The site

The Palauet Nolla in the town of Meliana near Valencia, Spain, was originally an old farmstead dating back to the 17th century, which underwent in the 19th century a remarkable transformation into a luxurious villa. It was Miguel Nolla, a visionary Catalan businessman, who recognised its potential as a showcase for the exquisite mosaics produced by his groundbreaking mosaic factory.

In 1860, Miguel Nolla established the mosaic factory in Meliana, heralding a new era of ceramic production in the region. Driven by a passion for quality and innovation, Nolla introduced new techniques that revolutionised the ceramic industry. His mosaic tiles, crafted from monochrome tesserae of mass-dyed stoneware, soon gained international acclaim, adorning prestigious residences and public buildings across Spain and beyond, and Nolla’s distinctive tiles becoming emblematic of the region's rich heritage.

The Nolla mosaic factory had little competition, it was the first to manage to produce these tiny stoneware tesserae and achieve exclusivity at the market. With this, it had time to establish itself and monopolise the market. If any other company produced similar material, it never got the recognition and longevity that Nolla enjoyed.

For all these reasons, the history and heritage represented by the Nolla mosaic factory are exceptional. They represent a radical change in ceramic production but had also a profound impact on the industrialisation of the region, the advancement of the social question, and the arts applied to architecture.

Alongside the factory, Miguel Nolla envisioned the Palauet Nolla as a symbol of his success and prosperity. With meticulous attention to detail, he transformed the old "alquería dels Frares" into a majestic residence. The Palauet Nolla bore witness to the heyday of the mosaic factory, its walls adorned with ceramic compositions showcasing the high level of Nolla's production. At the heart of Nolla's industrial empire, the Palauet hosted visitors from far and wide, embodying the spirit of entrepreneurial vision and creativity. To adapt it to its use, and to give it more presence, Nolla ordered the construction of annexes on the ground floor, on the south and west façades. At the same time, he placed ceramic compositions of his production on all the floors of the building, as well as on some skirting boards and façades. All this creates a coherent and beautiful whole architectural composition that remains admirable until today.

However, with the decline of the mosaic factory and changes in ownership, the Palauet Nolla faced a period of neglect. Transformed into a warehouse and later ceded to the Meliana Municipality in 1986, the historic building languished in disrepair, but still echoing its past elegance and preserving beautiful architectural details.

In 2010, efforts to revive the Palauet Nolla began in earnest, with comprehensive studies undertaken to guide its conservation and restoration. Despite financial challenges, restoration campaigns have slowly breathed new life into the building, preserving its architectural integrity and historical significance.

Today, the Palauet Nolla stands as a testament to the region’s rich ceramic tradition and the ingenuity of Miguel Nolla. As conservation and restoration efforts continue, the Palauet Nolla serves as an important reminder of Meliana's industrial heritage, inspiring future generations to cherish and celebrate the legacy of the mosaic factory and its visionary founder.


The training course

The European Heritage Training Course will provide a hands-on opportunity for the participants to explore the rich history of Nolla’s mosaic production and the industrialisation of Valencia region in the 19th century. Situated amidst the picturesque cultural landscape of Valencia region's orchards, the Palauet Nolla offers an insightful glimpse into this past, making it an exceptional site for archaeological exploration.

Decades ago, as part of the factory expansion near Palauet Nolla, the surrounding buildings were demolished. Rather than removing the material, it was levelled to create new ground. Consequently, the area is now filled with a dense mix of soil, broken stones, ceramic tiles, and remnants of the demolished buildings' decorative elements. Everywhere one walks in the area, traces of these former structures can be found – historic bricks, fragments of façade profiles, and numerous tiles scattered throughout.

The aim of the training course is to explore the situation at the backside of Palauet Nolla where the current level lays almost eighty centimetres above the original level, filled with materials gained during the demolition.

The soil will be dug off by a mini bagger but as soon as findings will appear, the excavation will be continued manually. In addition, the material will be meticulously monitored, and findings will be separated. In parallel, both the excavation process as well as the findings will be carefully documented. Afterwards, the findings will be cleaned, sorted, and stored.  

The participants of the training course will engage in all steps of the process except the handling of the mini bagger: in excavation, documentation, analysis, cleaning, and sorting of the findings.  

In addition to the practical work the training course will include theoretical sessions covering topics as archaeological techniques, conservation methodologies, and the local ceramic production. The primary focus, however, will be on the open-pit excavation itself, providing the participants with valuable hands-on experience and carrying out documentation and cataloguing of ceramic mosaic elements.

By doing so, the participants will not only contribute to the research of the direct surroundings of Palauet Nolla, but also to the catalogue and the collection of rare tiles from Nolla’s production which Centro Investigación y Difusión Cerámica Nolla plans to establish in the upcoming years with the aim to support conservation and restoration efforts at buildings decorated with tiles not only in the region, but all over Spain.     

Throughout the training course, there will be opportunities for participants to engage in discussions about their own work and projects, as well as to partake in discussions with the local population fostering collaboration and knowledge exchange between heritage communities.

As part of the educational programme, visits, and excursions to noteworthy industrial heritage sites in the region will be arranged, offering the participants valuable context for their work at the Palauet Nolla. These visits, coupled with discussions and presentations, are designed to deepen the participants' appreciation of the historical and cultural importance of the Palauet Nolla, and the 19th century industrialisation processes in the region.


The training course will take place from September 29th to October 12th, 2024, and is organised by Centro Investigación y Difusión Cerámica Nolla in cooperation with European Heritage Volunteers and Meliana Municipality.

European Heritage Volunteers