Welcome to the history page. After straying rather far afield in our last edition,
this week we shall bring our focus back to home base, in particular to Santa
EulÓlia. The actual saint's day of this lovely north-eastern town falls on 12th
February, however, a colourful flower show and a procession of horse-drawn carts
are held there every year on the first Sunday of May. This affair is more of
a popular fŕte to celebrate the coming of spring than it is a historically designated
observance. Hence, history being our primary objective, we shall override these
intimations of gaiety and dig deep into the soil of the town's foundation in
the Middle Ages.
Winter Fiestas: Getting Around the Buzz Kill
An interesting aside is that most Ibicenco towns whose saint's days fall in
winter always conjure up a secondary fiesta to be held in warmer weather. And
who can blame them? Nobody can be expected to make merry in the dreary months
of December (Sant Francesc Xavier) or January (Sant Antoni) or February (Santa
EulÓlia). Even Christmas in the Ibicenco olden days was a lacklustre affair,
much less joyous than the holiday observed at the opposite solstice, that of
Sant Joan (24th June).
Nonetheless, the fact remains that an examination of the real name day of Santa
EulÓlia will give us far more historical insight into the town than will its
An Original Settlement
Santa EulÓlia is one of the four original settlements founded by the Catalans
after their conquest of Ibiza in 1235. We mentioned the conquest briefly in
our discussion of Sant Jordi (which see for further details, Weekly Edition
007) and explained that Ibiza was, in fact, conquered by a warrior knight and
close personal friend of the Catalan King, Jaime I. It was not that the King
was a timid stay-at-homer who left his fieldwork to others. Quite the opposite
was true as his epithet, Jaime the Conqueror, bears out. The capture of Ibiza
was delegated to MontgrÝ because, after the initial conquest of Majorca six
years earlier, the King had been called away to a crucial theatre of the Reconquest
(Valencia) where his personal leadership in battle was needed. Therefore, lest
the campaign be forgotten altogether, it was handed over to a privateer.
Santa EulÓlia's Royal Legacy
MontgrÝ accepted the commission, although single-handedly he did not have enough
manpower or war ships to carry out the offensive. He calculated that he would
need to double his forces, and, to this end, enlisted the aid of two colleagues,
Pedro of Portugal, a warrior Prince (i.e. one who would not accede to the throne)
and Nu˝o Sanz, the Count of Rosellˇ. The take-over was carried off with relative
ease, after which the island was quartered and distributed proportionally among
the warlords, according to the number of troops each had contributed. Two of
the quarters went to MontgrÝ, one to Sanz and the final quarter, Santa Eularia,
went to the Prince.
Pedro, however, was not overly enthused with his new holding and some years
later sold it to the Prince-heir, Jaime II, who would later become the first
Christian King of Majorca. It is for this reason that Santa EulÓlia soon became
known as "the Quarter of the King". In fact, Jaime II is the only
one of the lords who actually came to inspect his new lands in Ibiza. During
his visit, he rode from Santa EulÓlia to Es Canar on a road that henceforth
was called Es CamÝ del Rei (Road of the King), and where today there is a restaurant
of the same name, hallmarking the path of royal passage.
During Moorish times, the area was called Xarc, meaning 'east'. This denomination
continued to be used in the early years after the conquest in reference to the
'Molins de Xarc', the water mills of Xarc. There were three mills (out of six
that were in Ibiza) located at the confluence of a large tributary as it fed
into the Santa EulÓlia River, i.e. at the foot of the big hill that today dominates
Incidentally, before it dried up, this sweet water river was the only continuous
waterway on any of the Balearic Islands. These mills, products of the Moor's
advanced hydraulic technology, provided ample irrigation for the surrounding
tillage, thus attracting a solid core Catalan settlers.
By 1303, the word Xarc had been replaced by the name Santa EulÓlia, indicating
that plans were already in progress to build a church there, dedicated, of course,
to the saint of the same name. Along with Sant Jordi, Santa EulÓlia was, and
still is, the co-patroness of Barcelona. It was only fitting, then, that she
should have been chosen as a namesake for one of the original churches. Very
little is known about this virgin martyr except that she was a native of Barcelona,
born in 308, and that she was crucified by the Romans (who then occupied Hispania)
on an 'X' shaped cross, known as the cross of St. Andrew.
Etymology aside, the Santa EulÓlia church is surrounded by an intriguing legend
which historians have been trying to unravel for years. Oral tradition holds
that the town's original church was not built on the hilltop ('Puig den Missa')
where it stands today, but that an earlier church, perhaps just a chapel, had
been raised at the water's edge on a site known as 'Punta de s'EsglÚsia Vella'.
Apparently, one Sunday, after the congregation had just stepped outside following
mass, this mysterious temple fell into the sea like a house of cards. It was
only then that the present-day church was built on Puig den Missa.
Several essays have been put forward by accredited island historians, Joan
MarÝ Cardona and Francisco Peters, to name two, who, through piecing together
the existing fragments of concrete data, have come to the conclusion that the
legend is probably based on a fair part of truth.
That's all for today folks. Our next port of historical call is Puig den Valls,
one of the island's more recent towns. Until then, God Bless,
Santa EulÓlia del Riu