On the evening of 18th July, the “Clavarios de las Santes Escudelleres” (Santas Justa and Rufina), the ceramists’ patrons saint in the Valencian town of Manises, offer a unique show in the world. Mounted on carriages and giving away pieces of local craftsmanship to all attendees. About 400,000 pieces pass from the authors’ hands to the tourists and residents of nearby towns. It is the culminating moment of the Festa i Cavalcada of the ceramics in Manises, a festival that has already 114 years of existence.
As a declared Festival of Autonomous Interes in 2008, this Cavalcade is a significant show of the craft discipline in the Spanish Levant, particularly in Manises. Although some roots have their antecedents in the medieval guilds, they have survived to the present day with a proper style which has a privileged place in major museums and collections of luxury arts of the world.
Although there is evidence of Neolithic pottery discoveries in different areas of the Comunitat Valenciana, and there have been found remains of Roman ceramics in the subsoil of Manises, which are maybe the remains of Muslim potters around the 13th century, they are the first indication of the future ceramics industry that would be erected in this town. Under the Christian rule of the 4th Lord of Manises, Don Pere Boil brought the potters from Al-Andalus to develop the technique of the golden ceramics, which would give an international fame to this town in later centuries. Both the golden ceramics with the metallic reflection and the decorated ones in blue are the hallmarks of the region. And its flourishing industry which had a “Gremi de Mestres de Obra de Terra” in the early seventeenth century.
Two centuries later, in the full commercial splendor, there would begin to celebrate the “Cavalcada of Ceramics”. A relevant fact that changed the town to an important trade center, which also in 1924 King Alfonso the13th granted by decree the title of the Historic and Industrious City to the town of Manises, stating that “… since time immemorial, it has been dedicated to ceramics industry and artistic majolica …”
From then until now, the panorama of the ceramics industry in Manises has changed a lot. Many factories which once surrounded the urban area are gone, and they have been replaced by small workshops that preserve the essence of pottery in the town. And yet, the craftsmanship in Manises is more alive than ever. Today, in addition to the historical workmanship which are passed from father to son, the new technologies allow to buy and order a unique vessel in an artisan workshop from anywhere in the world through smartphone applications (DoVase), purchase a freehand-painted reproduction of traditional pieces with the metallic reflection of past centuries, or wearing a gem made with soil, clays and typical pigments of the region that remember us with the origin of a wine with D.O. Valencia (ObiTerra). The pottery of Manises is still alive, as testified by tens of thousands of people who visit the town each July to see up close from the master ceramists a job that is lost in the dawn of time.