The roofs of the cave houses at the foot of the Tower of Paterna, Source: Ayuntamiento de Paterna

Paterna begins renovation of urban inhabited caves on its territory

Paterna begins renovation of urban inhabited caves on its territory

These are stark monuments to housing shortage crises that occurred more than 200 years ago

At the end of last week, the Spanish municipality of Paterna reported that work has begun on renovating the Cultural Space of the Cuevas del Batà. Cuevas in Spanish means ‘caves’ and in this case refers to historic urban dwellings that have been dug into the ground somewhere between the end of the 18th and the beginning of the 19th century.

Many of these curious urban caves are still inhabited today and thus represent an important architectural and socio-cultural heritage for the town, located in the Province of Valencia.

They will be varnished with a new coat of white lime mortar finish

Unlike pre-historic cave dwellings, these urban caves owe their existence to pitfalls in the socio-cultural developments in much more modern times – about 200 years ago. Three conditions led to people considering the option of underground homes: growth in the local population, an increase in the seignorial rents and the deteriorating conditions of labourers. These factors meant that inhabitants could not afford to own their own homes and turned to excavating the calcareous and soft rock found in Paterna.

These dwellings have their own vents and chimneys which provide for ventilation (which is essential for habitability) and the possibility of cooking. Two types of urban caves can be found in the city. The first are the ‘coves afrontades’, which present a façade much like a regular house, and the others are ‘coves enclotades’, which surround a common courtyard without having access to a regular street and, thus, cannot be seen from outside.

The cave dwellings need to be whitewashed with lime once or twice a year. Exactly, such whitewashing is included in the announced renovations, which began last week and are expected to continue for 3 or 4 weeks.

The City Council of Paterna, through its ​​Historical Heritage Department, and together with the public company Gestión y Servicios de Paterna, is ensuring the repair and improvement works of the facades, walls, skylights and chimneys of the municipal caves-dwellings, many of which are integrated into the surroundings of the city Tower.

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