A long time ago, a young man came to Tortosa. The man was so tall he stood out from the locals. His name was Rufolet and had come from a faraway land to rescue a princess called Rubí, who had been placed under a spell by a sorcerer and hidden in a cave near Tortosa.
Leaving the city through the Remolins gate, he headed towards the Bassa de Xaco pool. Along the way, he heard some loud screams and, as he approached a pool, he saw a sprite drowning. Taking two steps, he entered the pool and pulled out the sprite. To show his gratitude, the sprite took Rufolet to the cave where Rubí was hidden and warned him of the presence of a strange beast with fire coming out of its eyes and froth out of its mouth. The sprite told Rufolet that the beast, known as the Cucafera, would lose its powers and strength if you cut off its tails and ears
As he entered the cave to rescue Rubí, the Cucafera appeared, ready to attack. The sprite, whose name was Xaco, and his friends Pepo, Guari, Canasta, Xanca, Moixina and Mut had sharpened Rufolet’s sword very well, and he managed to cut off the Cucafera’s tail and ears in a single blow, turning it into a docile beast.
Afterwards, Rufolet, Rubí, the sprites and the Cucafera all returned to Tortosa. As they reached the city, they came across musicians with dolçaina flutes and drums on their way to play at the Corpus Christi procession. All together they made a strange procession which entranced all the citizens. Since then, they all take part in the Corpus Christi procession, but not in person, as they all went to Rufolet’s country and have still not come back.
In 1957, the sculptor Pedro Aixendri Chavarria built this pair inspired by Tortosa’s giants that disappeared during the Civil War.
On their inaugural outing, these giants measured 4 metres in height, making them the tallest in the principality.
The luxurious quality of their original clothes and the structure itself made them so heavy that it was hard to make them dance.
In 1978, the height was reduced and, in 1980, lighter clothing was made for them, which they still wear to this day, making them much easier to manoeuvre.
Nevertheless, the giants are still heavy and, moreover, their structure cannot be disassembled. It has been decided to change the structures once and for all, making them lighter and easier to dismount for travelling purposes.
As a result, we can return them to their original height, adding on the centimetres that were taken off to reduce the weight.
These giants will finally be fully returned to their former glory. New clothes will be designed and made for them, as they have become worn over time.
In 1391, as was the case throughout all of the territories of the Crowns of Aragon and Castile, Catalonia was in the throes of great uprisings against the Aljamas (communities of Moors and Jews) as a result of the popular movements against Jews at the time.
Like the other main cities in Catalona, Tortosa took preventive measures to protect the Jewish families, taking them to the Castell de la Suda [Suda Castle] for safety.
The castle's main gate was guarded by Jutglar, the jailer of the cities common prisons. Jutglar was bribed by the Jews held in the castle to keep him on their side. However, despite accepting their payments, he was willing to betray them.
The Jews received news that the Jewish quarters of the major cities were falling daily to the violence of the riots. Scared, many of them came down to the city to be baptised, even though most of them did so with no true faith, intending to continue practising their own religious beliefs. In Tortosa, many families became divided in this way, where marriages in which the husband had converted to Christianity while his wife, influenced by her parents and the principals of the Aljama, remained with the Israelite religion.
Caxixa, a Jewish woman from Tortosa and the wife of Bonjuhà, a baptised Jew, was staying at the castle with her parents. Bernat Tranxer, a citizen from Tortosa, took Caxixa from the castle to baptise her. The Jewish woman went with the Christian, but he did not manage to convert her. Jutglar returned Caxixa to the castle and was accused by the city’s procurators for this fact.
In 1999, Tortosa celebrated the 850th anniversary of its municipal charter. The commemoration celebrated the union of the three cultures that live alongside each other in the city.
ÉIn honour of the event, these two new giants were inaugurated.
The giant Jewish figures underline the city’s historical and sentimental attachment to one of the cultures that has defined and structured it.
They complete the trilogy of the three cultures that have played a decisive role in the city’s history and customs.
Cristòfor Despuig was born in Tortosa in 1510 and was baptised in the same city shortly afterwards. The son of Pere Joan Despuig and Francina Pinyol, his father held the position of procurator in charge of the city during the year of Cristòfor’s birth.
He probably completed his studies in Valencia at the home of the Count of Aitona, Joan de Montcada, in a noble court setting under the guardianship of private tutors, as was the norm among the nobility of the time. His time was spent studying “...military operations, such as all types of horse-riding, lancing, weaponry, dancing, reading all types of stories in his free time..."
In 1530, now with the title of nobleman, he married Mariana Curto, the daughter of a family of Tortosa’s oligarchy. Their marriage led to the birth of three daughters: Vicenta Helena, Àngela Francesca Vicenta and Anna. The godparents of the first two were the leading figures of Tortosa’s nobility of the time, Onofre Oliver i Boteller and his father, Lluís Oliver i Boteller, Viscount of Castellbò. Anna, the youngest daughter, married Anníbal Aldana, the son of Joan Aldana (a highly-respected soldier from Tortosa who fought alongside Ferran II and Carles V). It is therefore clear that Cristòfor Despuig’s circle of friends consisted of the city’s most important figures of the time.
In 1548, Despuig was named as the procurator of Tortosa and, a year later, records show that he was appointed as Procurator General of the barony of Carles and Alfara for the city. He was later awarded the title of knight.
In 1557, he completed his work ‘Los col•loquis de la insigne ciutat de Tortosa’ (Dialogues - a Catalan Renaissance Colloquy Set in the City of Tortosa), a masterpiece of Catalan Renaissance literature. In the form of six dialogues or colloquies. With critical vision, Despuig describes the events of the city and Catalonia during the period. The book gives us an excellent snapshot of the city in the 16th Century, covering political, religious, historic and social aspects. Despuig’s work has gained the status of a historical chronicle of the city in the 16th Century, even though the latest research indicates that it is a work of the literary essay genre.
In 1996, Tortosa held the first Renaissance Festival. For the event, the Tortosa City Council commissioned a company based in Tiana to build these giants, which represent the figures of the great Tortosa-born humanist of the period, Cristòfor Despuig and his wife Mariana Curto.
In the design of the clothing and accessories, they meticulously followed the guidelines in relation to the uses and costumes of the 16th Century.
Nabil fled from Cordoba when the Caliphate fell. He dreamed of other lands where he could build castles that would remind him of his beloved home city.
On his travels, he met an injured man named Jairam, who he nursed back to health, before going on to form a small army with him that conquered the lands of Murcia. Jairam proclaimed himself the King of the Taifas (Muslim-ruled principalities) of these lands.
Valencia was under the reign of Morabec who, fearful of Jairam’s power, sought to speak with him. Jairam sent Nabil to Valencia as an ambassador, where he met Morabec’s beautiful sister, Zoraida.
A Valencian general and ruler of a small kingdom, Modafar, was jealous of Zoraida and Nabil’s love and covetous of Morabec’s kingdom. He murdered Morabec to be able to marry Zoraida.
Thanks to Fadiya, Zoraida’s faithful slave who came from Tortosa, Nabil headed to our city, where he recruited an army to return to Valencia and rescue Zoraida. On his arrival, he challenged Modafar to a duel. Zoraida attended the jousting contest and Nabil, emboldened by her love, went on to win the duel.
After the fight, they returned to Tortosa, where Nabil had founded his kingdom of Taifas. Nabil’s huge shadow and Zoraida’s elegant silhouette stood out from the crowd on their arrival at Tortosa.
They set up their court at the Castell de la Suda and reigned for many years from there. As they did not ever want to abandon the impressive castle and our lands, they ordered that, when they died, they should be buried together in a secret underground location in the castle.
In the early 1940s, the city of Tortosa acquired a standard set of giants, representing a Christian king and queen, to replace those which had been destroyed in the Civil War.
Nabil and Zoraida are the result of the transformation of these giants by the sculptor Pedro Aixendri Chavarria in 1958. Designed and executed by himself, the project involved remodelling the faces and clothing to give the couple an Arabic complexion, adapting them to the traditions of Tortosa.
The structures were modified in the same way as the Christian giants. The height was kept the same. The clothing and accessories were also changed.