Much of the history of Agost has been inextricably linked to that of Alicante, as it was a stopover for many ancient peoples making their way to Illice (Elche) and Lucentum (Alicante).
Although there was once a pre-Roman era settlement on the site where the town stands today, the biggest impact on Agost was made by the Arab civilisation. They left the arched aqueduct that brought water into the town and the 9th century pottery ovens, traces of which still survive.
The fertile soil and the safety of the farms and their inhabitants under Christian rule resulted in rapid development, making Agost a relatively important place. The population rose from 80 households (320 inhabitants) in Moorish times to 240 households (960 inhabitants) by the late 15th century, around the time when king Fernando el Católico elevated Alicante to the category of city in 1490.
Agost belonged to the municipality of Alicante and the Lordship of Burgunió up until 1681, when it passed into the hands of the Knights of Ballebreras. It was later owned by the Counts of Rocamora.
During this period, the town population grew considerably to over 300 households (1,200 inhabitants), which was the number required at that time for a town to apply to be an independent municipality. Agost finally achieved this status in 1705.
In the mid-18th century, Agost was a farming and pottery-making town. Rivalry between the two guilds was fierce, as illustrated by popular anecdotes telling of several confrontational episodes, even during processions, in which both would ask the patron saints for conflicting favours.
These crafts are still kept alive in the town and the impact of its farming and pottery tradition is very much in evidence today. Agost is also rightly famous for its ceramic industry and for its dessert grapes, which are highly prized for their excellent quality and flavour.
The museum has been based in an old pottery since 1981 and runs guided tours of an early 20th century pottery works and permanent exhibition. It also runs courses on using a potter’s wheel and on making ceramics, and it has a specialist library and shop, providing information and advice on Agost‘s pottery and ceramics industry.
The permanent exhibition houses a large collection of fired clay pieces produced in the town from around the 19th century through to the present day. They are mainly household items used in everyday situations and many of them are connected to rural life.
Agost‘s pottery tradition dates back to the 18th century. The industry underwent huge growth in the early 20th century, with the opening up of new markets. Since the mid-20th century this industry has seen major changes made to bring it up to date and meet its customers’ needs.
After the Spanish Civil War, production declined with the appearance of new materials, the generalised availability of running water in homes, emigration by the rural population into the cities, the loss of the Algerian market, etc.
But then, in the 1940s and 50s, tourists started to flood into the Costa Blanca and buy pottery items as souvenirs. The potters of Agost paint their pieces cold, using traditional handcraft techniques applied to large quantities coming off the production line.
The Museum runs three seasonal exhibitions with a different theme every year.
What else to in Agost
The Castle of Agost, built following the Christian Reconquest, suffered various mishaps that gradually led to its deterioration. All that remains of the old fortress is the base of a tower and traces of the wall that was re-used to build the Chapel of San Pedro.
It was originally meant to be a small chapel for the Castle and has been restored and rebuilt several times. It is currently closed to visitors.
From the site there is a lovely view over the valley of Alicante, stretching as far as the sea.
The Chapel of Santa Justa and Santa Rufina, patron saints of potters, is inside the town itself. Its layout is almost square, with a dome resting on pendentives and supported by a low drum. The façade has green and brown ceramic jars at the top.
The Church of San Pedro Apóstol is the result of various and successive interventions starting with its construction in the mid-17th century through to the late 18th century.
The Communion Chapel is particularly interesting for its decorative paintings, which are some of the best examples of the Alicante Baroque style, alongside those at Santo Domingo in Orihuela.
The municipal tourism department has developed recommended itineraries for visitors to follow around the old quarter near the pottery works.
The Pottery Route is a town tour around the most emblematic places connected with pottery making, the traditional activity in Agost. The route is marked with information panels that describe each point of interest. The itinerary starts in Concepción Vicedo park and continues along Calle la Font, where you can see the Font (spring) and the Llavador, or washing place of Agost. From here, the tour follows Calle de les Cantereries, taking in the Chapel of Santa Justa and Santa Rufina. The route makes its way towards Calle de Sant Roque, before crossing Avenida de Consell del País Valencià towards Centro Agost and the Pottery Museum. Finally, the route follows Calle Teuleria towards Terres dels Pobres, an old clay quarry that has recently been restored and from where there are some great views and glimpses of the sea.
There is also another recommended route for walking round the old part of town, a section of which links up with the Pottery Route. This route starts in Avenida Verge de la Pau and goes towards Plaza de España and the Town Hall. From the square it follows Calle la Font and the municipal washing place. The route continues along this street up to Calle de les Cantereríes and then climbs up to the castle and the Chapel of San Pedro. After this, it goes along Calle Morelló, then along Calle Petrer to Plaza Constitución and the mid-17th century Church of San Pedro Apóstol.