For a building that is relatively new, there is no scarcity of stories and legends surrounding the Mercat Central. Some of them have even entered local folklore, becoming part of plays and novels by Valencian authors and artists.
The last execution
Throughout history, the space occupied by the Market has been used for various purposes, but one, in particular, reminds us of the many bloody pages of Spanish history. In 1826, Gaietà Ripoll, the last victim of the Spanish Inquisition, was here executed for heresy.
Gaietà Ripoll, a schoolmaster in Valencia, was accused of being a deist and of teaching his students about deism. Deism is the belief that the existence of God is revealed through nature and rational thought, without any reliance on religious authority.
The clergymen of the Spanish Inquisition requested he be burned at the stake for his religious offences. However, the civil authority chose to hang him instead.
The legend of the parrot and the sparrow
The weathervane that crowns the biggest dome has its own name, the Cotorra del Mercat (Market parrot, in English). Many think that the figure alludes to the gossip that has always been common in markets.
In fact, legend has it that the parrot and its neighbour, the Pardal de Sant Joan (the sparrow weathervane of the Santos Juaneschurch) comment on the events of the city from above.
These figures appear in many Valencian plays and other popular works, reflecting the perfect contrast between the secular and mundane (the parrot) and the spiritual and divine (sparrow).
A much sadder story regarding the Market is the one about the abandoned children. In times of poverty, many peasants came from the countryside down to Valencia in search of a better life. Many came with their children, in the hopes that they could find a job and bring back money for the family.
It is said that when a child would not succeed, the parent would choose not to bring them back home, in order to spare them a life of poverty. The parent would go into the Market and disappear among the stalls, while the child was waiting outside.
After many hours, the child would start crying and running between the stalls. As this was not an unusual sight, it was common for well-off merchants in the Market to take pity on them and bring them home.
Another curious story has to do with the basement of the market. A legend that circulated for years said that when night fell and the hustle and bustle of customers and merchants died down, weird noises could be heard coming from the basement of the building.
No one has ever wanted to go and check for themselves, but the common belief was that the sounds were in fact those of a crocodile, roaring and moving around the basement of the Market.
The legend grew so much that some people have even claimed to have seen the beast. Of course, the story has been refuted, but it still makes for an interesting urban legend.