everybody and welcome back to the history page. This week we will finish our study
of the bells of Santa María, turning our attention to the practical aspects
of their imminent restoration. Unknown to many, plans to repair the bells have
been in quiet progress for the past decade. The Island Council is now embarking
on the final lap of financial negotiations that will enable this costly and delicate
restoration to become a physical reality.
Plans of Mice and Men
But you know, all along there
was really no rush. Islanders have always known that mañana always comes,
in its own good time - which is generally a much better time than we ourselves
can arrange. There is something about the suddenness of 'today' that is altogether
too precipitous for the modus operandi of Ibiza. After all, to dive headlong into
a particular course of action carries with it the risk of overlooking some crucial
factor, some fatal flaw in the game plan that will come to light only when it
is too late to remedy. As we shall see, Ibiza's 'Watch and Wait' system has proved
itself to be the ally of the wise - at least as far as the bells of Santa María
It was ten years ago that a specialized
team of campanologists from Valencia was called in to assess the state of the
Santa María bells and to present an estimate of the reparation costs. The
bells had not been tolled since the 1970s when Ibiza's last bell-ringer died,
and had suffered the ravages of disuse: progressive warping, cracking and oxidation.
Eventually, the bells could not even strike the hour without ringing off key,
and, once that practise was stopped, the belfry became a microhabitat for a prosperous
colony of nesting pigeons. In the early 1990s, the authorities began to ponder
the possibility of having the bells mended as Palma de Majorca had already taken
steps to do the same for their cathedral, La Seo - much to their subsequent regret.
any rate, the campanologists arrived in Ibiza, inspected the bells and drew up
an estimate. The project would no doubt have gone on to completion had it not
been for the sagacious counsel of Francisco Torres Peters. This priest, scholar
and musician, who was, in fact, the prime mover of the restoration campaign, would
not agree to the terms of reparation. The company proposed to melt down the bells
and recast them in the image of the originals. In Peters' well-informed opinion,
such a procedure was tantamount to cultural patricide in that it was an act of
aggression against one's own patrimony. "If one of the Crown Jewels was found
to have a fissure, it would be unheard of to melt it down and make a new ring,
say" argues Peters. "A specialized jeweller would be called in to repair
it. Perhaps a replica would be made to insure the survival of the piece, but the
original piece would not, under any circumstances, be melted down and remoulded.
Bells are works of art," he continues, "historical elements of singular
value. Every detail must be respected to the maximum - their inscriptions, their
curvature, the very chains from which they hang. All I can say is, thank goodness
we waited until the job could be done properly. La Seo's bells, for example, were
melted down and robbed of 90% of their historical merit."
of the Bell
The long-awaited moment has finally arrived.
A confluence of fortunate circumstances has made 2002 the Year of the Bell in
Ibiza. First of all, the Santa María belfry was repaired last year under
the auspices of Spain's National Cathedral Fund. Eivissa had been earmarked to
receive this state-financed aid for some time, as its bell tower had been designated
as one of the country's artistic-historical monuments all the way back in the
1950s (a little-known fact with which to impress your friends). Of course, once
the restoration of the belfry was finished, the only logical thing to do was restore
the bells as well. Happily, by this time, technology in bell reparation, as well
as sensitivity to their extraordinary cultural value, had advanced light-years.
Last year, Peters took the initiative to contact one of
the new campanology companies that have sprung up, this one also in Valencia.
Their proposal met with the priest's approval and steps were initiated on the
bureaucratic level to appropriate funds for the project. It is still uncertain
where the funding will come from, but it is only a matter of months until the
final bill in this long procedure will signed sealed and delivered. Naturally,
when that day comes, expect to read about it all here at LiveIbiza.
us next week for a closer look at local politics as Ibiza celebrates the Day of
Balearic Autonomy on 1st March. Until then, have a good week,