Welcome to the history page. It seems that all of our talk on water has prodded
Mother Nature into affirmative action. On the night of 1st September we had
a wet and wild one that made the 'pagesos' jump for joy. The rains came just
in the nick of time for the 'ballades' at Pou den Rafal (one of the traditional
water ceremonies mentioned by Kirk). Again on Wednesday, we had a cloudy day
with intermittent showers throughout the day turning into heavy rain after midnight.
Thursday followed the same pattern with scattered showers building into an electrical
storm that went on until the early hours of Friday. With any luck, this meteorological
godsend will carry on throughout the autumn and winter to replenish the island's
severely depleted water tables.
This week on our agenda we have the local fiestas of Jesús, a residential village
three kilometres outside Ibiza Town. One of Jesús' distinguishing hallmarks
is its beautiful church, quite different from the rural churches we have discussed
so far, both in terms of architecture and origin. "The existence of this
church is a mystery," explains island historian Joan Marí Cardona. "Who
built it and why are questions one can only guess at."
By piecing together bits of documents here and scraps of evidence there, Don
Joan came up with this convincing hypothesis: the present day church of Jesús
was originally built by Ibiza's religious powers-that-be as a convent for friars,
with the ulterior motive of improving the island's chances of being awarded
Sound Machiavellian? Well, it was in a way. Being such a tiny island, Ibiza
could never hope to have her own bishop, with all the rights and privileges
thus entailed unless she showed some kind of religious fervour above and beyond
the call of duty. It was probably reckoned that a convent would do the trick.
At some undetermined time (probably following an episcopal visit to the island
in 1392) a large building was erected and in 1448 an order of Franciscan friars
was finally persuaded to come live in it.
But who were the island's authorities trying to kid? Ibiza was no place for
gentle men of God. How could they possibly concentrate on prayer and meditation
when they were under constant siege from pirates? Remember, Jesús was extramural
- that is, outside the protective walls of Dalt Vila. After only fifty years,
the friars packed up and went back to the Spanish mainland, and the unbastioned
convent fell into disrepair.
A Second Shot
After mulling it over for another fifty years or so, Ibiza's decision-makers
gave the go-ahead to restore the decrepit convent and see if they couldn't get
another order of friars to come and inhabit it. This move was no doubt sparked
by a second episcopal visit, this time from Rafael Llinas of Majorca, who no
doubt reaffirmed the Ibicencos in their quest for a bishop. The islanders extended
several invitations and, after a thirty-year test of patience, their bid was
accepted. In 1580, the Dominicans moved into the convent at Jesús with the proviso
that they be allowed to transfer their community to Dalt Vila once the in-progress
reconstruction of the city walls was
Within a century, this agreement was kept, and the Dominicans relocated to a
bigger and better convent inside the newly fortified walls (today the Town Hall
of Eivissa). The only thing was . . . the friars had gown so fond of their home
in Jesús that they did not want to relinquish this property to their hosts!
It was rather like the case at Es Cubells (see History of Ibiza Weekly Edition
020) when the Carmelites refused to give up their hermitage to the public domain.
Once an order gets a grip on a place, they don't like to let go! The Dominicans
did eventually cede the premises (unlike the Es Cubells case, papal intervention
was not necessary) and in 1755 the convent at Jesús was converted into a parish
church for the use of the local populace. Still, no bishop. But, of course,
as regulars at the history page, we all know that it was not until the year
1784 that Manuel Abad y Lasierra came to serve as the island's first bishop
since late antiquity. Thank goodness for the happy ending - now we can enjoy
the fiesta with an easy mind!
Next week we have a free space in which to explore some aspect of island history
other than the patron saint days. I haven't made up my mind for sure, but it
might be nice to dedicate a spot to Ibiza's legendary literary figure, the Moorish
poet, Al-Sabbini. We'll see how the wind blows. Hate to keep you in suspense,
but I've been told it's the best way to ensure readership. See you next week!