The origin of Sant Mateu predates its conquest by James I. In 1237, it is placed under the jurisdiction of the Order of the Hospital, who grants its Town Charter.In 1319 it passes into the hands of the Order of Montesa, becoming home to the Masters and head and capital of the Maestrazgo. This marks the beginning of a golden era in which Sant Mateu grows to be an important exporter of wool, supplying weaving mills in Florence and all over the region. Its political importance is evidenced by its role in the Kingdom's General Parliament (Cortes Generales) in 1369-70, 1421, 1429 and 1495. It was visited by people such as Saint Vicent Ferrer, Pope Clement VIII, King Philip II and Antipope Benedict XIII (the Papa Luna) who ruled as the temporary lord of the town for a few months in 1410. The most important historical event to take place in Sant Mateu was the end of the Western Schism, brought about on the 15th of August, 1429.
Economy The furniture industry and other related products form the main economic backbone of the town. Other notable industries include the agri-food sector and textiles. We mustn't forget about the agricultural and livestock sectors, which include the production of olive oil and pig and poultry farming.
What to see A walk through Sant Mateu highlights the historical importance of this friendly town, where you can relive the history of the Order of Montesa, Antipope Benedict XIII (the Papa Luna), Bélibaste, the last-known Cathar, the visits to the town by Saint Vicent Ferrer, the Revolt of the Brotherhoods, and a host of other historical events. In the centre of the town lies the charming 14th-century Plaza Mayor (main square), with its arcades, where the Ángel fountain is located. Start your route with a beautiful example of the Gothic architecture of the Maestrazgo, with buildings such as the Town Hall, or Cort Nova (15th-century). Next to the Town Hall lies the Carreró dels Jueus (a street that is all that remains of the Jewish quarter), the Borrull Palace or L'Audiència, a Gothic palace from the 15th century, now the setting for the Tourist Office and the Municipal Museum. The 14th-century Gothic furnace, in the same street, is another interesting sight. In a different area of the city we find a square, where you can admire the monumental Mare de Déu de la Font fountain, from the 15th century. This iconic fountain is surrounded by six Tuscan columns and crowned by a 15th-century depiction of the Virgin and Child. Amongst religious buildings, the most prominent is the Archpriestal Church (13th-18th century), a majestic example of Valencian Gothic architecture. It preserves a Romanesque façade (13th-century), a Gothic side doorway, or Porta Falsa (15h-century) and its imposing, octogan-shaped belltower (15th-century). Inside, you can admire its magnificent nave, its ribbed vault, the relics of Saint Clement, the Martyr, and the Archpriestal Museum, highlights including the Lignum Crucis (15th-century), the shrine of Madonna Galina (15th-century), the chalice of Antipope Benedict XIII, and the Creu Grossa (1397), an enormous Gothic processional cross made by the goldsmiths of the town and a masterpiece of Valencian Gothic gold and silver work. In the upper streets of the town, alongside interesting examples of stately architecture, admire the exterior of the San Pedro church (13th-18th century). The Museu de les Presons, with its gloomy dungeons, is also well worth a visit. Nearby stands the Agustinas convent (16th-18th century) , as well a Baroque church and the Marquis of Villores palace (16th-century), a fine example of Renaissance architecture. Near the Plaza Mayor, you can enjoy exloring the 14th-century town walls, and then head over to the Juan Cano Forner Paleontological Museum, an impressive private collection described by experts as the best in the Valencian Community. 2.5 km from Sant Mateu, at the top of a mountain, lies the Mare de Déu dels Àngels sanctuary (16th-century), where you can enjoy the beauty of the building, the inn next door, and the panoramic views over San Mateu and the Maestrat region.
Landscape Sant Mateu (325 m), the historic capital of El Maestrat, is situated on a plain in the centre of the region. The land is relatively flat in the centre of the district, growing more rugged at each side, with mountains that in some cases exceed an altitude of 800 m. A central corridor runs through the district from north to south, draining water from the gullies and streams of Benifarquell, Palacio, Coma and Piques out to the Cervera riverbed. The climate is typically Mediterranean, with hot summers and moderate winters, favouring the growth of Mediterranean forest vegetation, such as pines, gorse and rosemary. Agriculture consists of olive, almond and cereal crops. In irrigated areas, which use traditional Roman and Arabic water wheels, potatoes, vegetables and pulses are farmed.