to the history page on this rainy, rainy weekend. Unfortunately, the inclement
weather has ruined the outdoor festivities planned for Sant Miquel's patron
saint day, but I suppose we can't be choosy about Mother Nature's timing. Even
though the fiesta has been rained out, we can still pay homage to the venerable
history of this small northern village, here at the LiveIbiza website.
municipality of Sant Miquel is historically significant in that it was one of
the four original spots chosen by the Catalan conquistadors to be furnished
with a church and therefore, a fortress. Because of the ferocious pirate attacks
that for centuries plagued the island, to be awarded a church was considered
the height of good fortune by early Ibicencos. And because only four churches
were built outside the protective city walls, potential construction sites were
not chosen at random, but rather hand-picked after careful deliberation as to
the merits and/or demerits of a given place.
fate would have it, Sant Miquel was graced with a convincing combination of
attributes. It possessed a strategic high hill upon which to build a house of
worship (really no more than a chapel in its original state) so that both sea
and land could be surveyed for intruders. As in Santa Eulalia, this hill was
called Puig de Missa or 'Hill of Mass'.
At the foot of the hill lay the fertile plain, Pla
Roig, which was, and still is, one of the most productive agricultural areas
on the island. A little way off, a verdant valley, bathed by the now dry stream,
s'Assut d'es Celleràs, extended down
to the sea where there was a small port.
long before the church was raised and for many centuries afterwards, the water
in the stream flowed with enough force to power the Moorish water mills that
stood on its banks. This state-of-the-art technology granted a certain superiority
to the area and ensured the continuity of its sizeable pre-Conquest population.
What more could the ecclesiastic authorities ask for as collateral for their
investment than easy defensibility, bountiful lands and a substantial flock
Quartó de Balansat
should be clarified that Sant Miquel did not become known as such until the
14th century, nor was there any town centre to speak of until the
18th century, as the area carried on in a strictly agrarian vein
even after the church was built. The aforementioned conjunction of hill, stream,
valley and port was simply one of the véndes
within a vast Moorish farmstead, all of which belonged to the powerful Balansat
clan. The Quartó de Balansat, as it
was then called, consisted of four véndes:
Port, the port and surrounding valley; 2) Rubió, a tract of land to
the Northwest; 3) Albarca, today Sant Mateu; and 4) Corona, today Santa Agnès.
Not until the church was built in the 14th century did the name Sant
Miquel come to designate the area.
our annals would not be complete if they did not include some of the dissension
that revolved around the Sant Miquel church.
the passage of time, the larger véndes
were divided and sold off to smaller landowners. The present day area of
Benirràs is a case n point. When it became independent from its alma mater,
the vénda of Labritja (then part of Santa Eulàlia) the religious authorities decided
- as a favour not an imposition - that the inhabitants of Benirràs should change
churches and attend mass in Sant Miquel rather than Santa Eulália. This re-zoning
caused uproar of considerable magnitude. The angry voices of those affected
were not silenced until it was agreed that any and all who so desired could
still make use of the Santa Eulàlia house of worship. Curiously, no evidence
exists to substantiate that any Benirrassian ever exercised this right. One
look at a map will explain why: Sant Miquel was too temptingly near to have
to make the long trek, by foot or beast, every Sunday to Santa Eulàlia.
Dissension - Part II
several centuries and a population explosion - there were an estimated 10,000
inhabitants living in Ibiza in 1700 - it became clear that the island needed
more than four rural churches. Hence, two more were built, one in Sant Josep
and one in Sant Joan (formerly Labritja)
from whence hailed the feisty breed of Benirrassians. At this point, it was
decided that Benirràs would once more change allegiance and form part of the
new vicarage in Sant Joan. Again angry voices were raised, this time in favour
of Sant Miquel, not in contra.
most important families of Benirras, namely the Escandells
and the Roigs, opposed the changeover
noisily, claiming that their passage to Sant Joan would be impeded in winter
by several flooded torrents, while the roads to Sant Miquel would be clear all
year round. It is not to be overlooked that these families had contributed generously
to the enlargement of their small church in the latter 17th century
(note the Benirràs chapel in the present-day church of Sant Miquel). It was
not fair that they be deprived of the fruits of their labour and donations.
Also, pure logic was on their side for, distance-wise, Benirràs was still closer
to Sant Miquel than to any other church.
in 1785, when the islands official parochial boundaries were drawn, it was decided
that Benirràs would be permanently incorporated into the parish of Sant Miquel.
To compensate this gain, the parish was obliged to forfeit the vénda
of Corona to Sant Antoni. Well, a deal is a deal. All seemed happy enough
with the outcome so don't fret - but DO enjoy the fiesta, weather permitting.