the same reason the Spanish take such heroic—sometimes Quixotic—lengths to save an old building. I doubt that you could tear down a chicken coup in this country without first consulting the historic society for permission.

One a side note, I just learned that the fountain in the Plaza de la Virgin, directly outside the cathedral, represents the river Turia and these eight water regions: Tormos, Rascany, Mislata, Rovella, Favara, Benager/Faitanar, and Quart.

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