This inland town of Sant Mateu in the province of Castellon has been declared an object of cultural interest. The lovely town is embraced by almond and olive orchards, yet it’s only half an hour’s drive to the coast in Vinaros. Because of its wealth of historical, artistic and cultural importance – Sant Mateu is the historic capital of the Maestrat region.
Its main square is really pretty, and as you walk through this friendly little town, you can sense the history behind it. The town still has its medieval walls, plus it has a couple of lovely palaces and fountains to see. Sant Mateu has a number of religious buildings of interest, with the most famous being the Archiprestal Church of Sant Mateu.
It also has some wonderful fiestas. The festival for the town’s patron saint, St Matthew, takes place in the latter part of August and is packed full of events and partying. Sant Mateu is also in a great location for those who wish to explore nature, as well is being a relatively small distance from a variety of other interesting towns and villages. Come and explore in our Sant Mateu Travel Guide.
The town has a good feel to it, as well as being full of interesting history and culture. Although I had done a little bit of research before visiting, I wasn’t aware of the old Public Laundry, you can see photos of that a bit further down. Like all towns here, it’s possible to eat well at lunch time for a relatively small amount of money. We went to one of the places on the lovely main square, and it cost us €9 per person for a 3 course lunch. Please note that a drink is included in the price, in some places, but this is mostly water, wine or beer. My other half chose coke so that added on a couple of euro to the bill.
The town existed before the conquest of James I, and in 1237 it was granted a town charter by Hugo de Follalquer, who was the Castellán of Amposta. By 1319 during the reign of James II, the town belonged to the order of Montesa. This meant that it became the residence of Masters of the Order, which triggered a magnificent medieval era.
During this time Sant Mateu became a very important centre of crafts, commerce and livestock. In fact the wool of the local sheep was being exported to Florence. Because of its economical success the town’s political importance increased also.
Between the 14th and 15th centuries a number of hugely important figures visited the town, which included the famous Papa Luna, Clement VIII, Sant Vicente Ferrer and Philip II. Actually a hugely important historical event happened in Sant Mateu, which was the ending of the schism of the Western church, on 15th August 1429.
These days the furniture industry and spin-off products are the main economic activity of the town. As well is this income is generated from the agri-food sector, textiles, olive oil, pig and poultry farming.
Things To Do
Murallas – The Walls
On the right bank of the Palace River, you can see the ancient town walls. They have been declared to be a monument of cultural interest.
Calle La Cort 28
This is the building where the first medieval town Hall was located. Of note are the two dungeons which date to the 15th century.
Ayuntamiento Sant Mateu – Sant Mateu Town Council
Calle Historiador Betí 4-6
A typical example of Valencian civic Gothic architecture, this building has also been declared a monument of local relevance. It originally dates to the mid-15th century, and is an impressive structure with wide frontage blocks. Over the centuries it has gone through a number of renovations.
Callejón de los Judíos – Jews Alley
Originally part of the Jewry, this alley dates to the 14th century. It was restored in 1992. It’s located between the town Council building and the Borrull Palace.
Horno Medieval – Medieval Oven – Also Tourist Information Office
Calle Historiador Betí 13
Built in the 14th century, this building retains its medieval structure, although it has been restored over the years. Today it is where the headquarters of the tourism office can be found.It has also been declared a monument of local relevance.
Fuente del Angel – Angel’s Fountain
This fountain and its source had already been named in 1373, and therefore appears to be one of the oldest in the area. The structure that you see today is thought to date however to the 18th-century, and it’s known to have been restored and placed in its current location in 1867. It has an octagonal shape and an iron fence.
On its sphere is a stone base which holds a bronze figure of an angel, which is thought to be a symbolic representation of the town’s patron, St Matthew the Evangelist. In the city museum you can see the original figure on display.
Fuente de la Mare de Deu – Fountain of the Mother of God
Pla de la Mare de Déu de la Font
Just like the Angel’s fountain, this fountain is another ancient source of water of the population, first mentioned in 1365. On the top there’s a Gothic statue of the Virgin Mary with the child Jesus.
Campanario de les Llastines – Llastimes Belltower
Plaza de la Piedad
This is a tower that can be dated to around the year 1737, which can be seen from the outside. It’s a square tower, with four sections.
Iglesia Arciprestal Sant Mateu – Sant Mateu Archiprestal Church
The hexagonal tower of Sant Mateu’s archpriestal church is the main symbol of the town. The architecture is a combination of Gothic and Romanesque elements, which features a Romanesque portal which dates to the 13th century, and a Gothic nave from circa 15th century. The bell tower and side entrance are also 15th century Gothic architecture. The church has been declared a monument of cultural interest.
Iglesia y Convento de las Agustinas – Church and Convent of the Augustines
Plaza de las Monjas
This Augustine convent has been declared a monument of local relevance. It was created by nuns in 1590, on land which was then occupied by the hospital which had been donated by the town council. On the border of the convent premises is a church that was constructed between 1701 and 1704.
Iglesia de Sant Pere – St. Peter’s Church
Llano San Pedro
Originally this was a civil building, that was converted into a church around the middle of the 14th century. It’s thought to be the oldest church in the village, and is located on what would been the primitive nucleus of the original town. The church of St Peter has also been declared a monument of local relevance.
(The photo of the church interior is taken from outside, hence the flash effect on the glass. It wasn’t open when we were there.)
Ermita de la Virgen de los Angeles – Hermitage of the Lady of the Angels
Around 2.5 km from the town, you can see the Hermitage of the Virgin of the Angels. Even if you’re not into religious buildings, like quite a number of the hermitages, this is located at a wonderful vantage point around 400 metres above sea level, on top of a hill. So a visit to it is worth it purely for the panoramic views. However it’s also an interesting architectural complex, which dates back to the 16th/17th centuries and within the compound has a church, gazebo, guesthouse and a variety of other outbuildings.
Colección Museográfica Parroquial – Parish Museum Collection
Parroquia de Sant Mateu Calle San Bernardo
The parish museum is part of the Archiprestal Church. It contains a wealth of materials which relate to religion, history and the ornaments of the church itself. Highlights include important jewellery pieces such as the processional cross which dates to 1397, and the chalice of Papa Luna.
Colección Museográfica de Historia Local – Local History Museum
This museum is dedicated to local history, and contains pieces such as the Book of Privileges of the town from the 15th century, Iberian ceramics and the model of the Palace of the disappeared Masters of Montesa.
Colección Museográfica de Paleontología Juan Cano Forner – Paleontology Museum of Juan Cano Forner
Arrabal de Barcelona 23
This Museum is considered to be the best private palaeontologiy collection in Valencia. It has around 5000 exhibits of a wide variety.
Colección Museográfica de Maquetas de Monumentos históricos de la Comunidad Valenciana – Museum Collection of Models of Historic Monuments Valencia
Parroquia de Sant Mateu Calle San Bernardo
This collection of models of historic monuments can be seen as part of guided tour of the Archiprestal Church.
Palacio Borrull – Borrull Palace
Calle Historiador Betí 10
To the side of the main square, you can see this palace which dates to the 15th century. It has also been declared a monument of local relevance. As the purposes of the palace changed over the years, so did its interior. It started off as a stately home for the Borrull family, it was later the court of criminal and judicial affairs and has been finely divided up into apartments. Today it is home to the town’s municipal museum.
Palacio del Marqués de Villores
Calle Valencia 17
Locally known as the Syndicate (El Sindicat), this Palace dates to the early 16th century. It’s a Renaissance palace, with some Gothic elements and a magnificent masonry facade. The pilasters are decorated with grotesques which surround the windows. It has also been declared a monument of local relevance.
Paraje Natural Municipal Racó del Frare – Municipal Natural Park Raco Frare
This was declared a natural Park in 2007. Located in the municipality of Sant Mateu, its distinguishing features are its tabular structure, which has broad undulations, and grinding stones which are arranged horizontally. The park is of high ecological value.
La Salazdella for the Cherry Festival – 6 km
Very close by is the normal authentic town of La Salzadella. If you happen to be visiting in early June, then the Cherry Festival may be on. It takes under 10 minutes to drive there. More about La Salzadella here.
UNESCO Valltorta Cave Paintings Near Tirig – 11 km
Under 15 minutes drive from Sant Mateu, you can visit caves which have rock art, that is considered UNESCO World Heritage.
Traiguera Fuente de la Salud – Fountain of Health – 16 km
A 15 minute journey away is Traiguera. I like the town itself, it has a strong feeling of history and plenty of stone buildings. A little outside the town is the lovely Fuente de la Salud – Fountain of Health. Read more in the Traiguera Travel Guide.
Peniscola – 35 km
One of Spain’s officially prettiest towns, Peniscola is a wonderful place to visit, it takes about 40 minutes by car. Read more about it here.
Morella – 40 km
It would almost be a sin not to go to Morella if you are in Sant Mateu. It takes around 35 minutes to drive there, with the road getting a bit dramatic for part of the journey. This is one of Spain’s officially prettiest towns. Find out more in the Morella Travel Guide.
Where to Sleep
Where to Eat
In such a lovely town with a strong artisan heritage, it won’t surprise you to know that the local food offerings are also very tempting. Typical dishes are based on local produce which often feature stuffed lamb, rabbit, paella, grilled chops, roast kid and baked rice. The town and surrounding area also produces its fair share of olive oil, honey and cheese.