Castle of Saint Florentina is an 11th-century medieval castle in Canet de Mar, Catalonia, Spain.
St. Florentina’s castle was built on the place of so-called “Domus”, the type of old Roman house occupied by nobility. Domus represented not only the centre of winemaking in the region but also one of the first centres for ancient settlements.
In the 11th century the building served as a fortification from frequent pirate attacks. The remains of the building are still a part of St. Florentina’s Castle.
According to the first documents Guadimir de Canet and Gilabert de Canet were the owners of St. Florentina’s Castle in the 11th century but it was only in the 14th century under Ferrer de Canet – Gilabert’s great-grandson – when Domus reached its fullest blossom. Ferrer de Canet was not only a noble knight who held a position of advisor to King Alfonso V the Magnanimous but also served as an ambassador on behalf of the Pope. It was Ferrer de Canet who got the permission for fortification and construction of two towers to protect the Castle from pirates of the Mediterranean. After getting married his son Arnau expanded the belongings with the help of the Besors and the Monteskis. During this period Domus was under protection of St. Maria. In this connection in honour of St. Maria a chapel was erected which is located in one of the towers. After the marriage between Arnau’s daughter Antonia de Canet and Guillem de Peguera Domus the territory expanded.
At the beginning of the 16th century Huan de Perega assigned the right of possession to Miquel Spano whose daughter Ana got married to Felipe Dimas de Montaner, a lawyer from Barcelona. Due to this event the history of Domus became strongly bounded with the Montaners.
At the end of 19th century Ramon de Montaner i Vila, the owner of Domus and «Montaner and Simon» – large publishing house in Barcelona, which territory is now occupied by Tàpies Foundation – placed an order with his nephew, a famous modernist architect Lluís Domènech i Montaner to renovate and to expand Domus.
Lluís Domènech i Montaner was highly influenced by Modernism and thoroughly designed every room in St. Florentina’s Castle with a total area of 3000 m2. With the help of his team that consisted of the most talented specialists he created bright stained-glass windows, depicting religious subjects, large rooms with marble floor and inlay, painted carved wood ceilings, paving tile, sculptures – everything fitted bright and colourful space of the Castle.
The final project was implemented in accordance with modernism in style of a palace which air was filled with the spirit of the Middle Ages and Romanticism. Thanks to these renovations the Castle of Saint Florentina became widely known.
St. Florentina’s Castle got its name in honor of the relic, which was presented to Ferrer de Canet from the Pope as a symbol of protection, and also in honor of Florentina Malatto Suriñach, Ramón de Montaner’s wife.
In 1908 King Alfonso XIII of Spain accepted Ramón de Montaner’s invitation to visit the Castle and spent there a few days in company of his court and other famous people of the time. During his visit the King gave Ramón de Montaner the title «Graf de Vall de Canet».
After Ramón de Montaner’s death in 1921 his daughter Julia who was married to Ricardo de Campany inherited the Castle. Julia and Ricardo’s son Ramon de Campany i de Montaner was a famous artist.
Almorratxa dance (Maresma’s national dance), one of the national Catalan traditions, is closely connected with the history of the Castle. Although this dance is popular in other parts of Spain, for example in Seville, initially it appeared in Lloret de Mar. Almorratxa is a cone-shaped vase of clear glass with a fluted vertical design. Almorratxa has four small beaks and neck in centre. Almorratxas first appeared in Spain thanks to the Muslim conquerors, which promoted the development glass-blowing in Spain. Olive oil, perfumes and floral water (mainly rosewater) were stored in these vases.
Every year on 23rd of July the Almorratxa Ball is being held on the Costa Brava. During the Ball each couple holds Almorratxa vase filled with flowers. This colourful event traditionally attracts many visitors. The same annual Ball is also being held in Maresme on the 25th of January. However, during this ball girls dance alone and each holds Almorratxa filled with rose water. During the dance girls pours water on the ground.
In 1892, in the “Renaissance”, which is focused on Catalan language, culture and law, was published a study of Dr. Maria Serra dedicated to the national tradition of Almorratxa dance. According to this tradition a man asks a girl (who has to agree even if she has no wish for it) to dance. After a few steps, she is “passed” to another young man, who also cannot refuse to dance. The dance continues till the pair stops near the table with Almorratxas filled with perfume – the pair is to buy it. The man gently sprinkles girl with perfume. The moment the vase is empty, girl breaks it to pieces. The young man is obliged to buy as many vases as the girl wants to break, even if the quantity of vases makes half a dozen, or more. According to the tradition the annual Ball was held on the 29th of July during the celebration of St. Peter’s Day in Canet de Mar.
A beautiful legend is associated with the origin of the ball. One day, when Spain was ruled by the Moors, in a castle, located on the Costa del Levante (today known as the Costa del Maresme), located in Catalonia, lived a noble Christian family. They had only one daughter, whose beauty won hearts of all noble young men of the province. The girl had a strong decision to devote her life to God and no wealth could break this connection. At that time in the province lived one young and rich Moor, who decided to propose to Spanish beauty. However the girl refused his proposal, since he practised another religion. His feelings were so strong that he could not leave them behind. During one reception the young man appeared accompanied by his entourage. He wanted to impress the girl. With a sure step he went to his beloved, bent the knee, gave the lady an amphora filled with perfumed water. In front of everybody he made a declaration of love and proposed to her. Without saying anything the girl looked at him disdainfully and broke up the amphora. Insulted he left the castle. His shame was so huge that he didn’t dare to leave his home in Spain until he left to Africa.
Although Maria Serra doesn’t name the place of origin of this tradition, this information can be fond in another historical literature. For example, Mr. Pellicer de Mataro and Don Magee Sykes in their works suggest that the legend took place in the old house Domus de Canet, which is now the St. Florentina’s Castle.