Ibiza History & Culture

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History in Ibiza

History of Ibiza
by Emily Kaufman

Mare de Déu de Jesús
(Our Lady of Jesús)
Fiesta Day Celebrated 9th September

Saints & Fiestas

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 episcopal powers.

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 our LiveIbiza Archive History of Ibiza article Weekly Edition 020 of Saturday 14th July 2001) 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!

Emily Kaufman