The Bridge Behind the Town and the Tax Collector's Cave - Atlas Obscura

The Bridge Behind the Town and the Tax Collector's Cave

Bocairent, Spain

On market days, a tax collector sat in a small cave at the end of this arched bridge. 

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This bridge is known locally (in Valencian) as el Puente del Derrere la Villa. It’s an impressive arched structure that stands over the Rio Clariano in the hinterland of Alicante in Spain. As the oldest bridge in Bocairent, it once provided the only access for a wagon or cart to the town. In 1563, Martí de Viciana, a famous Spanish historian, described it as the largest and highest bridge in the kingdom of Spain.

It combines ashlar stone on the arch itself and horizontally aligned stone forming herringbone patterns above. The road surface is paved with cobbles and with the surface slightly cambered to allow rainwater to flow towards the bridge side walls.

Being the only entry into the town (excluding small paths from the mountains) it was a convenient point to collect the taxes on goods imported into town for sale in the market. On market days the tax collector or el consumer would wait at the north end of the bridge and during inclement weather he would sit in the small, hand-excavated cave in the limestone bluff overlooking the crossing point. The small cave is equipped with a carved bench seat and a small niche to hold a candle or oil lamp during periods of darkness.

The information board provided by the town’s tourist information office even provides the name of the last incumbent of the tax collector’s post. It also recounts the story of a resident who was bringing several liters of wine for personal. When tax was wrongly demanded, he proceeded to drink the lot on the spot rather than pay up. If you are waiting for the nearby, Covettes de Collamer to open for business (usually at 11:30 a.m.) it makes a useful (and historic) place to sit out of the sun.

Know Before You Go

If travelling by car it is probably best to park at the municipal cemetery and walk down the steep ramp to the bridge.

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December 5, 2023

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