Ibiza History & Culture

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History in Ibiza

History of Ibiza
by Emily Kaufman

Sant Rafel de sa Creu
Fiesta Day Celebrated 24th October

Saints & Fiestas

Hello and welcome to the history page. This week we have another patron saint's day to commemorate: Sant Rafel de sa Creu, which in English means 'Saint Raphael of the Cross'. In this case, the term 'cross' is not a religious indication, but refers to the fact that this central area was a crossroads between several different villages. Because it connected so many different areas, almost everyone in old Ibiza had reason to travel through sa Creu at one time or another. In that sense, nothing has changed, for Sant Rafel is still the island's principal junction and, for such a small place, it continues to attract an uncommonly high number of wayfarers. Perhaps the nature of those who pass through it has changed, but the fact of passage remains a constant.

Clubbers, albeit unwittingly, have made Sant Rafel a place of sacred pilgrimage with Privilege and Amnesia as two of Europe's most important shrines to the party culture. Anyone who has shopped at the big Hypercentre, or got water at the drive-through well adjacent to the Sant Rafel service station, has also visited this township. Due to its centrality, Sant Rafel is also home to Ibiza's fire brigade. And, of course, the village is a Mecca for fine dining, tapas and typical home cooking (Spanish style) - a fact that will interest our Sinclair no end! As in the days of yore, almost everyone, for one reason or another, has passed through this still important crossroads.

Landmark Church

For this very reason, almost everyone will be familiar with Sant Rafel's beautiful church that stands so majestically above the Eivissa-Sant Antoni Road. This stunning work of popular architecture belongs to the third wave of church construction initiated by Manuel Abad y Lasierra in 1785.

Like so many other rural areas of the day, sa Creu had grown to the point that it needed, not just a small chapel, but a proper house of worship. During his reconnaissance tour of the island, the young bishop took note of the pre-existing chapel, but felt that the church should occupy a loftier perch and ordered that it be built on the high hill where it stands today.

As was wont to happen, there were a handful of inhabitants who did not approve of the site chosen by the bishop. In the case of Sant Rafel, however, the majority of people supported Abad y Lasierra's decision and quickly got to work at the official site. As island historian, Joan Marí Cardona, writes, "The inhabitants of el Fornàs and the surrounding area - who were the ones who had raised the old [chapel] so that it would be near their houses - would not stop fretting about the issue, and, for this reason, all the others [in the parish] hurried to build the temple as soon as possible so that the episcopal will, which favoured them, would not end up changing as it subsequently did in Sant Agustí."

Unprecedented Speed

We might add, that the episcopal will was also railroaded into submission by the hard-headed Labritjans in the case of Sant Joan (See our LiveIbiza Archive article Weekly Edition 016 of Saturday 16th June 2001). The inhabitants of sa Creu knew all too well that anything was possible once a core group of stubborn Ibicencos got an idea into their heads. Thus, with astonishing swiftness, they put up the Sant Rafael church in a record eight years' time. No church up to that point had been raised so quickly, the average length of construction being twelve years.

A Stitch in Time . . .

Unfortunately, the precipitousness with which the church was built resulted in certain structural flaws. In 1854, some 60 years later, major reconstruction was needed. The safety of the church had become so dubious that most families have simply stopped attending mass, a rather exceptional occurrence in those days. Families who owned a cart would go to either Ibiza Town or Sant Antoni for Sunday services.


All the villagers chipped in and by 1877 the church had been repaired, and some extra flourishes were added, too. Today Sant Rafel church is as sound as a pound, so don't be afraid to go in and have a look during the festivities that will be going on all week. See you next time for a museum update.

Emily Kaufman