Ibicencos who resettled Formentera were a rugged lot to begin with, but
those who chose the arduous task of establishing themselves atop the high
mesa of La Mola were an especially hardy breed. The first test of their
endurance was the building of a road that began at the southern tip of the
island and extended up its entire length. In its final stretch, the road
traversed a steep incline of densely forested wilderness to end in the rocky
tablelands of La Mola, high above the sea.
the question may come, did these early settlers choose to remove themselves
so thoroughly from the two mainstays of island life, namely La Savina port
(the primary point of contact with the outside world) and the saltworks, the
island's only industry at that time. The answer is peace of mind.
A Constant Crew
settlers knew all too well that, despite the efforts of the Ibicenco
Corsairs, pirates still lurked in the offing. It would not be long before
they took to raiding the flat, defenceless isle, as they had been doing on
and off since the 13th century. The on-and-off nature of the
raids was not due to any inconsistency on the part of the pirates, but
rather to the inconsistency of Formentera's inhabitants. For long periods of
time the beleaguered folk were forced to abandon the small isle due to the
precariousness of life there. Naturally, during these inhibitant-less
periods, the pirates would desist in their attacks and instead use the
island as a stepping stone to Ibiza. (See Weekly Editions 021 and 122 for
the turn of the 18th century, a third and final attempt by the
post-Conquest population was made at repopulating Formentera. The old maxim
'third try, best try' holds true here, for this well-augured settling
endeavour is the one that ultimately met with success. The fruitfulness of
the venture, however, was in no way a given at the time. Records show that
Ibiza's power-that-be had serious doubts as to whether such a small group of
inhabitants would be able to withstand the hardships, not only of an
inhospitable climate, but also of potential piracy.
is true that by the end of the 17th century, the frequency of
raids on Ibiza had been reduced to nearly nil. But this fact did not
preclude the possibility of a renewed wave of plunderage on the tiny, tender
settlements of Formentera. As a precautionary measure, a hard-working group
of settlers choose to start their new life safely on top of La Mola. To the
north, this small plateau was surrounded by sheer cliffs that dropped 200
metres to the sea below. To the south the settlers were afforded a strategic
overview of any approaching party, whether friend or foe.
there were a few drawbacks, such as having to travel thirty kilometres each
Sunday to attend mass. Nonetheless, this inconvenience did not dissuade an
increasing number of Ibicencos from choosing La Mola their new home. Island
historian, Joan MarÝ Cardona, describes the flourishing of life in the
Formentera highlands with these eloquent words: "Life on La Mola began
to acquire a steady, even keel. (There were) roads, cisterns, mills, stone
walls to mark off property, young trees that grew proudly. By the second
half of the 18th century, La Mola was already quite populated and
a collective rumour began to spread through the land that soon the area
would be furnished with its own church."
so it came to pass. Having heard the good news of the bountiful settlements
in Formentera, the Archbishop of Tarrogona sent his envoy, Bishop Juan
Lario, to visit the island in 1760. The residents of La Mola did not miss
their chance to meet with the Bishop and ask that he give his blessing to
the church they were intending to build. In addition to the blessing, the
people also needed a permanent vicar. They promised to feed the vicar and
keep the church in the very best condition. Unfortunately, Lario was in no
position, at that time, to grant such a request.
however, Lario rose to the post of Archbishop himself and, in 1771, returned
to Formentera. He had not forgotten the fair plea of the island's northern
folk. Again they put their request to him and, this time, with the high
authority of this office, their wish was granted. Work on the church was
started without further ado.
as the final touches were being added, the islands' newly appointed bishop,
our good friend, Manuel Abad y Lasierra arrived in the Pitiuses. What a
godsend for the Bishop to find a pre-built church that he could simply
inaugurate without all the grief! He probably thought the seven churches he
commissioned would spring up just as effortlessly. The young idealist still
had much to learn about the Ibicenco way of life.
any rate, Abad y Lasierra was given at least one church to inaugurate the
only one in the whole of this tenure. Naturally, he named it after the
patroness of his native Huesca, MarÝa del Pilar.
week we are going to deviate from our usual format to speak with Francisco
Torres Peters, a local priest, scholar and historian. Sr Torres has recently
been awarded the literary prize 'Ocho de Agosto' for his book on music in
the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries in Ibiza.
Don't miss it, here at LiveIbiza.