February 1

The Water Court


Also in the Plaza de la Virgen, there is something called the Tribunal de las Aguas, or “Water Court” that occurs every Thursday at noon. This is the oldest judicial body in Europe. There are some deep traditions associated with the Water Court, which was established to regulate water disputes when Valencia’s farmers fought to have enough water to produce their crops. The magistrates are “escorted” to the front of the Cathedral’s Door of the 12 Apostles from an adjacent building, and seated in a circle on the steps of the Cathedral. The person doing the escorting then calls out, in the original language of the area, Valenciana, for any disputes in each region. The judges, dressed in the traditional shirts/smocks/gowns/robes that can be seen in profusion during Las Fallas, hold the court in this ancient language, and actually dispense legally binding fines in lliures, the currency of the original Valencian kingdom.

There are rarely disputes, but the court is held, nonetheless, as a public display of justice. It’s all totally oral; no written records are kept. Some may call it anticlimactic, but I felt that it was a call back to a justice tradition over 1,000 years old that is still part of the Spanish culture.

The morning I attended the court, there were no contentions or cases to be heard, so the caller simply called for disagreements for each region, and then the court was adjourned.


legal, oldest court, Valenciana

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